Elizabeth Bishop, Poems, London: Chatto & Windus, 2011.
by Jane McArthur, 16 April 2020.
Often beginning with place and the everyday: Brazil, Nova Scotia, a waiting room, a long distance bus, a giant toad, the ideas just below the surface of her writing shift inwards. Like a miniature painting each situation is a contained world, described in a language which appears straightforward, confuting the complexity of her subjects: love, loss, belonging and alienation. The selection made here with the exception of Rainy Season: Sub-tropics are located in the built environment
Elizabeth Bishop had an unsettled childhood, living in various American states. As an adult she travelled widely, living for periods in Brazil, New York and Key West. This is certainly reflected in her work, often anchored to place and experience or memories of place. She was also a proficient painter, approaching the scenes she chose to paint in watercolour or gouache with the same sensibility as that of her poetry.
To listen to Elizabeth Bishop reading seven of her poems:
The Waiting Room
Interesting to read with Bishop’s poems is
Jan Zwicky, Why Meaning Matters, Brick. A Literary Journal, Toronto, Canada, Issue 100, Winter 2018.
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