On Elizabeth Bishop

Princeton Univ. (Writers on Writers). Apr. 2015. 224p. bibliog. ISBN 9780691154114. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9781400865574. LIT
Irish novelist Tóibín (Irene and Sidney B. Silverman Professor of the Humanities, Columbia Univ.; Nora Webster) provides a personalized account of poet Elizabeth Bishop's (1911–79) life and works and their influence on his own work as a writer after he discovered her poetry at age 19. Tóibín notes the deep sense of loss pervading Bishop's experience and writing resulting from the loss of her parents and childhood home and later of her female lover. Over the course of her life, Bishop lived in Massachusetts, Nova Scotia, Key West, and Brazil, and her poetry reflects a strong connection to these places. In revealing details of his own life, Tóibín explains why he shares Bishop's sense of defeat and of exile, as he also lost his father at a young age and has lived in various settings on different continents. In addition, he identifies with Bishop as a gay writer. Analyses of some of the poems are included, focusing on Bishop's attention to detail and insistence on precise descriptions and noting the influence of Robert Lowell and Marianne Moore on her work.
VERDICT Recommended for followers of both writers.
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