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Friday, May 02, 2008

Poetry Friday--Elizabeth Bishop

Elizabeth Bishop died in 1979 and only now has a volume of her poems, stories, travel writing, and letters been published. This volume entitled Elizabeth Bishop: Poems, Prose, and Letters [811.54 BIS] was recently issued by The Library of America. One of the people who selected the writings to be included, and who wrote the notes, Lloyd Schwartz, was interviewed this week by Terry Gross on Fresh Air.

Schwartz, who was a friend of Bishop's, tells of finding a poem Bishop had written and keeping the fact that he had made a copy of it a secret for many years. The poem was never published until Schwartz included it in this new collection. The revelation is interesting in that we do not know the reasons why Bishop never published it--was it not to her liking? Was it too personal? Was it lost? In any case, it presented Schwartz with a dilemma--to publish it or not? You can listen to the interview on the Fresh Air site.

Bishop was not only a poet, but also a painter, a fact that probably helps explain her keen observation of scenes.

Here's a short poem by Bishop:

And suddenly the giants tired of play.--
With huge, rough hands they flung the gods' gold ball
And silver harps and mirrors at the walls
Of Heaven, and trod, ashamed, where lay
The loveliness of flowers. Frightened Day
On white feet ran from out the temple halls,
The blundering dark was filled with great war-calls,
And Beauty, shamed, slunk silently away.

Be quiet, little wind among the leaves
That turn pale faces to the coming storm.
Be quiet, little foxes in your lairs,
And birds and mice be still--a giant grieves
For his forgotten might. Hark now the warm
And heavy stumbling down the leaden stairs!

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