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Elizabeth Bishop’s friend, fellow poet, and favorite critic Randall Jarrell often centered a favorable review on a list the poems he most admired from that poet’s work. Many an anthologist has borrowed liberally from these carefully chosen Jarrellian lists. Jarrell, perhaps the most demanding and certainly the most prescient critic of his age, liked Bishop’s poetry very much indeed. And in a 1955 survey of “The Year In Poetry” for Harper’s, he cites 31 titles that “I hope you’ll read for yourself” from Bishop’s recently published collection Poems, which would soon go on to win the Pulitzer Prize. Conceding helplessly that “This is a ridiculously long list,” Jarrell adds that, “if I went back over it, I’d make it longer.”
More… “Conversations In the Village”

Thomas Travisano is the author of Elizabeth Bishop: Her Artistic Development and Midcentury Quartet: Bishop, Lowell, Jarrell, Berryman, as well as the principal editor of Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence Between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell. He is currently writing a biography of Bishop for Viking and can be reached at travisanot@hartwick.edu.

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When James Merrill served as Guest Editor of the December 1979 issue of Poetry Pilot, the newsletter of the American Academy of Poets, his task was a pleasant one: to present a selection of several of his favorite poems, introduced by a brief commentary. Such selections by prominent poets had been a regular feature of Poetry Pilot for more than twenty years. Still, Merrill’s selection was in one sense unusual: all eight poems were by a single poet, his recently deceased mentor and friend Elizabeth Bishop. As Merrill noted in his commentary, Bishop had “died suddenly on October 6th, of a cerebral aneurism at her apartment facing north across Boston Harbor.” Merrill’s feeling for Bishop’s poetry was sufficiently profound that he might have made a similar selection had she been living — except for fear of embarrassing her with such a public display of his admiration.
More… “What Tribute She Could Bear”

Thomas Travisano is the author of Elizabeth Bishop: Her Artistic Development and Midcentury Quartet: Bishop, Lowell, Jarrell, Berryman, as well as the principal editor of Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence Between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell. He is currently writing a biography of Bishop for Viking and can be reached at travisanot@hartwick.edu.

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