chapter  10
Elizabeth Bishop in and out of Place
A topopoetic approach
ByTim Cresswell
Pages 11

Topopoetics combines topos with poetics. Poetry, through this lens, is a kind of place making. The critical practice of topopoetics involves reading poetry in relation to place. It is not so much the often written about relationship between poetry and the senses of place of particular places. This chapter offers a topopoetic reading of some poems by Elizabeth Bishop. It reflects on several aspects of place in her poems including the "thinginess" or "gathering" qualities of her poems, the poetic attempt to find home – to dwell, and the overwhelming sense of lack that comes from failure to dwell. Bishop's topopoetics is one of strangeness at home and home-seeking when away. It is a search for knowledge of place – the distanced search of a rootless, homeless anthropologist. The locational settings of the poems in the collection, while worth noting, are not the most interesting level at which geography works.