In this book, novelist Colm Toibin offers a deeply personal introduction to the work and life of one of his most important literary influences--the American poet Elizabeth Bishop. Ranging across her poetry, prose, letters, and biography, Toibin creates a vivid picture of Bishop while also revealing how her work has helped shape his sensibility as a novelist and how her experiences of loss and exile resonate with his own.Read more...
In this book, novelist Colm Toibin offers a deeply personal introduction to the work and life of one of his most important literary influences--the American poet Elizabeth Bishop. Ranging across her poetry, prose, letters, and biography, Toibin creates a vivid picture of Bishop while also revealing how her work has helped shape his sensibility as a novelist and how her experiences of loss and exile resonate with his own. What emerges is a compelling double portrait that will intrigue readers interested in both Bishop and Toibin.
For Toibin, the secret of Bishop's emotional power is in what she leaves unsaid. Exploring Bishop's famous attention to detail, Toibin describes how Bishop is able to convey great emotion indirectly, through precise descriptions of particular settings, objects, and events. He examines how Bishop's attachment to the Nova Scotia of her childhood, despite her later life in Key West and Brazil, is related to her early loss of her parents--and how this connection finds echoes in Toibin's life as an Irish writer who has lived in Barcelona, New York, and elsewhere.
Beautifully written and skillfully blending biography, literary appreciation, and descriptions of Toibin's travels to Bishop's Nova Scotia, Key West, and Brazil, On Elizabeth Bishop provides a fresh and memorable look at a beloved poet even as it gives us a window into the mind of one of today's most acclaimed novelists.
- ISBN-13: 9780691154114
- ISBN-10: 0691154112
- Publisher: Princeton University Press
- Publish Date: March 2015
- Page Count: 224
- Dimensions: 7.6 x 4.8 x 0.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.5 pounds
Series: Writers on Writers
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-01-19
- Reviewer: Staff
Novelist Tóibín (Nora Webster) gives an intimate and engaging look at Elizabeth Bishop’s poetry and its influence on his own work. Tóibín begins with an account of Bishop’s guiding principles for writing poetry, including that the words be “precise and exact.” The same precision that Tóibín finds in Bishop’s work marks his writing here. Without attempting a comprehensive biography, he traces Bishop’s life from her childhood in Nova Scotia to her moves to Key West and later to Boston, detailing turning points like her mother’s time in a mental institution and the suicide of her lover Lota de Macedo Soares. Other writers appear, either through their own relationships with Bishop—such as Thom Gunn, Mary McCarthy, Marianne Moore, and Robert Lowell, whom Bishop called her best friend—or in comparison with Bishop as writers, such as James Joyce. The portrait of Bishop that emerges shows her as protective of her voice as a poet, reserved, but not unkind, and “distant from the reader.” Tóibín is also present in the book, and his relationship to Bishop’s work and admiration of her style gives the book much of its power. Whether one is familiar with Bishop’s life and work or is looking to Tóibín to learn more, this book will appeal to many readers. (Apr.)