“Crusoe in England” is a poem of 183 lines spoken by Robinson Crusoe (after his return from his island exile) that actually expresses Elizabeth Bishop’s own summation of her difficult creative life as a poet.
The poem opens with Robinson Crusoe, back in England, reflecting on his past life of more than fifty years on an island alone but in fact giving utterance to Bishop’s apologia for her poetic career. News that a volcano has created a new island somewhere causes Crusoe to recall his own island, to explore it in memory in order to discover the real significance of the island experience that no one else has ever correctly evaluated (lines 1-10).
The raw creative energy for writing poems rests on the cumulative and fully realized (“heads blown off”) experiences of fifty-two volcanic years that have generated a poetic inspiration and an overwhelming poetic vision verging on glorious intuitions, despite the difficult and sometimes depressing lot of being a writer. It is the wonderful conjunction of “left-over clouds” in the writer’s lived and literary past and the parched “craters” of the writer’s artistic genius that releases the energy for poetic creation in the form of multicolored lava shaping the exotic island of fanciful flora and fauna (lines 11-54). This is the poem’s “waterspout” conception (lines 46, 52-53) of the writer’s creative process: “And I had waterspouts. Oh,/ half a dozen at a time.”
Unfortunately, poetic creation could be...
(The entire section is 618 words.)