Thursday, 10 May 2012

elizabeth bishop

seeing as i've been writing about adrienne rich recently it's a happy coincidence that i was browsing thru anne stevenson's five looks at elizabeth bishop, to then find that stevenson was speaking in paul farley's r4 programme on bishop in brazil. given that bishop didn't write a whole lot it's easy, if you have the material, to read along and, as i did, refer to some of her letters. true the programme is a wee bit biographically constrained but it is only half an hour and still well worth a listen.

i don't quite know why rich and bishop occupy much the same space in my mind. i used to much prefer bishop's poetry and certainly with a couple of examples, still do, but rich, in particular her essays, is a place i'm loving to come back to, as if i was visiting a challenging old aunt! certainly sufficient that when i've been hearing about a couple of women only commemorations of her while i can kind of see why they would do such a thing it seems, to me at least, to kind of miss the point. where bishop's poetry takes me to a place, to an atmosphere, rich demands things from me. bishop makes me a better human being, rich makes me a better man.

read both! of the two bishop is easier to get into a first glance. her letters are worth a read, funny, poignant and, in the case of the last one written on the day she died, a top quality rant. rich, on the other hand, is perhaps more opaque but once she's in your head it's a hard trick not to find yourself looking back at old underlined quotes or embarking on daft google odysseys in response to some discursive point. plus anyone who writes a poem about caroline herschel is doing okay by me!

so, it strikes me that if i ever get to have some dead female poets round for their tea i could do worse than bishop, rich with anne sexton coming in late. now that would be entertainment!


Susan said...

Yes, indeed. maybe a little tense.

swiss said...

yes, she's a bit of a one for faint praise is eb. the only mention of rich i can find is one where she says she 'fairly' likes her!