One of the most important elements to any poem is the title. I found the title “In the Waiting Room” to be very well-chosen for this poem. In this post I will elaborate on the discussion we had in class about this particular poem’s title.
Generally speaking, when I first read the title without knowing anything about the poem, I thought it was very simple, and also fit well with the title of the book “Geography III” because both titles are a physical location. To back up my assumptions, I soon found out in class that the reason I made these observations, is because Elizabeth Bishop’s writing style is considered “simple, straight-forward, and a way to dress-down poetry.”
On the contrary, after both reading the poem and having had further class discussion, I received a completely different sense about the title. I realized that it was something extremely complex, and that it is not just inferring simply sitting in a room waiting for something or someone. In class we discussed some of the themes of the poem, one of which was gender theory. After learning about this theme and the context of the poem, I decided that “In the Waiting Room” has a completely different meaning.
I started asking myself questions about the title, for instance, “who is in the waiting room, what are they waiting for, and who are they waiting for?” I realized that it describes a young girl who is trying to find her sense of self-identity in the location of a waiting room at a dentist office. Her thoughts go back and forth between panicking because she doesn’t know who she is, and calming herself down because she wants to get a grasp on her own identity. The title alone shows me that Elizabeth Bishop’s work may be simple to the eye, but yet can be complex to the mind.