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… The extreme process of self-definition, for Bishop, is the provisional and momentary act of writing and self-revelation. The poem becomes an interiorized debate – the two voices are less separate characterizations than they are a compound self that interrogates itself and reveals, not affirmation, but doubt. …

`[McCorkle quotes the italicized stanzas.]

The inclusion of the italicized transcriptions from a notebook emphasizes the durational quality of writing. Despite the seemingly multitudinous range of experience and possibility, Bishop asserts "the choice is never wide and never free," because we are governed by experience and language. The concordance of experience is not a Linnaean process if ordering chaos and intellectual control but a converse process where ordering and interrogation lead to further uncertainty. The moment of "golden silence" recalls the adage levelled at children, "silence is golden." The transcendent silences the two voices while returning us to writing and uncertainty. The adage, paradoxically, returns us to childhood and the subversive play of children. We thus return to the beginnings of the poem, the journal’s entries and questions, which break the imposed silence of that Victorian adage and admonishment authorized by the discourse of fathers.


From James McCorkle, "Concordances and Travels: The Poetry of Elizabeth Bishop," Chapter 1 in The Still Performance: Writing, Self and Interconnection in Five Postmodern American Poets (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1989), 20, 23.