In her lifetime Elizabeth Bishop was appreciated as a writer's writer (John Ashbery once called her "the writer's writer's writer"). But since her death in 1979 her reputation has grown, and today she is recognized as a major twentieth-century poet. Critics and biographers now habitually praise Bishop's mastery of her art, but all too often they have little to say about how her poetry does its sublime work--in the ear and in the mind's eye.
Elizabeth Bishop at Work examines Bishop's art in detail--her diction, syntax, rhythm, and meter, her acute sense of place, and her attention to the natural world. It is also a study of the poet working at something, challenging herself to try new things and to push boundaries. Eleanor Cook traces Bishop's growing confidence and sense of freedom, from her first collection, North & South, to Questions of Travel, in which she fully realized her poetic powers, to Geography III and the breathtaking late poems, which--in individual ways--gather in and extend the poet's earlier work. Cook shows how Bishop shapes each collection, putting to rest the notion that her published volumes are miscellanies.
Elizabeth Bishop at Work is intended for readers and writers as well as teachers. In showing exactly how Bishop's poems work, Cook suggests how we ourselves might become more attentive readers and better writers. Bishop has been compared to Vermeer, and as with his paintings, so with her poems. They create small worlds where every detail matters.
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About the Author
Eleanor Cook is Professor Emerita in the Department of English at the University of Toronto.
Table of Contents
1 Land, Water, Fire, Air: Two Poems 11
2 Elizabeth Bishop's Ordinary Diction - Yes, But… 36
3 On the Move: From New York to Key West, via France 56
4 Diction on the Move 91
5 Rhythms of A Cold Spring 112
6 Kinds of Travel, Kinds of Home, Kinds of Poem: Questions of Travel 141
7 Brief Interlude on Genre 194
8 Geography III 204
9 Late Poems 249
Illustration Credits 299
Index to Bishop's Poems, Stories, and Essays 301
General Index 305