As a result death is not presented as inevitable and normal in life, but rather at odds with that which Bishop is used to; this is seen elsewhere when Bishop talks about how her cousin bears resemblance to how she always knew him, such as that he ‘was very small’, yet is simultaneously not the same person at all.
The difficulty of a young child understanding such a situation is represented in the child’s responsive question to viewing her cousin’s body, which touches on the idea of mortality but shows no real understanding of the issue: ‘how could Arthur go,/ clutching up his tiny lily,/ with his eyes shut up so tight/ and the roads so deep in snow?
’ Another appealing element of Bishop’s poetry is her imagery and language.
The insurmountable armadillo represents the humans; its leathery armor shell symbolizes the belief of the time in the strength of humankind, which is coupled with the initial mention of the balloons (which later are threatening) as ‘frail’.
When catastrophe strikes, the armadillo ‘left the scene,/ rose-flecked, head down, tail down’, and the humans, who were initially thought of as strong like armadillo, are later shown to be as unwilling to counter the chaotic and dangerous.
Her celebrations of the ordinary are an unusual yet original quality, while her poetry has a unique style, with a fine combination of vivid imagery and concrete intense language.
In addition to this her poetry lacks the monotony that often can be the detriment of a poet’s work; her poems have detailed descriptions of both the exotic and familiar and vary in poetic form.Finally, her range of themes adds to this variance, making each Bishop poem original and of worth in its own right.The poems I have studied are: First Death In Nova Scotia, Filling Station, In the Waiting Room, A Prodigal, The Armadillo and The Fish.The death of the poet’s cousin Arthur, while made seem ordinary with the presentation of the coffin as ‘a little frosted cake’, is mysterious to the young Bishop, who compares the paleness of her cousin’s body (a result of his death and the usual preparation of the body by relatives before a wake) to a doll who ‘Jack Frost had started to paint’ but for some reason ‘He had just begun…then Jack Frost had dropped the brush/ and left him white, forever.’ This can be seen to represent the child as she dealt with the death of her parents, knowing something was wrong but not aware what this was.These words are vivid, and present a determined and powerful being, which the armadillo is not as it flees the scene.As well as imagery and language, another appealing trait of Bishop’s poetry is her use of the ordinary and the exotic.The same connection to issue is seen in The Armadillo.Here Bishop refers to the time of the Cold War in which she lived, where she doubts the human capacity to deal with the unknown.This effect is greatened when Bishop compares the collapse of a balloon to the messiness of a smashed egg, saying it ‘splattered like an egg of fire’; the splattering of an egg is a spectacle in itself, given the messiness of a broken egg with the mixture of various colours and the broken shell mixed with the destroyed yolk, but Bishop goes further, calling it an egg of fire, mixing fire and flame with the aforementioned messiness.Concrete language is also present, as the shameful exit of the armadillo is encapsulated succinctly in three words, ‘Hastily, all alone’; the words are all of negative connotation, implying weakness and shamefulness, and contrast sorely with the more intense language associated with the baby rabbit, such as its ‘fixed, ignited eyes’.