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Elizabeth Bishop's "Sestina"

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Sestina, by Elizabeth Bishop

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September rain falls on the house.
In the failing light, the old grandmother
sits in the kitchen with the child
beside the Little Marvel Stove,
reading the jokes from the almanac,
laughing and talking to hide her tears.

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Feb 9
Katie Bishop (Feb 09 2021 1:25PM) : Stanza 1 more

Stanza 1 introduces the entire tone and mood of the poem. The setting and characters are introduced within the first 3 lines. By adding the “Little Marvel Stove,” it dives deeper into the setting and explains little details such as the specific stove being used.

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Feb 9
Sydney Sierota (Feb 09 2021 1:33PM) : Agree more

I agree with Katie. The first stanza sets up the entire poem and gives detail but also leaves you wondering which direction the poem was headed.

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Feb 9
Student Kennedy Freitas (Feb 09 2021 2:22PM) : Also Agree more

I think that the first stanza also does a great job of setting the tone for the entirety of the poem. It really makes you think, and without it, the poems would seem a bit fragmented, in a sense.

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Feb 9
Paul Hankins (Feb 09 2021 1:24PM) : Mr. Hankins: Setting for the poem. more

In this one end-stopped line, Bishop provides the macro setting for the poem.

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Feb 9
Trey Schoen (Feb 09 2021 1:27PM) : Imagery more

Bishop uses imagery to introduce us to where the poem will take place

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Feb 9
Paul Hankins (Feb 09 2021 1:27PM) : Mr. Hankins: Moving from common to proper noun. more

While “stove” is part of the six-word set, here, Bishop skillfully employs the noun to be part of a brand name. And, this is a brand name of a cast iron stove.

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Feb 9
Katie L. Bishop (Feb 09 2021 1:30PM) : What is an almanac? more

An annual calendar containing important dates and statistical information.

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Feb 9
Trey Schoen (Feb 09 2021 1:29PM) : deeper [Edited] more

by saying the grandma is “talking to hide her tears” Bishop implies that there may be something deeper happening

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Feb 9
Emma Graves (Feb 09 2021 1:38PM) : Hiding tears [Edited] more

I think she’s hiding her tears from the child. She could be doing this for many different reasons. One of those reasons could be because she does not want to worry the child. Another could be because she is reading the jokes from the almanac, she might want to hide her tears because she wants to keep the joy and happiness.

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Feb 9
Brandon Maurer (Feb 09 2021 1:39PM) : deeper further more

This would go very well with the topic i mention further down where I talked about there may have been the passing away of the grandfather. If that is what happened reading jokes from the almanac and laughing and talking about it would be a good way to distract yourself from the pain of your loss. Especially to have the child over for company now that the grandmother would be in a house all alone.

She thinks that her equinoctial tears
and the rain that beats on the roof of the house
were both foretold by the almanac,
but only known to a grandmother.
The iron kettle sings on the stove.
She cuts some bread and says to the child,

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Feb 9
Ryan Spindler (Feb 09 2021 1:31PM) : The grandmother more

The grandmother believes that he tears and emotions have been foretold which could mean she has the same feelings at this time of the year every year

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Feb 9
Danika Jacobs (Feb 09 2021 1:36PM) : Sadness and rain more

The grandmother thinks that her tears and the rain that is beating down on the roof of the house was foretold. Her sadness and the rain was foretold by the almanac but also by the grandmother herself. She tries to distract herself by using tea time as an excuse.

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Feb 9
Jesse Bergstrom (Feb 09 2021 1:19PM) : equinoctial more

happening at or near the time of an equinox.

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Feb 9
Yahir Velasco (Feb 09 2021 1:20PM) : happening at or near the time of an equinox
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Feb 9
Jesse Bergstrom (Feb 09 2021 1:21PM) : L more

I beat ya :)

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It's time for tea now; but the child
is watching the teakettle's small hard tears
dance like mad on the hot black stove,
the way the rain must dance on the house.
Tidying up, the old grandmother
hangs up the clever almanac

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Feb 9
Katie L. Bishop (Feb 09 2021 1:34PM) : Comparing Tears more

Bishop compares rain to the teakettle’s tears. Rain could be seen as cloud tears, just like water droplets coming from a teakettle can be seen as tears. I love how she words this sentence!

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on its string. Birdlike, the almanac
hovers half open above the child,
hovers above the old grandmother
and her teacup full of dark brown tears.
She shivers and says she thinks the house
feels chilly, and puts more wood in the stove.

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Feb 9
Daisy Priddy (Feb 09 2021 1:34PM) : Birdlike, the almanac hovers more

This line is helping create an image within the readers head by comparing the almanac to a well know object, a bird. When thinking of a bird there is a sturdy middle section that has two light weight layered feather wings. An almanac would have a solid spine that is split with a string that would create two layered sections leading off of the solid mid section.

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Feb 9
Jordyn Reas (Feb 09 2021 1:37PM) : The Almanac more

The almanac almost seems to be a protective force, as it watches over the grandmother and the child. It seems to tell their futures and give them a sense of safety with its jokes. It gives them comfort as it already knows what will happen.

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Feb 9
Hailey Drane (Feb 09 2021 1:28PM) : The Almanac Hangs more

From earlier in the poem, we see that the almanac (a paper that contains meteorological data) has been a huge part of their future plans.

I think this really says something about the feelings of the characters, and how they live by the telling of the almanac. “Why am I feeling this way? I was not told I was going to.” It hangs over them.

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Feb 9
Ava Rippel (Feb 09 2021 1:40PM) : Dark brown tears more

This stanza implies that the grandmother is crying so much, that her tears fall into her teacup. Why would she add this into her poem? Maybe to show how much she is crying?

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It was to be, says the Marvel Stove.
I know what I know, says the almanac.
With crayons the child draws a rigid house
and a winding pathway. Then the child
puts in a man with buttons like tears
and shows it proudly to the grandmother.

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Feb 9
Brandon Maurer (Feb 09 2021 1:25PM) : Man with buttons more

We see there is a grandmother and a child and the grandmother is sad with tears. Something that stuck out to me was there was no mention of a grandfather, the grandmother was sad, and the child drew a picture of a man. Maybe the grandfather passed away recently or it is the anniversary of his passing.

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But secretly, while the grandmother
busies herself about the stove,
the little moons fall down like tears
from between the pages of the almanac
into the flower bed the child
has carefully placed in the front of the house.

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Feb 9
Lacey Tingle (Feb 09 2021 1:31PM) : little moons fall down like tears [Edited] more

Why does that look like? Is she trying to say that the darkness can be sad? When I think of darkness I don’t think happy thoughts, I think of sadness.

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Feb 9
Eli Hopkins (Feb 09 2021 1:32PM) : Moving on more

This stanza could imply that as the days go on (i.e. the little moons fall down), the grieving process continues. The family is moving on from the past (i.e. the almanac) and starting fresh (i.e. placing flowers)

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Feb 9
Avery Post (Feb 09 2021 1:34PM) : Moon Shapes more

Maybe the moon shapes are referencing how many nights they have to spend without this person. The flower bed could be something like a grave, placing flowers upon a grave or memorial in front of their house.

Perhaps he grandmother is trying to distract herself from the looming future of spending the rest of her lifetime without that special someone who they lost.

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Feb 9
Yahir Velasco (Feb 09 2021 1:30PM) : Flower bed [Edited] more

Would the flower bed imply something along the lines of death? Some funerals people give flowers to the tombs of those who pass away, making a bed of flowers.

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Feb 9
Abigail Marks (Feb 09 2021 1:36PM) : The flower bed is resembling the resting place of the child.
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Feb 9
Abigail Marks (Feb 09 2021 1:38PM) : The Flower bed is resembling the resting place of the child
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Time to plant tears, says the almanac.
The grandmother sings to the marvelous stove
and the child draws another inscrutable house.

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Feb 9
Sydney Sierota (Feb 09 2021 1:38PM) : Last Stanza more

The last stanza implies that this is a repetitive cycle and will continue to happen.

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Feb 9
Avery Post (Feb 09 2021 1:26PM) : Planting season more

Before this line there is a line about the grandmother’s equinoctial tears. The almanac predicts weather, and it is especially important for farmers. Equinoctial tears may be something leading up to this line, since it mentions planting tears.

It could also be like saying “time to move on” as this poem is referencing someone who is no longer there.

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Feb 9
Jordyn Reas (Feb 09 2021 1:26PM) : Growth more

I think the planting of tears suggests the growth of something out of a tragedy. To continue on to new things after grieving for the old that has left you.

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Feb 9
Trevor Trevor Montgomery (Feb 09 2021 1:29PM) : Reply more

I agree with you. I think Bishop is suggesting that the planting of the tears can help grow to new things after grieving the loss of a loved one maybe.

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Feb 9
Zachary Zimmerman (Feb 09 2021 1:30PM) : Growth more

I agree on what Jordyn because it seems like they are trying to get over something. When they say planting of tears means to finally move on.

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Feb 9
Emma Graves (Feb 09 2021 1:32PM) : Growth more

I thought this too! In my mind I related tears to rain like the plant is growing. It seems like she is moving on and starting to cope with the grief.

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Yahir Velasco (Feb 09 2021 1:34PM) : Inscrutable more

Impossible to understand/ interpret

DMU Timestamp: November 12, 2020 20:50

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Feb 9
Jesse Bergstrom (Feb 09 2021 1:33PM) : Inscrutable more

impossible to understand or interpret.

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Feb 9
Yahir Velasco (Feb 09 2021 1:34PM) : L
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