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In the Waiting Room - Language Choices and Rhythm Notes

In the Waiting Room - Language Choices and Rhythm Notes

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Published by Stuart Henderson

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Published by: Stuart Henderson on Mar 10, 2011
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Language Choices and Rhythm Bishop¶s use of language and rhythm has really important implications on the tone

of the poem and also on our understanding of who the speaker is in this poem. Firstly, she writes far large parts in a rhythm called iambic trimeter, which is just a fancy way of saying that the rhythm of the poem generally follows the following rules: 1) Lines are made up of 6 syllables (though she isn¶t always regular with this and tends to mix things up with 7 syllable lines) 2) The stress pattern of the syllables goes stressed/unstressed e.g. the line: ³wound round and round with wire´ is a perfect example of iambic trimeter because it has six syllables and every second syllable is stressed ± µround¶, µround¶ and µwire¶. Speak it aloud and you¶ll find that these are the words which you naturally place emphasis on. Having a fairly consistent rhythm is quite useful for us as readers as it can often tell us things about the attitude and feelings of the person saying the lines. For example, if the rhythm is nice and even and regular, then it¶s likely that all is well, that the speaker is calm, etc. However, if the rhythm starts to change and become irregular then this might indicate that the speaker is less calm, that something is wrong, that there is a change in emotion, etc. This style also helps to keep the poem visually quite simple and consistent throughout. Bishop writes in very uncomplicated language that mirrors the age of the speaker at the time this memory took place even though the narrator's youthful observations are filtered through the lens of the adult poet's mature interpretation. This is useful for us because we get a nice clear sense of the age and maturity of the child speaker. She is young and immature and so it is appropriate that she uses clear, straightforward language. This also helps us to see her innocence through this lack of maturity. The simplicity of the language also allows the reader to immediately connect with what is being said, without having to first decipher dense language. This helps to allow the underlying themes of the poem to have more of a personal and emotional impact. Even more so, the simplicity of the language helps the narrator's emotions to burst off of the page, catching the unsuspecting reader off-guard because they are in such striking contrast. Finally, the tone created by this language helps us get at the essence of the issues Bishop wants to raise, allowing us to explore Bishop's theme at its core, because we¶re not bogged down in luxurious imagery that steers the reader away from what is actually happening or that hides the larger ideas behind clever imagery.

Questions: 1) What is iambic trimeter? Provide a specific example from the poem that isn¶t quoted in the explanation above and describe how you know it is iambic trimeter. 2) What can the rhythm tell us about the speaker? Find two specific lines in the poem where the rhythm suggests something specific about the speaker. 3) Why do you think Bishop might have wanted to keep the poem µvisually simple¶? 4) How does the use of simple language affect the reader¶s understanding of the speaker? 5) To what extent do you think the simplicity of the language affects the reader¶s ability to connect with the ideas and themes of the poem? 6) Poems rich with imagery (simile, metaphor, personification, etc.) might be said to hide their themes behind clever language. To what extent do you agree with this statement having read Bishop¶s µIn the Waiting Room¶ and thought about her style?

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