The Complete Poems: 1927-1979

by Elizabeth Bishop

Paperback, 1983

Call number

811 BIS



Farrar, Straus and Giroux (1983), 287 pages


This book gathers the work of three decades of one Americans's leading poets. It includes a group of translations of two contemporary Brazilian poets, Carlos Drummond de Andrade and Joao Cabral de Melo Neto.

User reviews

LibraryThing member jarvenpa
I recall her in her black dress, reading to a group of Yale undergrads (and strays like me) in a badly lit classroom. She read well and precisely, these poems of internal explosion. The snow fell outside. I thought it so strange that only 15 or so of us had bothered to stop by. But I was glad I did.
LibraryThing member dawnpen
Ok. I know I should like Bishop. Jimmy likes her. Paul likes her. Misty likes her. I know but I just don't. No doubt Bishop packs a powerful punch and I know there's a venacular quality that feels easy but is the opposite. But I'll be damned if the woman just can't turn me on. I'm hoping to grow
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into this one that way I've grown into Dickinson. I habitually pick a poem up just to see. I'll be the first to admit that I'm wrong, but I just can't see any evidence to the contrary.
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LibraryThing member Daedalus
Despite her losses, her words maintain their mastery. I can only see her influence broadening in the decades and centuries to come.
LibraryThing member awiebe
One of my favorite books of all time, I take it with me everywhere I move and regularly pull it off the shelf (or out of the box). Each poem takes about 30 minutes and 3 readings on the first attempt, but her artistry is so subtle and humble (not to mention absolutely wonderful) that it's worth it
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every time. After that first reading, you will still go back to the poems forever, they do not wane.
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LibraryThing member victoriahallerman
I have extra copies of this book in case it goes out of print.
LibraryThing member corinneblackmer
Elizabeth Bishop often complained that her poetic output was inadequate, but in truth, she never wrote (or, rather, published) a bad poem in her lifetime, and her final product resembles a series of crystalline jewels on a string--absolutely delicious and evocative and inventive.
LibraryThing member ostrom
She was a fine poet.
LibraryThing member jonfaith
Think of the long trip home.
Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?

That very thought has occurred to me on occasion. This collection was a slow start. The images were dense, looped and anchored in rocky soil. There was a trace of fear upon entry: a hesitation. Perhaps there was a
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benefit; I know nothing about Bishop’s biography, though I’m guessing there were extensive travels to Brazil. It was Teju Cole who pointed the way. He has proved a reliable curator.
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LibraryThing member Eoin
Maybe the best American poet of the 20th century. I'm trying to memorize these.
LibraryThing member DanielSTJ
I felt that these poems left me uninspired and were lacking in the things that make poetry, for me, great. There was no great imagery, admirable passages, and sentient contemplation. Therefore, it was hard for me to enjoy the poems and I felt that this was more of a chore to read than something of
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fulfillment and enjoyment. For this reason, I give it a low ranking.

2 stars.
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LibraryThing member cbl_tn
Elizabeth Bishop’s collected poems – her life’s work – can be read in a single afternoon. It will take a lot longer than that to ponder its meaning, test it against one’s own life experience, and see oneself reflected in these lines and stanzas. Although the settings change with
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Bishops’ extensive travels, some themes thread throughout her work – ships and sailors battling rough seas, weary laborers, unrequited or unfulfilled loves and lovers. It’s evident from the frequent biblical allusions that Bishop had a religious education, and it’s also evident Bishop found no solace in religion.

Among the most intriguing poems to me are the ones addressed to Robert Lowell and Marianne Moore. It would be interesting to explore how these highly regarded poets influenced each other’s work.
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LibraryThing member jonbrammer
Possibly my favorite poem of all time, "Skunk Hour" by Robert Lowell, is dedicated to Elizabeth Bishop, so I had to check her out.

Many of these poems are impressionistic, capturing a moment - like "Late Air". Some use extended metaphor, like "The Unbeliever" - taking a line from John Bunyan about
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the dangers of unbelief and twisting it into something different - making it seem that the atheist is both able to dream differently than those on the deck below:

Asleep he was transported there
asleep he curled
in a gilded ball at the mast's top,
or climbed inside
a gilded bird, or blindly seated himself astride

The metaphor becomes something strange and mysterious - what is the unbeliever? A dreamer? A sage?

Bishop likes to weave natural imagery in with the emotions and ideas expressed in her poems - a classic example is "The Fish", where the defeat of the veteran fish by the fisherman is problematized by the imagery of the decrepit boat, where there is a "pool of bilge / where oil had spread a rainbow / around the rusted engine"

The fish is something noble battling against the crude ugly trappings of man.
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