Double-Interpretation In Elizabeth Bishop's 'Love Lies Sleeping'

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Living in a city is something most people struggle with at some point in their lives, though must struggles aren 't beautifully crafted into poems. "Love Lies Sleeping" is a poem written by Elizabeth Bishop was written in 1936 and later published in 1938, while living in New York. The poem about Bishop looking out of the city from her window, taking in all of the little details. It has an odd form, consisting of 15 stanzas, each with two long lines followed by two shorter ones that are indented[^1]. There are also two distinct sections: dawn and sunrise, the divide happens between 10 and 11. One of the key features of this poem is Bishop 's impressive use punctuation, which also helps to highlight her use of double-meanings.

The stanzas are
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Bishop seems to ignore a few of the seemingly critical grammar rules, while making some of her own. In most of her poems she uses either parentheses or em dashes, but rarely both in the same poem. In grammar, there is almost not difference between a parenthetical marked with parentheses, commas (as long as there are no intervening commas), and one marked with an em dash (or en dash, but Bishop seems to avoid them). These, combined with her profuse use of apostrophes, gives her a sort of meandering feel, sometimes side tracking for entire stanzas (Stanza 5, line 2 to end stanza 6, and stanza 7 to mid-way through stanza 8, line 1). Both parentheticals in this poem are a just sentences wrapped in parentheses, giving them an odd status of not quite sentence, but also not an aside. At least to me, it reads like a stage whisper, something that you were just barely supposed to hear. For comparison, an em dash would have had the effect of making it seem like an after thought, and commas would 've been awkward because there are too many commas in between. Her colon and semi-colon use is also strange, stanza two starting with a semi-colon, followed eight words later by a colon that introduces a list with two things in it. The sentence they are in is a full two and a half stanzas long, the longest in the poem. Despite the length, the sentence still feels relatively short, since the amount and variation of punctuation breaks the sentence up. Another result of the variation of punctuation is the subsequent ambiguity of interpretation (I personally love this feature, and have absolutely zero idea how to replicate it). One way of reading it is a friend, out of breath, is excitedly telling you something, too caught up in relating the experience to stop to breath, let alone for punctuation. Another, more cynical, view is to see it as a drunk rambling on about topic, throwing in a mark simply when it feels right.

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