In the Waiting Room

Waiting for Adulthood: Aging in “In the Waiting Room” and “At the Fishhouses” College

Elizabeth Bishop ends her famous poem “One Art” with the lines, “It’s evident the art of losing’s not too hard to master / though it may look like… disaster.” Although “One Art” lists many literal and symbolic forms of loss, the one that becomes the most prominent in Bishop’s poetry is the loss of time. “In the Waiting Room” and “At the Fishhouses both display the relationship between personal development and time passing. In this essay, I intend to explore the different ways in which Bishop uses imagery to demonstrate growth and maturity over time in these poems.

Although these poems “At the Fishhouses,” which was first published in 1947, uses imagery of age and seasons very similar to that in “In the Waiting Room,” which was not written until the 1970s. The poems begin similarly, with the speaker of “At the Fishhouses” saying “Although it is a cold evening, / down by one of the fishhouses / an old man sits netting,” which is suggesting that it is winter, the season of death, and the image of the old man out in the cold reiterates this. Meanwhile, the speaker of “The Waiting Room,” who is implied to be a young Bishop, starts by speaking in very matter-of-fact terms about her surroundings, such as when she says “It was winter....

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