How to Understand Elizabeth Bishop’s Poetry

The Illusion of Utter Transparency

“Great artists must have suffered greatly.” The imagery is clearly that of Christ – his suffering and redemption. And perhaps this is why Bishop’s reputation has increased lately, when she is dead and gone. People are delighted that she suffered so much.

And she did suffer. She was an alcoholic, who never had a successful relationship – and she had many of them (she was a lesbian) – her longest, in Brazil, ended with the suicide of the other woman in NYC.

I did not understand, or appreciate her poetry – and it took a careful reading of this review – to let me appreciate her.

She is not a fun read.


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