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Posts Tagged ‘Elizabeth Bishop’

“repeat, repeat, repeat; revise, revise, revise”: Poets Mourning Poets

November 19, 2012 | by

“I used to want to live / to avoid your elegy,” Robert Lowell confessed in “For John Berryman.”

The death of one poet is an extraordinary occasion for another poet. It is like the day a stonemason dies and another has to carve his headstone. Like a rough ashlar, the elegy sits waiting to be shaped into a memorial for the one who is gone. The death of a poet so great as Jack Gilbert last week pains, but also promises remembrances fitting the one who died.

Gilbert devoted most of his elegies to his wife, Michiko Nogami, but poets have forever elegized one another. We can trace the canon through the poems that poets have written to mourn their own: Henri Cole grieving Elizabeth Bishop; Bishop remembering Robert Lowell; Lowell lamenting the death of John Berryman; Berryman longing for Roethke, Jarrell, Hughes, Plath, Schwartz, and William Carlos Williams; W.H. Auden elegizing Yeats; Shelley bemoaning the loss of Keats; all the way back to Ovid mourning Orpheus.

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Map Quest

September 4, 2012 | by

The draw of the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s classic breakup song “Maps” is that it is as plainly sad as possible. “Wait,” the band’s lead singer, Karen O, sings over and over, “they don’t love you like I love you.” But “Maps” is also enigmatic: beyond its abject chorus, the lyrics are cryptic, with verses that are brief and opaque—“Packed up / Don’t Stray / Oh say, say, say / Oh say, say, say.” Karen O repeats maps, plaintive and without context, stretching the word’s aaa over four bars.

According to fan mythology, “Maps” is an acronym for “my Angus please stay,” referencing Liars lead singer Angus Andrew, whom Karen O has said the song is about. There may be other ways to read the song’s title, though. “Maps” evokes the physical and metaphorical distance that is felt from a lover who is leaving. It is a kind of emotional cartography, mapping two people’s painful journeys away from one another. This will serve as our foundation: maps aren’t impersonal, objective. They aren’t.

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Books and Bodies: On Organs and Literary Estates

August 22, 2012 | by

The New Yorker made headlines this month by publishing “new” work by F. Scott Fitzgerald. “Thank You for the Light” had been rejected by the magazine in 1936 when Fitzgerald first submitted it, but editorial judgments—like love, pain, and kitchen knives—have a way of dulling over time.

“We’re afraid that this Fitzgerald story is altogether out of the question,” read the original note spurning the story. “It seems to us so curious and so unlike the kind of thing we associate with him, and really too fantastic.”

Resubmitted by Fitzgerald’s grandchildren, “Thank You for the Light” was, at least by Fitzgerald’s own standards, ready for publication. Its condition differs greatly from his final work, tentatively titled The Love of the Last Tycoon but published as The Last Tycoon in 1941. Fitzgerald died of a heart attack before he could finish the novel, so what went to press was a version of his incomplete draft, notes, and outlines pieced together by the literary critic Edmund Wilson. In his preface to the novel, Wilson wrote, “It has been possible to supplement this unfinished draft with an outline of the rest of the story as Fitzgerald intended to develop it.”

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A Snail’s Pace

July 31, 2012 | by

Edward Lear, self-portrait as snail.

When John Ashbery reviewed Elizabeth Bishop’s Complete Poems in 1969 for The New York Times, his review was accompanied by an illustration: two giant snails stretching from under their shells to touch one another. Ashbery never mentions the mollusks in his review, but beneath the image is an excerpt of Bishop’s prose poem “Giant Snail.”

“I give the impression of mysterious ease, but it is only with the greatest effort of my will,” Bishop’s mollusca persona muses, and one senses how very likely a proxy it is for the poet herself.

Bishop is not the only writer to have found solace or some of herself in a snail. Her coil-shelled critter was an homage to a paean by her mentor Marianne Moore. Moore’s “To a Snail” is a discourse on poetics that culminates “in the absence of feet” and “the curious phenomenon of your occiptal horn.” Moore seized on the snail’s self-sufficiency and endless ability to contract, praising its “grace” and “modesty.”

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The Finalists: Win a Bicycle Contest

July 25, 2012 | by

Our inbox runneth over! We asked you to describe the facing image in three hundred words—in the style of Ernest Hemingway, P. G. Wodehouse, Joan Didion, Elizabeth Bishop, or Ray Bradbury—and some two hundred of you did just that. We had hoped to announce a winner yesterday, but it took us this long just to read through all the manly terseness, Jeevesian whimsy, California deadpan, villanelles (“Write it! Pedal faster”), and Martiana. Plus a surprising number of entries that went their own way and ignored the “in the style of” part of the contest—thereby forfeiting the chance to win a bicycle but showing impressive powers of imagination when it comes to devils and flappers on wheels.

Scroll down to read excerpts from our finalists. And again, many thanks to Velojoy and Hudson Urban Bicycles!

The Drones’ First Annual Charity Tour De Blandings and Fancy Dress Ball took a wrong turn when Freddie Widgeon and Billie Mainwaring arrived. Somehow each had misread the invitation and got the idea that the cycling was fancy dress. Billie came as a “Muse of Modern Dance,” all chiffon and gauze and trailing scarves. Isadora Duncan on a velocipede. Freddie had on a fearfully complete devil’s costume, though how he’d pedal in those hoof-shaped boots got right past me.

—Elliot Nesterman

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Win a Bicycle!

July 9, 2012 | by

My predecessor George Plimpton was known for cycling around New York  before it was either cool or safe (before, some would say, it was sane). And nowadays, we at TPR are still devoted city bikers; our rides can be found chained up and down White Street. So in celebration of the Tour de France—and thanks to the generosity of Hudson Urban Bikes—we, along with Velojoy, are giving away one of Hudson Urban Bikes' Beater Bicycles Roadster. This classic city bike comes in a men’s and a women’s model, both of which may be seen in the diabolical and rather enigmatic illustration below.

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