Every week, the editors of The Paris Review lift the paywall on a selection of interviews, stories, poems, and more from the magazine’s archive. You can have these unlocked pieces delivered straight to your inbox every Sunday by signing up for the Redux newsletter.
This week, we bring you a memory of Christmas romance in Cape Cod from our 1981 interview with Elizabeth Bishop; Evan S. Connell’s “Cocoa Party,” a short story about a graduate-student holiday party; and Diane di Prima’s “Rondeau for the Yule.”
Elizabeth Bishop, The Art of Poetry No. 27
Issue no. 80 (Spring 1981)
Was your adolescence a calmer time?
I was very romantic. I once walked from Nauset Light—I don’t think it exists anymore—which is the beginning of the elbow [of Cape Cod], to the tip, Provincetown, all alone. It took me a night and a day. I went swimming from time to time but at that time the beach was absolutely deserted. There wasn’t anything on the back shore, no buildings.
How old would you have been?
Seventeen or eighteen. That’s why I’d never go back—because I can’t bear to think of the way it is now … I haven’t been to Nantucket since—well, I hate to say. My senior year at college I went there for Christmas with my then boyfriend. Nobody knew we were there. It was this wonderful, romantic trip. We went the day after Christmas and stayed for about a week. It was terribly cold but beautiful. We took long walks on the moors. We stayed at a very nice inn and we thought that probably the landlady would throw us out (we were very young and this kind of thing wasn’t so common then). We had a bottle of sherry or something innocent like that. On New Year’s Eve about ten o’clock there was a knock on the door. It was our landlady with a tray of hot grogs! She came in and we had the loveliest time. She knew the people who ran the museum and they opened it for us. There are a couple of wonderful museums there.
“Cocoa Party,” by Evan S. Connell
Issue no. 3 (Spring 1953)
The day before the beginning of one Christmas vacation, for example, Dr. Locke bought a tin of cocoa and two boxes of petit fours and rented a phonograph with some records. Then he typed on one of his file cards and thumbtacked to the bulletin board an invitation for all students with marks of C or better to attend a party in the office when they finished class. Not many students accepted the invitation. He sat in his swivel chair behind the desk, his lips counting the young people as they entered, and there was absolutely no expression on his face …
“Rondeau for the Yule,” by Diane di Prima
Issue no. 39 (Fall 1966)
There are Xmas decorations in the windows.
Four Christmases ago or the summer before
and mostly ephemeral.
The seasons roll over it
flattening it out.
Still, a flicker of interest: what a funny hat
You’re wearing …
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