Elizabeth Bishop was the poet that brought me back to writing. I found her after I'd spent my twenties living in West Africa, England, and Scotland. After I had hitch-hiked between London and Rome, after I had traveled overland from Mali to Senegal by freight train, after I had lost at love. Without Bishop's poems and the story of her life, I don't think I could have believed in myself enough to write. In no small terms, Elizabeth Bishop saved me. On this grey, cool, Nova Scotia like day - I lift my writing pen to her.
Thanks to the miracle of the web, you can now hear her read her poems ("The Art of Losing and the Man-Moth") -- something she didn't much like to do. There's a wonderful letter where she writes of seeing Anne Sexton read in Boston (they both lived in the city at the same time) with a back-up band. She felt like an old foggy beside the young woman.
If Elizabeth Bishop were alive today, she would be 100 years old. Well, she would have turned 100 in February. In Nova Scotia, where Bishop lived the happiest years of her childhood, it's been an all year celebration. Here is the Elizabeth Bishop Centenary Blog (English and Spanish) that focuses on all things Bishop with daily updates. And for $10 a year ($25 for three years) you can become a member of the Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia. I am signing up today! The website states that centenary celebrations are planned to continue for the foreseeable future. This seems the right time to plan a trip to Nova Scotia. Why not?
***H mmm I've just noticed that I posted this poem almost exactly a year ago. How strange that it comes back to me now. I will link to the original post here -- and because I'm a little embarrassed to repeat myself, I will add a second poem by Miss Bishop that I also love.
|by Elizabeth Bishop|
The art of losing isn't hard to master; so many things seem filled with the intent to be lost that their loss is no disaster. Lose something every day. Accept the fluster of lost door keys, the hour badly spent. The art of losing isn't hard to master. Then practice losing farther, losing faster: places, and names, and where it was you meant to travel. None of these will bring disaster. I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or next-to-last, of three loved houses went. The art of losing isn't hard to master. I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster, some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent. I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster. --Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident the art of losing's not too hard to master though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.