Brett C. Millier: On "At the Fishhouses"

[This excerpt from Millier’s biography of Bishop centers on a 1946 trip taken by Bishop to Nova Scotia, her first return in 15 years to her home village, occurring just after the publication of her first book.]

… From the many notebook entries of this summer, and the poems that grew from those notes, it seems clear that the trip was both deeply disturbing and deeply significant to Elizabeth in ways that it would take her years to articulate.

At Lockport Beach on the Atlantic Ocean, she made a note to herself: "Description of the dark, icy clear water – clear dark glass – slightly bitter (hard to define). My idea of knowledge. This cold stream, half drawn, half flowing from a great rocky breast " [the underlined words have been crossed out]. Earlier, in the evening sunlight at Ragged Islands, she had noticed

A million Christmas trees stand waiting for Christmas.

I know how they feel … The seals play (their barking) between 2 rocks leaping out of the calm water with small splashes you can see where they’re going to come up the water is so clear – the sun slides over their wet fur – … Surface of water swelling slowly as if it were thinking of brimming over.


from Brett C. Millier, Elizabeth Bishop: Life and the Memory of It (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 181-182.


Title Brett C. Millier: On "At the Fishhouses" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Brett C. Millier Criticism Target Elizabeth Bishop
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 03 Jan 2015
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication Elizabeth Bishop: Life and the Memory of It
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