Saturday, January 21, 2006

All Elizabeth Bishop, all the time

Following up on "Washington as a Surveyor", the New Yorker has gone Bishop, 24/7. Or anyway there are three poems under her name in the current issue. These are much less finished works, with (I suspect) rather more editorial input, and are in need of either more such or not being presented as poems. "In a Cheap Hotel..." begins:
In a cheap hotel
in a cheap city
Love held his prisoners                     or my love
at which point I knew I was looking at a mess. I've now got a bad feeling about The Uncollected Poems, but we'll see.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really, I found that poem to be the most moving of the three.The materialism creates a wonderful, albeit, jarring cadence in the piece. I hate to use an already tired, quasi-aesthetic term, but it is a "haunting" piece. The mood created by the imagery and, as I said, materilaism is sustained and powerful. It smacks of Proustian nostalgia, but not necessarily in the pejorative sense. Its attention to the speaker's suffering through the repetition of images and symbols is very successful, in my opinion. Those last lines are marvelous...

The ice clinks, the fan whirs.
He chains me & berates me--
He chains me to that bed & he berates me.

Need I say more? Perhaps, but I won't.

Cheers on the great blog, I'll definitely book mark it.

2/2/06 19:37  
Blogger rilkefan said...

I'll give you that the last line is, uhh, striking. But I found something vaguely comic about "berate", and I'm uneasy about a poem still [I think] in draft being published in this way. Part of the difficulty for me is the degree of care Bishop put into her poetry - perhaps if this was somebody else the rawness wouldn't bother me.

Glad you like the blog; sadly it's updated only fitfully, that being how inspiration strikes me of late.

2/2/06 20:15  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agreed, there is something quite unnerving in this sort of publication, especially of someone, who, as you have mentioned, was such a careful and brilliant craftsperson. We'll see what the collection holds. If it's a parade of lost children, broken bodies, and discarded attempts never meant for publication, then your point is fair. Larry Levis was a victim of this practice. In Bishop's case, it may very well turn out to be just that. I can think of more than a few other poets who were not served well by posthumous publication of previously unpublished/unfinished work. Thank god Gogol had the sense (even in maddness) to burn what he never intended to publish.

I'll keep an eye on the blog...occasionally sniffing the web for the scent of recently charred inspiration.

best wishes.

2/2/06 20:39  

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