The Art of the Tablecloth - Elizabeth Bishop in MR

Many thanks to poet and translator, Ren Powell, for alerting me to the Missouri Review blog post just published on Elizabeth Bishop's paintings. Here are some quotes that resonate with me. I hadn't thought of the imperfection of the paintings as much as how filled with joy they seem to be. Stefanie Worfman's comments on the tracing out of the electrical wires seems so in keeping with Bishop's poems - especially one I have been re-reading lately,  "It is Marvelous" - a love poem Bishop chose not to publish - and that has come to her fans only years after her death.

From the Missouri Review blog post by Stefani Worfman:

One reason I go back to Bishop over and over is for her meditation on imperfection. The failures in her poems may be minor, but these instances of weakness, pettiness, and provincialism feel more familiar—uncomfortably familiar—than large-scale tragic faults.  While the visual art doesn’t lend itself to ethical questions quite as the poems do, Bishop regularly paints in the flawed and unbeautiful.  The paintings seem almost gleeful, for example, in tracing out power lines and electrical cords, an impulse that undermines the apparently decorative additions of flowers and tablecloths.

You can find, "It is Marvelous" in She Walks in Beauty - a lovely new anthology of poems selected and introduced by caroline kennedy. More on this wonderful collection coming soon...


  1. Thanks so much for your own meditation, and for bringing Worfman's meditation on Bishop to your readers!

  2. Thank you, Kathleen, for reading and appreciating. I'm grateful.

  3. I have read about this Art of the Tablecloth. It is really to know the main origin of this painting. I like the way she perform her masterpiece.


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