Tuesday, December 06, 2022

"Lent trees" in Elizabeth Bishop's "Electrical Storm"

Elizabeth Bishop's poem "Electrical Storm" (from "Questions of Travel", 1965) ends with trees: "The Lent trees had shed all their petals." The poem has been rarely discussed by scholars, so I figured out "Lent trees" by myself. First, I stumbled on a German translation for "Lent tree": Echter Korallenbaum. This led me to the genus Erythrina and the Purple Coral Tree (the petals' color is also mentioned). But then I invented the German word Fastenbaum and found the Brazilian tree Quaresmeira (Pleroma granulosum) – and Quaresma is Lent in Portuguese. The tree is called that because it flowers during Lent, and Bishop wrote the poem while living in Brazil in the 1950s. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 6 December 2022)

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