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One Art: Letters

Bishop, Elizabeth

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ISBN 10: 0374226407 / ISBN 13: 9780374226404
Published by Farrar Straus Giroux, New York, 1994
Condition: Near Fine Hardcover
From Gumshoe Books (Columbia, SC, U.S.A.)

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About this Item

the letters of elizabeth bishop selected and edited by robert gtroux. Size: 8vo. Bookseller Inventory # 018625

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Bibliographic Details

Title: One Art: Letters

Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux, New York

Publication Date: 1994

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:Near Fine

Dust Jacket Condition: Near Fine

Edition: First Edition.

About this title


Robert Lowell once remarked, "When Elizabeth Bishop's letters are published (as they will be), she will be recognized as not only one of the best, but one of the most prolific writers of our century." One Art is the magificent confirmation of Lowell's prediction.

From several thousand letters, written by Bishop over fifty years—from 1928, when she was seventeen, to the day of her death, in Boston in 1979—Robert Giroux, the poet's longtime friend and editor, has selected over five hundred missives for this volume. In a way, the letters comprise Bishop's autobiography, and Giroux has greatly enhanced them with his own detailed, candid, and highly informative introduction. One Art takes us behind Bishop's formal sophistication and reserve, fully displaying the gift for friendship, the striving for perfection, and the passionate, questing, rigorous spirit that made her a great artist.


One Art is the best biography we have of the elusive Elizabeth Bishop. Robert Giroux, her editor and friend, has chosen well--and discreetly--from among the poet's several thousand letters. The collection begins with correspondence she wrote while still at Vassar in the '30s and ends with a letter written on the day she died, October 6, 1979. ("Well, I could go on--but I won't!" Bishop writes.) Still, we now have more than 600 pages of witty, well-mannered missives that often shade into deep emotion. Seemingly casual observation is a staple of Bishop's art and a delight in the letters: writing to Marianne Moore in 1938, she asserts that an unappealing stray she is nonetheless feeding looks just like Picasso's Absinthe Drinker. Nor is she any less irreverent when it comes to the lifestyles of the poetic and famous. In 1950, she tells Robert Lowell that she's reading Yeats's A Vision--"or trying to. Have you? Sometimes it's Jungian. The picture of Yeats going 'Woof! Woof!' in a lower berth, in the dark, in California, in order to wake up his wife, who was dreaming she was a cat, is very pleasing, I think."

Bishop often hid her sadness behind charm, but she could also be astonishingly frank. In addition to the personal revelations, there are discussions of poems' origins. "Quite a few lines of 'At the Fishhouses' came to me in a dream," she tells U. T. and Joseph Summers. "And the scene--which was real enough, I'd recently been there--but the old man and the conversation, etc., were all in a later dream." One caveat: Robert Giroux has kept commentary and notes to a minimum, so it's worth reading his introduction for deep background before you begin.

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