Lorrie Goldensohn: On "Pink Dog"

"Pink Dog," published in 1979, but by Lisa Browne’s calculation written in 1964, introduces a different mood. Each of Bishop’s books has featured animals and objects,m streets and houses. Each book has its resident animal. … Besides Marianne Moore, I do not know of any modern or contemporary poet who pushed the animal masquerade quite as hard and effectively as Bishop; even her small prose poems in "Rainy Season: Subtropics" are saturated with the pain of the grieving human animal working the microphone behind the poem. Nothing is so savage and hurt as "Pink Dog," with its almost unbearable Swiftian irony, where the speaker rises almost inevitably in our minds, moving in a ghost duet with the trotting miseries of the naked little bitch with scabies:

[Goldensohn quotes the poem.]

In another context, "They" could be wrong about the ruined Carnival; in these lines, though, ruin seems all too likely and a scolding, black desperation clings to both speaker and dog. …

Yet the very explosion of this bitterness into print marks a further advance in subject: this is only the second major female animal emblem allowed into Bishop’s work, and an eye interested in looking for a fuller spectrum of emotions could balance the recent appearance of the benevolent and potent moose against the ill and damaged mother dog. … Occasionally, Bishop’s animals are allowed what her people are not: pity accrues for the scabious mother dog with her dangling teats, where the black mothers of National Geographic [from the poem "In the Waiting Room’] "with those awful hanging breasts" remain an object of childish horror.

from Lorrie Goldensohn, "Lost Poems," Chapter 12 in Elizabeth Bishop: The Biography of a Poetry (New York: Columbia University Press, 1992), 278-279.

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Criticism Overview
Title Lorrie Goldensohn: On "Pink Dog" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Lorrie Goldensohn Criticism Target Elizabeth Bishop
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 04 Jan 2015
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication Elizabeth Bishop: The Biography of a Poetry
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