Music of the Sea: Elizabeth Bishop and Symbolist Poetics
Elizabeth Bishop locates the mystery of the sea and its shore in many poems. The poem, however, which I return to is “At the Fishhouses,” in which Bishop masterfully considers the juncture between the land and the sea. In “At the Fishhouses,” she travels from the dense description of the land to the depths of the sea in three stanzas that call to mind sea poems in the French symbolist tradition. Bishop composes a music in “At the Fishhouses” that extends the works of Baudelaire, Rimbaud, and Valéry (and Stevens). This chapter unfolds in two parts: the first briefly places Bishop’s poem in relation to the symbolist genre of sea poem, and the second comprises a close reading of “At the Fishhouses” in light of Valéryan theory.