One art : letters

by Elizabeth Bishop

Other authorsRobert Giroux
Hardcover, 1994




New York : Farrar, Straus, Giroux, c1994.


"This collection is a magnificent confirmation of Lowell's prediction. From several thousand letters, written over fifty years - from 1928 when she was seventeen (and already a poet) to the day of her death, in Boston in 1979 - Robert Giroux, her editor during her lifetime, has selected over 500 and has written a detailed and informative introduction." "In one sense, Elizabeth Bishop's letters constitute her autobiography, including the story of her love for Lota Soares in Brazil, which ended with Lota's tragic suicide fifteen years later. They also record her intense relationships with her early mentor Marianne Moore and later with Robert Lowell. For Bishop, letter-writing was a joy and a necessity, an embodiment of the links between people, but also a facet of her art, conjuring the world in words. Some letters are carefully composed, elegant in style; some are spontaneous and witty, alive with unexpected detail; some contain poems sent as gifts; others are cries from the heart. Sometimes she ponders on her childhood, on her struggle to create, or to resist drink, but more often she responds fully and vividly to the immediate moment, the color of the sky, the books she has been reading, the friend she misses, the meal she is cooking, the toucan or cat she is observing, the room she is painting in a "Harlequinade" pattern of big colored diamonds." "One Art takes us behind Bishop's formal sophistication and reserve, displaying to the full the gift for friendship, the striving for perfection, and the passionate, questing, rigorous spirit that made her a great poet."--Jacket.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member keywestnan
Since Elizabeth Bishop never wrote a full memoir or autobiography, this is the closest thing we have. And we are so lucky to have it, thanks to Robert Giroux. If my house were burning down, this is one of the first books I would pull off the shelf to take with me. It's heartening, heartrending and,
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because it is personal correspondence, intimate. You feel by the end that you have been in a close relationship with Bishop; you're so grateful to have known her, so sorry that she was so unhappy so much of the time and so impressed with the art she still managed to create in her poetry, essays and even her watercolors like the one that graces the cover.
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