Becoming a Poet traces the evolution of Elizabeth Bishop's poetic career through her friendships with other poets, notably Marianne Moore and Robert Lowell. Published in 1989 following critic David Kalstone's death, with the help of a number of his friends and colleagues, it was greeted with uniformly enthusiastic praise. Hailed at that time as "one of the most sensitive appreciations of Elizabeth Bishop's genius ever composed" and "a first-rate piece of criticism" and "a masterpiece of understanding about friendship and about poetry," it has been largely unavailable in recent years.
Kim Fortuny University Press of Colorado, 2003 Library of Congress PS3503.I785Z666 2003 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
Kim Fortuny argues that Bishop's travel poetry reveals a political and social consciousness that, until fairly recently, has largely been seen as absent from her poetry and her life. Fortuny argues that questions of travel bring up questions of form in Bi
In a life full of chaos and travel, Elizabeth Bishop managed to preserve and even partially catalog, a large collection—more than 3,500 pages of drafts of poems and prose, notebooks, memorabilia, artwork, hundreds of letters to major poets and writers, and thousands of books—now housed at Vassar College. Informed by archival theory and practice, as well as a deep appreciation of Bishop’s poetics, the collection charts new territory for teaching and reading American poetry at the intersection of the institutional archive, literary study, the liberal arts college, and the digital humanities. The fifteen essays in this collection use this archive as a subject, and, for the first time, argue for the critical importance of working with and describing original documents in order to understand the relationship between this most archival of poets and her own archive. This collection features a unique set of interdisciplinary scholars, archivists, translators, and poets, who approach the archive collaboratively and from multiple perspectives. The contributions explore remarkable new acquisitions, such as Bishop’s letters to her psychoanalyst, one of the most detailed psychosexual memoirs of any twentieth century poet and the exuberant correspondence with her final partner, Alice Methfessel, an important series of queer love letters of the 20th century. Lever Press’s digital environment allows the contributors to present some of the visual experience of the archive, such as Bishop’s extraordinary “multi-medial” and “multimodal” notebooks, in order to reveal aspects of the poet’s complex composition process.
This book examines the strategic possibilities of poetic self-restraint. Marianne Moore,Elizabeth Bishop, and May Swenson all wrote poetry that is marked by a certain reserve--precisely the motive against which most feminist poets and critics of the last thirty years have established themselves. Kirstin Hotelling Zona complicates this dichotomy by examining the conceptions of selfhood upon which it depends. She argues that Moore, Bishop, and Swenson expressed their commitment to feminism by exposing its most treasured assumptions: they not only challenge the ideal of autonomous self-definition, but also contest the integrity of a bodily or sexual authenticity by which that ideal is often measured.
In recent years critical studies of Bishop and Moore have flourished, a large percentage of them devoted to explorations of sexuality and gender. A gap is growing, however, between feminist repossessions of Moore and Bishop and recent readings of their antiessentialist poetics. On the one hand, these poets are appearing more frequently in the feminist canon, but the price of this inclusion is usually the suppression of their strategies of self-restraint. While Zona questions the poetic privileging of self-expression, she establishes contiguity between feminist poetry and developments in American poetry at large. In doing so she asserts the centrality of feminist poetry within discussions of contemporary American poetry, thereby challenging the common perception of feminist poetry as an "alternative" (which often means auxiliary) genre.
Kirstin Hotelling Zona is Assistant Professor of Poetry and Poetics, Illinois State University.