One Art: Letters

Overview

From several thousand letters, written over fifty years - from 1928, when she was seventeen, to the day of her death, in Boston in 1979 - Robert Giroux has selected over five hundred and has written a detailed and informative introduction. One Art takes us behind Bishop's formal sophistication and reserve, displaying to the full the gift for friendship, the striving for perfection, and the passionate, questing, rigorous spirit that made her a great poet.

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Overview

From several thousand letters, written over fifty years - from 1928, when she was seventeen, to the day of her death, in Boston in 1979 - Robert Giroux has selected over five hundred and has written a detailed and informative introduction. One Art takes us behind Bishop's formal sophistication and reserve, displaying to the full the gift for friendship, the striving for perfection, and the passionate, questing, rigorous spirit that made her a great poet.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A remarkable collection . . . True magic."—Richard Locke, The Wall Street Journal

"What a touching and pleasing book . . . Bishop's letters are keys to her art and her life."—Margo Jefferson, The New York Times

"These letters, funny, touching, and occasionally harrowing, remind us that this great poet was a remarkable woman as well. Don't miss them."—Michael Dirda, The Washington Post Book World

"The compiler of [this volume], Robert Giroux, was Bishop's editor and close friend. His abiding affection for her and his skillful editorial hand are everywhere at work here, from his eloquent introduction to his deft arrangement and excisions. Mr. Giroux has had a long and distinguished career in service to literature; this volume—which he probably considered a labor of love—may well prove to be his most valuable contribution . . . One Art does not quite substitute for an autobiography; there are too many important facts missing. Instead, it stands as a sort of golden treasury, to be gone through in one enthralled reading and then browsed in ever after."—J. D. McClatchy, The New York Times Book Review

"The publication of Elizabeth Bishop's selected letters is a historic event, a bit like discovering a new planet or watching a bustling continent emerge, glossy and triumphant, from the black ocean . . . Let us celebrate the appearance of this extraordinary, this quite exceptional and wonderful work."—Tom Paulin, The Times Literary Supplement

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This selection of poet Elizabeth Bishop's (1911-1979) letters is, as Giroux observes, a virtual autobiography. And though large, the book contains only a fraction of her correspondence. Among the most interesting letters are those to literary friends, including Robert Lowell, Randall Jarrell and Marianne Moore; among the most disturbing are the anguished letters concerning personal tragedies, letters she asked the recipients to destroy but which the editor has printed because they ``have remained extant.'' The letters show a continuity with the character presented in Bishop's poems: apparently, she really was a brilliant, modest and kind person. They also show the poet's eye and ear for detail (``Someone asked my landlord . . . if he didn't have an `author' living in his house, and he replied, `No, not an author, a writer' ''). There is also a disarming, even dogged sense of humor, striking given the fact that much in the letters is dark: the poet's struggles against alcoholism, loneliness and a 15-year relationship that ended in the suicide of her lover, Lota Soares. Bishop's correspondence may have been a bulwark against emptiness; the letters engage the reader not with startling revelations, but with everyday acts of courage. Thus Bishop pleads with Lowell in 1960, ``Please never stop writing me letters--they always manage to make me feel like my higher self.'' (Apr.)
Library Journal
Of her generation, Bishop (1911-79) is among the poets least known to the public, even though she was regarded with great affection by the most celebrated of her peers and exercised a striking influence over them as well as many poets living today. These letters to Robert Lowell, Marianne Moore, James Merrill, and a host of others depict an often ingenuous, self-absorbed writer, one constantly struggling with physical infirmities (asthma, alcoholism) as well as an acute sensitivity to the praises and slights of the eccentric, sometimes difficult friends and lovers she attracted. Yet Bishop's most arresting characteristics are self-knowledge, which is essential to a full knowledge of the world, and a total immersion in every aspect of her craft. She wrote Lowell: ``If after I read a poem, the world looks like that poem for 24 hours or so, I'm sure it's a good one.'' An important collection historically as well as a rewarding one to read for its own sake.-- David Kirby, Florida State Univ., Tallahassee
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374524456
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 9/28/1995
  • Pages: 668
  • Sales rank: 688,592
  • Lexile: 1120L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.72 (w) x 8.81 (h) x 1.77 (d)

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Bishop (1911-79) won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

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