Elizabeth Bishop

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What literary devices does Elizabeth Bishop use in her poem "Letter to N.Y."?

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Bishop uses apostrophe in this poem, which is when a poem's speaker directly addresses someone or something who isn't there. Because the poem is called a "letter," and because in the first line the speaker refers to "your next letter," we know she is speaking to someone who is absent.

Similes also appear in the poem. Simile is a comparison that uses "like" or "as." An example of a simile is the following:

the meter glares like a moral owl

This way, we can imagine a parking meter looking like an owl.

Another simile is:

one side of the buildings rises with the sun
like a glistening field of wheat.

Both similes employ visual imagery, words that describe things we can see. We can imagine sun shining on a building in the early morning, lighting it up like a wheat field.

Bishop uses end rhymes, though she does so irregularly from stanza to stanza. Some examples are as follows from the first stanza: "say" and "plays" rhyme, as do "doing" and "pursuing." In stanza three "caves" and "waves" rhyme.

The poem also employs alliteration, which is when words close to each begin with the same consonant. This creates a sense of rhythm and places emphasis on the alliterative words. Examples in the poem include a line we have already quoted:

the meter glares like a moral owl.

The repeated "m" in "meter" and "moral" are alliterative. This line also uses personification, which is the attributing of human characteristics to an animal or object. In this case, a meter is likened to an owl, which is given the human characteristic of being moral.

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