Elizabeth Bishop – Sestina

A poem named for its form might suggest a mere technical exercise, but here the sestina structure is emphasized as a means of understanding the poems very powerful discourse on fate, loss and relationships. The cyclical nature of the form seems to work against the sense of foreboding generated by the ominously characterized ‘almanac’. At the same time it reinforces the imagery of astrology and fate – conceiving the rotation of the end-words like that of celestial bodies. The weaving, seamless pattern of the repeated words provides a distinct contrast and reflection upon the damaged bonds of relationship in the poem – the absent mother and disconnected grandmother and child. ‘Sestina’ comes to embody and reflect the world evoked by Bishop, rather than displacing it with an abstract form. Continue reading