Elizabeth Bishop's skill as a poet can be clearly seen in the
thought-provoking poem entitled Filling Station. She paints the different
language levels of poetry with the skill of an artist-- she seems to have
an eye for detail as she contrasts the dark and dim reference of a filling
station to a more homey, pleasant atmosphere. Bishop aptly arranges her
words and expressions through the language devices of voice and metaphor.
In Filling Station, Bishop uses tone of voice brilliantly, through
the use of phonetics, to create the poem's initial atmosphere. The opening
seems to be offering a straightforward description of the filling station:
"Oh, but it is dirty!/ -this little filling station,/ oil-soaked, oil-
permeated/ to a disturbing, over-all/ black translucency". A closer
inspection of the passage reveals quite a visual oil-soaked picture. This
is created in large part by the oily sounds themselves. When spoken out-
loud the diphthong [oi] in oil creates a diffusion of sound around the
mouth that physically spreads the oil sound around the passage. An
interesting seepage can also be clearly seen when looking specifically at
the words "oil-soaked", "oil-permeated" and "grease-impregnated". These
words connect the [oi] in oily with the word following it and heighten the
spreading of the sound. Moreover, when studying the [oi] atmosphere
throughout the poem the [oi] in doily and embroidered seems to particularly
stand out. The oozing of the grease in the filling station moves to each
new stanza with the mention of these words: In the fourth stanza, "big dim
doily", to the second last stanza, "why, oh why, the doily? /Embroidered"
to the last stanza, "somebody embroidered the doily".
Whereas the [oi] sound created an oily sound of language throughout
the poem, the repetitive [ow] sound achieves a very different syntactical
feature. The cans which "softly say: /ESSO--SO--SO--SO" create a wind-
like blowing effect from the mouth. Each SO allows for a sort of visual
metaphor to be seen-- cars or the personified "high-strung automobiles" as
they pass on by. Not only are [oi] and [ow] sounds effectively used in
this poem to create a unique tone but so is the use of the cacophony [k]
sound. In-between the oozing effect of the oil, the reader is drawn to the
sharp clicking of the [k] in words like "comfy", "crochet", "comic","color"
and "cans". Bishop seems to be paying special attention to these words as
the words themselves have double meaning. The poet does not want the
reader to forget that they are in the harsh conditions of the filling
station, hence the ...
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