Elizibeth Bishop's thought-provoking poem entitled "Filling Station"

Essay by Kent FraserCollege, UndergraduateA-, January 1996

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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...