Thursday, February 08, 2007

Elizabeth Bishop's Birthday and Letters

Last night I cooked up a storm - homemade brownies and a full dinner, potatoes, steak, and broccoli. I am going to love Wednesday nights this semester because it is when I am done with classes.
In the poetic forms class this week, the professor was talking about how important letters and journals are of poets lives. The power of reading about what poets that we admire were thinking and reading at the time they were writing. It’s so true. I love that. I especially love the letters between uncommon friends. One of my favorites are the letters between Leslie Marmon Silko and James Wright. They are so beautiful. The book is called, The Delicacy and Strength of Lace, and it appears to be out of print on Amazon. That’s a shame. I’ve mentioned before here the letters from Hayden Carruth to Jane Kenyon. They are gorgeous. I love that intimate writing made public in a book.
Here’s The Writer’s Almanac on Elizabeth Bishop:
It's the birthday of poet Elizabeth Bishop, (books by this author) born in Worcester, Massachusetts (1911). Her father died when she was a little girl. Her mother had an emotional breakdown from grief and spent the rest of her life in various mental institutions. Elizabeth spent most of her childhood moving back and forth between her grandparents in Nova Scotia and her father's family in Massachusetts. For the rest of her life, she was obsessed with travel, and she never felt at home anywhere.
She was painfully shy and quiet in college, but during her senior year she mustered all her courage and introduced herself to her idol, the elder poet Marianne Moore. The meeting was awkward at first, but then Bishop offered to take Moore to the circus. It turned out they both loved going to the circus, and they both also loved snakes, tattoos, exotic flowers, birds, dressmaking, and recipes. Moore became Bishop's mentor and friend, and she persuaded Bishop that poems didn't have to be about big ideas, that they could be precise descriptions of ordinary objects and places. Bishop began to write poems about filling stations, fish, the behavior of birds, and her memories of Nova Scotia.
She was an extremely slow writer, and published only 101 poems in her lifetime. She worked on her poem "One Art" for more than 15 years, keeping it tacked up on her wall so that she could rearrange the lines again and again until she got it right.

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