"I am 3/4ths Canadian, and one 4th New Englander - I had ancestors on both sides in the Revolutionary war." - Elizabeth Bishop
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Friday, September 23, 2016

Our Bedford Correspondent Writes --

-- sending us these... these... well, one supposes the most fitting word would be imposing.... these imposing photographs from the most recent meeting of the EBSNS Board, held last Sunday, September 18:

                                         Board members                                  
                                           discussing matters of High Policy                                  
"Do Not Bind the Mouths 
of the Kine that Tread the Corn..."
 Insalata Caprese 
complected later in the week 
from Great Village tomatoes 
(gift of President Sharpe)
A Great Village Pumpkin
(gift of President Sharpe)
flanked by Daruma (right) and 
Faithful Amanuensis and General Factotum (left)

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Letters to Aunt Grace, Part 24 – 1957 Begins with Stones and Shrimp

Bishop’s first letter to Grace in 1957 was written on 10 January, in response to a “lovely long letter” from her aunt, “writen [sic] in the middle of the night.” The 68-year old Grace was back nursing somewhere in the US and doing night shifts. Bishop picked up this letter on the way to Rio, “early Monday morning,” so she “read it out loud to Lota en route.” Bishop always asserted that Grace was a good letter-writer and “so taken with it” was Lota “that she said ‘We must take her a nice present when we get to Boston!’” Bishop had mentioned in her last letter of 1956 their plan to go to the US in 1957. As things unfolded, that is just what she and Lota did at the end of March.

The plans were seriously in the air at this time because she and Lota spent some time puzzling over what to take Grace “from here, where the choice is so limited.” Bishop thinks perhaps an “aquamarine.” “Would you like a pin, a ring, or earrings?” She tells Grace that there is “rather nice jewelery [sic] made of all the Brazilian stones put together — aquamarines, beryl, a pink one, etc. — rather pretty.” [Ed. Note: Bishop sent Grace jewelry on a number of occasions. A few of these pieces are in the collection at Acadia University Archives. Grace’s daughter Phyllis Sutherland also inherited some of this jewelry, including one of the beautiful brooches Bishop sent to her aunt, one of those with several “Brazilian stones put together.”]
The run to Rio was to “attend to various duties.” But in the end it was “so damned hot” that they “did scarcely anything at all … I simply couldn’t face the dentist. It was too hot to move.” Even a welcome invitation “to dinner and a night club (something I almost never do, but adore when I get the chance)” was declined because “it was too hot to get dressed up and go.”

Instead, the two nights they were in Rio saw them going “way out along one of the beaches to a funny little place that sells fried shrimp — at least it was cool there.” These excursions were so interesting that Bishop wished she “could take you there — I’m sure you’d like it.” What follows is a lively description of the sights and sounds and the food they encountered.

First, there was a spot “along the road where they have set up a lot of little sheds.” Though “primitive” (with just oil lamps or torches), each shed had “a little saint inside, with flowers and a light in front.” The fare at these spots was: “hot corn on the cob, grilled bits of meat stuck on sticks of bamboo, slices of melon or pineapple stuck on bamboo.” And the piéce de resistence: “a strange Brazilian sweet made of corn meal and sugar and herbs, cooked in folded up corn-husks.” To Bishop, these looked and tasted “exactly like hot poultices … but Lota likes them!”
(Pamonha, a paste made from fresh corn and milk,
boiled wrapped in corn husks, turned into dumplings)
Continuing along the road was another “encampment of sheds where they sell fresh oysters and crabs.” The oysters were “delicious — small, just caught.” These shellfish were opened “as fast as you can eat, and you just stand up and suck them out of the shell, squeezing a little lime-juice on top.” To Bishop, the taste was far superior this way, rather than “being iced.” They had gone on this excursion with friends (whom she does not name). “One of the men with us ate 4 dozen [oysters].” But he claimed this was no real feat because “once he’d eaten 12 dozen!”

Believe it or not, these stops were merely “preliminaries.” They continued along the road, “right along the beach,” arriving at “two or three little restaurants where they sell hot shrimps, fried in the shell.” All this consumption generated a good thirst, too. And at the end the reward was beer: “The Brazilian beer is wonderful, much better than the U.S. — as good as the Canadian!” But, Bishop avers, “alas I never touch it any more because of my figger” (that is, figure).

After this mouth watering description, Bishop turned again to saccharine (which she spelled correctly this time), to clarify for Grace that the “liquid” variety she had mentioned before was a product of Park-Davis. The SWEETA was Squibb. She was trying to get their cook to use it. Maria, who clearly enjoyed her own cooking, was “getting fat and complains constantly.” But she refused to use the sweetner because “it tastes bitter! (It doesn’t at all).” In a somewhat superior tone, in light of the excess she had already described to her aunt, Bishop noted that “the Brazilian diet of black beans and rice …. cook[ed] with lard … and potatoes, usually),” along with “black coffee with about half a cup filled with sugar each time” wasn’t “exactly thinning.” Indeed, some might suggest that beans, rice and potatoes is quite a good diet, in contrast to grilled meat, oysters and shrimp! Well, everything in moderation!

During my visit to Brazil in 1999, my favourite meal was breakfast. The little inn where I stayed in Ouro Prêto laid out a lovely buffet with all sorts of delicious breads (I particularly liked one with cheese in it) and fruit. I steered clear of the North American fare that had been thoughtfully added to the menu for the gringos. I am no coffee drinker, but I’ve never tasted better coffee anywhere else. For lunch (if not provided by the conference), we usually went to a place that offered a salad buffet. I’ve never seen so many vegetables and fruits in my life, as well as more lovely breads. Dinners were always some sort of well-prepared meat. I never had Brazilian beer, but certainly tried cachaça (in a wonderful, potent drink called a caipirinha).
(caipirihna)
One of my most vivid memories of that trip was on the drive back to Rio. We stopped at a roadside BBQ (the equivalent to an North American truck stop, but in Brazil done up in a big way). It was a huge establishment and the sight that was most memorable was the half-dozen fellows in crisp black and white carrying big skewers of barbequed meat around, and slicing off what you wanted right into your plate.
(A feast in Brazil, 1999)
This first letter of the year was a long one, so there will be several more posts about its contents. The next post will be about Christmas Past.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Mark your calendar -- And book your tickets now!




A Pocket of Time 
Elizabeth Bishop Tribute 

Suzie LeBlanc, Soprano
 Blue Engine String Quartet
 Robert Kortgaard, Piano

November 13, 2016 – 7:00PM

 A musical tribute to Pulitzer Prize winning poet Elizabeth Bishop. Suzie LeBlanc reprises her captivating homage, reflecting the poet’s fascination with time, her travels, her life in Brazil and in the place she called home: Nova Scotia. 

Concert Location:

 Lilian Piercy Concert Hall 
6199 Chebucto Road 
Halifax, Nova Scotia 

Book Tickets:
[Scrolling down may be needed]

http://www.stcecilia.ca/product/november-13-2016-700pm-a-pocket-time-suzie-leblanc-soprano-blue-engine-string-quartet-robert-kortgaard-piano/

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Letters to Aunt Grace, Part 23: The usual updates

Bishop’s 2 December 1956 letter was her last before Christmas and the end of the year. It contained what was Bishop’s usual practice, a “small Xmas present now because I know how the mails get in the U.S. at this time…I wish it were much more.” As well as the usual updates. Even with only one side of the correspondence, even taking into account the amount of time between responses, it is clear from Bishop’s letters that she and her aunt were having an active conversation. Bishop wanted continuous updates (often asking for them), and she sent them. This wasn’t mere courtesy between them, it was essential communication.

Below are the updates about regular subjects covered in this letter:

First. Aunt Florence, who Bishop observed sounded “awfully feeble these days — vaguer than ever, poor thing.” Grace had been in touch with Florence, who had written to Bishop about this kindness: “she wrote me she’d heard from you and added, as she always does, ‘She’s a fine person’.” This was not the first time Florence had praised Grace to Bishop. Bishop regularly praised Grace to Florence, so it was a good thing Aunt Florence concurred, otherwise it would have been a tedious declaration to hear again and again.

Second. The baby Betty was “adorable, & talking. I left her playing in bed with Lota — jumping all over her, like a kitten.” Lota’s grandchildren were due to “visit for a month soon.” To help entertain them, “Lota is building a toy house, a playhouse, back of the kitchen.” Bishop provides the specs: brick and stone, “like everything else here”; with window frames, door frame, wooden shutters “with stars cut in them”; “1 door, 3 windows — about 5’x7’.” Bishop’s conclusion: “very cute.” And a drawing.
(Bishop's drawing of the playhouse.
Apologies for the hole-punch in the centre of this photocopy.)
Third. Weather and its impact, of course. The rainy season had been so abundant that their “flower garden is the best it’s ever been.” She also reported, “Lota’s 500 trees have all grown eight or ten inches.” She told Grace that the climate was too tropical for maples; the planted trees were “Australian pines,” which were common in Florida (so Grace would have encountered them), along with a native pine. Think about this reforestation for a moment: 500 trees!
This vast acreage required a gardener, but Bishop reports that “the first good gardener we’ve ever had is now leaving,” because they couldn’t “afford to pay him any more and he can’t live on what we pay him (this is real inflation).” So he had to move “back to the interior.” Bishop observed, “I don’t know how the poor people here are living now, really.”

Finally, Bishop introduced a new plan. Having been in Brazil steadily for four years, Bishop was thinking about visiting the U.S., an idea she mentions for the first time in this letter: “I am hoping so much that I’ll be able to get to the US for a long stay next year.” Bishop mentioned “the fellowship” (from The Partisan Review), noting that she had managed to save part of it, to pay the air fare. That she didn’t need to explain the details of this award, meant that she had already told Grace about it (so, clearly, some of her letters have gone missing).

As much as she would like to do the trip in the spring of 1957, she realistically observed that probably it would not happen until the fall. One of the main reasons was because the house at Samambaia was a long way from being finished. To give Grace an idea of why, Bishop wrote, “it has no front door, so far — and is open to the world all around.” Finding someone “reliable as a care-taker…is a big problem.” So, this trip remained in the realm of a wish and a hope for sometime in the not too distant future.

With all the updates checked off the list, Bishop typed an afterthought at the top of the first page of the letter: “I’ve written a long poem about N.S. — it’s dedicated to you — when it’s published I’ll send a copy.” This poem must be “The Moose.” It was triggered by her bus ride from Great Village to Boston in 1946. A decade later she’s telling Grace it is written, but in fact it wasn’t completed and published until the 1970s. Bishop lived with “The Moose” a long time.

Here are links to several readings of “The Moose”:




The next post will usher in 1957.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Letters to Aunt Grace, Part 22: Politics and Property

Bishop tends to be seen as an a-political or non-political artist. Perhaps hard-core “politics” and the ideologies and activism around it are relatively absent from her poetry; but she does speak of subjects, such as poverty and war, property and prejudice, class and commerce, which have deep political elements and implications. Bishop wasn’t much of an “ism” person or poet. She tended to steer clear of overt ideologies (e.g., feminism, socialism, conservatism, liberalism). Even in her art, she is difficult to place in any “ism”: modernism, post-modernism, confessionalism, surrealism. In spite of this elusiveness where labels are concerned, most critics identify a strong moral centre in her work. If there is any “ism” that might identify her, perhaps it is a kind of “humanism.” Being a very private person, Bishop practiced whatever beliefs she held (and much ink has been spilled trying to identify and describe these beliefs) in a low-key, gradualist sort of way. The work she released to the public was, in essence, her primary statements. Being art, they hold and express these beliefs in highly complex, often puzzling, always affecting ways.

Yet Bishop could also be an opinionated person, about all sorts of things, including politics. In her Brazilian letters generally, and also in her letters to Aunt Grace, Bishop often made comments on and observations about “P”olitics, meaning governments and politicians and world events that involved public actions. In her 2 December 1956 letter to Grace, she mentions several such subjects and offers brief assessments.

First, she declared she was “very disappointed” that Adlai Stevenson lost the US election; he “would have made a fine President, I think.” She supposed that Grace had been able to get “all the excitement on your T.V.,” noting “that kind of thing is fun to watch — for a while at least.” All that Bishop could do was listen to world events on “our friend and neighbour” Mary Morse’s radio. Bishop was still waiting, she said, to get “a small battery one from the U.S.” [Ed. Note: One wonders what she would have thought of the current election campaign in the US!]
 (Adlai Stevenson)
Even with these communication restrictions, Bishop was aware, for example, of the dramatic events unfolding in Hungary, which was in the midst of a revolution against Communist oppression. “At least we get the latest fearful news from Europe….Aren’t those Hungarians magnificent and brave.”
(Hungarian Revolution of 1956)
Turning her world events commentary to Brazil, she remarked, “Everything is an awful mess, here, too.” Though just what she meant by “threats of a new dictatorship” are curious because in 1956 Brazil elected Juscelino Kubitschek President. His Presidency brought in a period of economic development and increased relevance for Brazil on the world stage. Bishop reassured Grace, lest she think her niece was in danger of being caught up in some violent coup, that “Brazilians aren’t very blood-thirsty, thank goodness.” The last “‘revolution’ was all over in a few hours” and the joke was “how no one saw it, because it was a rainy day and no one went out.”
 (Juscelino Kubitschek, President from 1956-1961)
Having succinctly dispatched current events, Bishop tells Grace that her local “business” venture “hasn’t got under way yet.” Her “partner” was due that day “to discuss developments.” She felt quite sure that in six months, “I should think, I’ll really know more what my prospects are here.” Grace must have mentioned that she was now receiving an Old Age pension from the Canadian government and might even be eligible for some Social Security in the US for all her years working there. Bishop noted that “‘writers’ just became eligible for it two years ago.” But in her estimation, because it was based on “earnings or something,” she would “probably be able to collect about $2.50 a month in my old age!”

Finally, prompted by Grace’s inquiry, Bishop wrote that she had “decided to let the land — near Providence — go” because “it was over $300 back taxes, and worth less,” This decision was made after her old friend Dorothy Coe had kindly gone “to see it [the land] for me, called the tax-collector, etc.” It isn’t clear if Bishop actually recouped the $300, but she concludes this update by saying, “For $300 I could buy a piece of land here that would be worth ten times that much in ten years probably — so I let it go.” Perhaps her “business” ventures involved real estate.

One has to wonder why Bishop would be involved in business ventures in Brazil if the political and economic situation was a “mess,” as she had declared. It really is a rather curious aspect of her life, these dealings, especially for someone who claimed to have no head for business.

The next post will be wrap up 1956.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Letters to Aunt Grace, Part 21: Uncle George Shepherdson

Prologue:
I drafted the post below before 17 August 2016, when there appeared online an article for the Boston Review, “One Long Poem,” by Heather Treseler, about some of the troubling contents in recently surfaced letters that Bishop wrote to the psychiatrist Dr. Ruth Foster: revelations of abuse Bishop suffered while living with Maude and George Shepherdson. George is identified as the abuser.

Coincidentally, the final letter that Bishop wrote to Grace in 1956, 2 December, contained the first mention of George Shepherdson in this correspondence (at least in what is extant). I try to have a couple of posts ahead, and this is one of several that I’d been deferring as I worked through other subjects.

When I read the Treseler piece, I was dismayed but not surprised. I had suspicions about such experiences and who the perpetrator might be, but had no concrete evidence (if you read between the lines of Bishop’s work, it is a reasonable speculation — but until direct evidence surfaced, it remained only speculation). It is, sadly, no longer speculation.

No one (biographer, literary critic, fellow poet, general reader) will ever be able to understand fully the impact and ramifications of these experiences on Bishop’s life and art. We can imagine and speculate, and can see some of their impact in the writing. But most of the impact is now lost. Over the years as I researched the life of Bishop’s mother, Gertrude Bulmer Bishop, the more I learned about her circumstances the more I realized how little I could ever really know. I could only guess, trying to be reasonable and respectful in those guesses. What I did come to understand better was that Gertrude remained a powerful force in her daughter’s life. The nature of the influence was highly complex and most of it, too, is now lost; but I felt I could make that general claim with reasonable certainty.

I thought about scrapping this post and avoiding George Shepherdson entirely, but Bishop’s references to him in her letters to Grace (and there are a number of them over the years) are fascinating in light of his unforgivable actions. That she speaks of him at all, so many years after the abuse and while he is still alive, is remarkable, considering what he did. I have opinions about what that means, but they can only be that, in the end: opinions.

The draft of my post before I read Treseler’s article:

Bishop’s last extant letter to Grace for 1956 is dated 2 December. She had received a letter from her aunt “a month & a day” before, but Bishop declared, “I thought it was about 2 weeks!” — a sign that Bishop’s life was busy and that she experienced what we all do, that persistent sense of time flying by.

Grace’s letter had clearly updated Bishop on health matters, in particular a visit to a doctor for “a check-up (what Lota calls a ‘shake-up’ — and I think it’s a pretty good word for it, sometimes).” Grace had expressed some concerns about the doctor not doing a “cardiogram” to test her heart, but Bishop, in a sagacious tone reassured Grace, “if your blood pressure is normal that’s a fine sign — particularly when you are slightly on the stylish stout side!” One wonders what Grace, a nurse since 1914, thought of Bishop’s assessment that unless Grace’s heart was “ringing like a gong, or something” the doctor wouldn’t need to do such a test. “No doctor these days,” Bishop writes with authority, “lets a patient go without a heart-test if there’s the faintest symptoms of anything wrong.” Since he hadn’t seen a need to do so, Grace’s heart must be just fine.

But just to make sure, Bishop suggests that perhaps Grace, if she is worried, should switch from sugar to saccarine [sic], something she herself had done. No sacrifice was made by doing so because, to Bishop, it didn’t “make a bit of difference in the taste” of her coffee (she took “only…a little sugar in black coffee). She used a brand of liquid saccharin called “SWEETA” and even put it in iced tea and lemonade. She also used a small saccharin pill, but it took longer to dissolve. The pills were convenient to carry in one’s purse, “I always carry a little pill box now,” she told her aunt.

Grace had also brought her brother-in-law George Shepherdson into her letter, into the discussion about heart health, because Bishop also responded: “Uncle G talked about his heart for years & years before there was anything the matter with it, I’m sure.” In Bishop’s estimation, “he probably brought it on by talking about it.”

George Shepherdson married Maude Bulmer in 1908. It was Maude and George who raised Bishop. She went to live with them in the spring of 1918. At that time, they lived in Revere, Massachusetts. Bishop’s relationship with this uncle by marriage was likely fraught. [Ed. note: An understatement, of course.] George was an imposingly tall man, who was known universally as a teaser. [Ed. note: Well, he was, sadly, much more than that; but this is how Phyllis Sutherland, who knew him much less well, described him to me.] Bishop remembered going to museums in Boston with him. Maude took her to art galleries. In his early days, he was an adherent of the Sons of Temperance in Great Village. By the time Bishop was with them, this giant of a man, who didn’t seem able to hold down a job, enjoyed a drink or two with his Irish neighbour (whom he disparaged behind his back) out on the porch in the evenings. Bishop’s strongest characterization of him in her writing (an unfinished story called “Mrs. Sullivan Downstairs”) was that he was a hypocrite. When Bishop went to Key West in the 1930s, Maude and George went too and took up residence nearby.

By 1956, George was an elderly widower living in Amherst, N.S. Maude died in 1940. He re-surfaces in Bishop’s letters to Grace in the 1960s, at the time of his death. But in the December 1956 letter, Bishop tells Grace that she “wrote to him twice, you know, but he didn’t answer.” In spite of her gallivanting about and working in the U.S., Grace still maintained some sort of contact with him. [Ed. Note: It appears that she, or the rest of the Bulmers, did not know what he had done.]

Before the saccharin subject is abandoned, Bishop advises Grace to tell “Poor Uncle George” about this wonderful substitute and ventured the opinion that “if he’d cut out sugar and white bread he’d lose [weight], I bet.” “Remember how much bread he eats? and sugar in everything, ‘for flavor’.” Even with their fraught relationship, and with a “housekeeper” who “certainly sounds pretty dreary,” Bishop was far enough away in space and time to be able to “feel sorry for him.”

Afterthought:
Until Treseler’s article, I could only go so far as “fraught.” I probably did not want to believe my suspicions. But when they were confirmed my first response was questions: How is it that Bishop could stand to mention George Shepherdson’s name? Not only that, she was able to label him, diminish him, and pity him. Abusers are failed human beings who wreak havoc. The abused often can never reclaim their lives after such trauma. But somehow Bishop, at least in some part, on some level, took her uncle’s power away from him and reclaimed her own. Was it art? Was it Ruth Foster’s help? Was it Bishop’s own inner strength? It was likely all of these and more. How could Maude have allowed this abuse? My opinion, based on what I’ve read (between the lines), is that Maude was likely an abused spouse.

It seems that abuse is the last trauma (the last “dark secret” — and it is the biggest one, the one that always remained utterly hidden and unspoken) of Bishop’s childhood. Her list is long: the death of her father when she was eight months old; the loss of her mother to mental illness when she was five; this newly revealed violation beginning (so the letters to Foster say) when she was eight. Part of the impact of these traumas were: her adult alcoholism (though she came by it honestly, as men on both sides of her family were alcoholics); her thoughts and attempts of suicide; her troubled relationships and affairs. That Bishop not only survived but also persevered is heroic. It bespeaks some outside goodness, which in some way counter-balanced the trauma: kind and caring family (her maternal grandparents and beloved Aunt Grace); once she began school, supportive teachers and friends; and loving partners. But Bishop’s survival must have come, primarily, from her inner resources (her imagination, curiosity, precocious understanding of and deep belief in beauty, sense of humour and irony). These things needed to be fostered by the outside world, but mostly they needed to exist in the first place. Bishop struggled her whole life, but she also lived a creative life. These revelations will be written about at length, I am sure. Hopefully, they will be treated as respectfully and carefully as Treseler has done, as she has brought them to light.

The next post will be about politics.

Click here to see part 20.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Letters to Aunt Grace, Part 20: Rainy Season

One of Bishop’s loveliest evocations of her time in the house at Samambaia is her poem “Song for the Rainy Season,” describing the fog and flowers, the “magnetic rock” and “giant fern,” the clouds and waterfalls surrounding the “open house.” This poem appeared in The New Yorker on 8 October 1960. The mid- to late 1950s was perhaps the happiest time of Bishop’s adult life, when her days amid the abundance of the sub-tropics, in the countryside away from the city, were as domestic and creative as she needed and wanted. Her letter of 19 October 1956 was written well before “Song for the Rainy Season” emerged, but Bishop’s descriptions of her surrounds to Aunt Grace clearly foretell the poem.

Bishop was indeed deep into the domestic at this time, all aspects of it, including medical matters, some of which connected to the very flora and fauna of her surrounds. “We give ourselves shots, when we need them,” Bishop reported “even penicillen [sic].” Bishop was giving herself all her “allergy shots,” as well as administering them to “the cook, the workmen, etc.” Bishop was being nurse, just like Aunt Grace had been for her decades before. She even noted, “we have anti-snake serum on hand all the time, just in case,” because “there are a few deadly ones around.” Since Bishop had arrived, however, it hadn’t been needed, “thank goodness.”

Just for good measure, Bishop explained, “Lota and I are taking something called Geri-Caps — Park Davis,” Bishop declared, noting that this medication was for “old ladies,” and asking Grace if she gave them to her patients, “blue capsules with yellow stripes.” Bishop assured Grace that she was feeling fine taking them, along with some vitamins, though she observed in her good skeptic’s manner, “maybe I’d feel fine without anything!”

All of this medical activity was happening amid the onset of the rainy season: “It’s pouring rain,” Bishop stated, observing that “in fact there was scarcely a dry season.” As a result of all the rain, the flowers were busting forth: agapanthus, “huge blue or white lilies …all up the hillside.” These could reach “3 or 4 ft high.” There were also azaleas, allyssum [sic], phlox, sweet william [sic] and irises: “all over the place.”
(Agapanthus in full flower)
With all this flowering, they had decided “to keep bees. I’ve always wanted to.” They were awaiting four hives of “Italian bees,” to be brought by a man, who would “install them and care for them when you need him.” Much of the motivation for this important ecological action was the honey, “friends of ours got about 50 pounds” of honey from the hives they had installed. The hives had to be built in a special way to prevent ants from moving in and taking over. “The ants here would eat US, I think, if we didn’t watch out.”
(Perhaps this is the kind of Brazilian bee hive Bishop writes about.)
The image of Brazilian bees from my childhood is that of “killer bees” and the great fear that they would reach North America. Clearly, these continental bees were safe and beneficial.

Also in the midst of all this domestic preoccupation, Bishop told Grace that she’d not heard from poor old Aunt Florence “for about a month, or more.” She noted that she’d had a letter from someone named Fulton, who worked for her grandfather’s company (which still existed though her grandfather and uncle were long gone), “about a piece of land I own but have never seen.” She doesn’t elaborate about this property, but rather tells her aunt that Fulton could “scarcely write, poor boy …. I was rather shocked.” As she signed off this letter filled with all sorts of domestic subjects, she urged Grace to “write again” and tell her about the new job and “your building plans.”

There were just as many flowers and trees at the Samambaia house in 1999, such as this amazing “blood-red” bromelia.
Ed. Note: In light of the revelations that are discussed in the news item posted on this blog on 17 August, I can't post this "Letters to Grace" without acknowledging them. I only just today read about them. Until Bishop's letters to Dr. Foster were made public, the tragic experiences of Bishop's childhood, could only be speculation. Some might say these things are too private to be discussed by strangers, but such is the way of the world, these days (reality and talk show television have transformed our world). And perhaps Bishop would be relieved that they are no longer secret. Bishop's cousin, Phyllis Sutherland, who was a dear friend of mine, only very obliquely hinted at secrets; but she was a whole generation younger than Bishop and such things were kept so well hidden that perhaps she didn't even try to speculate herself. I suppose it is now inevitable that a whole raft of writing will happen in the academy about these revelations and it will come to define Bishop as lesbianism and mental illness have done at various times. We are the sum of all our experiences and Bishop was about as complex a person and artist as they come. My feeling about all of this, as someone who has explored deeply Bishop's childhood and her maternal family, is profound sadness. Perhaps I will have more to say about it sometime, but I am not sure. If these letters are ever published (and I suppose they are at least amply quoted in the upcoming biographies about her), they will really say that can be said. What else can we say in the face of such sorrow, but how sorry we are.

Click here to see Part 19.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Letters to Aunt Grace, Part 19: Television

Bishop’s letter of 19 October 1956 begins with the birth of her cousin Phyllis’s second son, David Alexander, and also the birth of a new grandchild for Aunt Mary, by Mary’s oldest daughter, Elizabeth Ross Naudin. But with these dutiful acknowledgements dispatched, she turns to a quite different subject: “If you really enjoy having TV like that, why not get one?” Television technology had been around for some time, and during the post-war baby boom years, televisions were becoming more common and the broadcast industry expanding rapidly. Even so, these “devices” (as we now call such things), this “platform,” remained expensive enough that they were still subjects for serious discussion. And in Brazil, television was “just in its infancy,” as Bishop observed. (Now our discussions are about television’s irrelevance, with expanding, exploding electronic social media and online broadcasting. One wonders what Bishop would have thought of YouTube!)

Bishop declared to her aunt, “I have seen so little television that I really don’t know anything about it.” There was television in Rio, she notes, “but I’ve never even seen it.” Her friends judged “the sports things … the best,” but “they say the programs are dreadful.” A few people “have sets in Petrópolis,” some with “big enough aerials” that could pick up Rio broadcasts.
 (1956 cabinet tv)
Bishop noted that Lota was trying to convince a neighbour “to get one [a television] for himself and his elderly sister — 4 elderly people living together, and he has plenty of money.” But he was balking at the idea of this new-fangled technology. Lota’s motive was not entirely disinterested because, as Bishop observed, if these neighbours got TV, “then we could go to see things on it we wanted to see!” Lota’s house at Samambaia was “up against enormous steep high stone mountains,” meaning that they would “probably never be able to get it, even when Rio gets more powerful stations.” (This sounds like the kind of talk you still hear in rural Nova Scotia, and many rural areas, where high-speed internet {don’t even think about “fibreop”} is still not yet available.)
(View of the mountain at Samambaia, 1999. I think I took this photograph.)
For some reason, writing about television and sports made Bishop think of Marianne Moore: “My friend the poet, Miss Moore, lives in Brooklyn and is a great Dodger [sic] fan.” Moore was 69 in 1956 and had become a fixture at baseball games. Bishop tells her aunt that Moore had recently “written a song for them! — I can’t quite imagine it being sung, but anyway.” Bishop undoubtedly refers to the poem Moore wrote in 1956, “Hometown Piece for Messrs. Alston and Reece”  — which was set to music.
 
Even in my childhood (the 1960s), television was a particular luxury. We had a black and white television set, one of those big cabinets that took up a lot of room, and got two channels, if I remember correctly. We never missed our favourite shows. I remember my parents faithfully watching Don Messer’s Jubilee and the Red Skelton Show and as my sisters and I got older, we never missed The Carol Burnett Show or Canadian Bandstand. We also grew up watching The Friendly Giant and Mr. Dressup, both much beloved (long before the dominance of Sesame Street, a show which Bishop did watch when she returned to the US in the 1970s).
(Yours truly beside our television, 1967. Looks like the news is on.)

The next post will be about flora, fauna and weather.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Letters to Aunt Grace, Part 18: (Re)Construction

On of the last things Bishop tells her aunt in the 28 August 1956 (besides the fact that she’d written “a long letter” to Aunt Mary, but had heard nothing) was that the “cook Maria had a miscarriage.” With what for some might sound like callousness, Bishop observed, “we were awfully glad, I’m afraid.” Maria recovered quickly. Remember, there was already one baby, Betty, who was “trying so hard to talk — she uses all the gestures already — and is adorable.” Just before signing off “With lots of love, and please write,” Bishop wrote, “I do hope Phyllis is well.” Grace’s daughter Phyllis was just about due to have her second child.

This subject, important to Bishop, was taken up at the beginning of her next extant letter dated 19 October 1956: “I got the little announcement about David Alexander.” Bishop thought it a good name, “nice and Scotch.” Bishop didn’t meet Phyllis’s children until 1970, when she was finally back living in Boston and taking annual trips to Nova Scotia. Her first gift to the then 14 year old David Alexander was a Grateful Dead album!

Grace had obviously filled Bishop in on the activities of her cousin’s family. “Ernie is doing very well, isn’t he.” Ernest Sutherland was a World War II veteran who became a contractor and builder after the war. He was one of the first North American contractors to build wooden, pre-fabricated houses in Palestine during the late 1940s. The post-war boom also saw much housing construction throughout Nova Scotia and Canada, and the Sutherland family moved numerous times during the 1950s and 1960s, before settling in Balfron, N.S. Bishop was always interested to hear where they had gone and what they were doing, and Grace was always keen to tell her.

“Ernie’s” construction work intrigued Bishop because the house at Samambaia was still under construction. She told her aunt that Lota was hoping to finish the house “inside another year.” There was some delay because “costs have gone up here about five times since she started,” meaning that Lota was “paying exactly five times as much for a bag of cement, for example.” (Construction issues in Brazil seem perpetual — one of the biggest issues for the Brazil Olympics, which begin today, is the state of the athletes’ accommodations, conditions which have made the news around the world. But, then, such colossal international events put a strain on all the cities in which they are held. In Canada, Montreal’s 1976 Olympics are still notorious for “the Oval,” a monstrous building that never really got finished and was a kind of blight on the cityscape for decades, or, as Wikipedia characterizes: a white elephant.)
(Patio of the house at Samambaia, 1999,
taken by yours truly during my trip.)
Grace was also preoccupied with housing. Clearly, she’d been thinking out loud to her niece in a recent letter, as Bishop responds: “I think it is a very good idea for you to have a small house of your own.” Bishop urged her aunt to plan for her “retirement” and commiserated with Grace about living “with all those other people” (meaning the big Bowers family at Elmcroft). “The older one grows the more privacy one needs (I find).” Bishop mentions that Marjorie Stevens had “remodeled a little old place in Key West for herself,” having secured a “government building loan” to do so. Might it be possible for Grace to get such a loan? Bishop remembered a small house on the Elmcroft farm and asked, “Have you considered remodelling that little house down the road where you & I stayed, or is that too far from the big house?”

Grace’s living arrangements remained fluid for some time, as she continued nursing work, sometimes going back to the US. In any case, Bishop was concerned enough for her aunt’s future that she offered to help, eventually: “either with the down-payment or with the installments,” if Grace chose to buy or build a house. This support could not be immediate because she was paying back the loan she had taken from a US bank to invest in a “real-estate enterprise” in Brazil, “that should start paying off in three years, until then I have to pay a big interest every month, of course.” She hopes she will “get rich,” but also acknowledges that she might end up “just as poor as ever to the end of my days.”

Besides the investment scheme, which clearly was the long view, Bishop told Grace that since she’d finished the translation of Mina Vida de Menina, she was working on “some stories and if all goes well — and I sell the translation, too (2½ years work) — I should have more money pretty soon.”

Bishop urged her aunt to “tell me the details” of her hopes and plans so she could “day-dream about your house — I adore planning houses,” and to keep her informed about her “pension situation” and assured her aunt that she wanted to help, “My idea all along.” These hopes, ideas, plans unfolded over the course of the next several years, though it appears Bishop couldn’t or didn’t need to provide Grace with this kind of on-going support, when Grace reached finally retired in the late 1960s. Besides, Grace was a feisty and independent woman, whose children faithfully supported her in her retirement years.
(Pilgrims, many who trekked up the mountain,
to visit Lota’s house at Samambaia, 1999.
Photo by Ann Marie Duggan)
The next post offers a glimpse of Bishop’s opinions about the television and the perennial subject: weather.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Elizabeth Bishop’s Letters to Aunt Grace: Part 17 – House Guest

Bishop’s letters to Aunt Grace, as well as to her writer friends, were often populated by the guests who were fairly common at Lota’s house in Samambaia, especially in the 1950s. Bishop’s vivid descriptions of these people are highly entertaining. One of them even ended up in a poem, “House Guest,” which Brett Millier says was “based loosely on … the sister of one of Lota’s aristocratic friends.” (411) This funny poem rarely receives attention (Millier gives it a sentence), but its existence comes from a fairly constant experience of Bishop’s Brazilian life. Though “House Guest” is a kind of caricature, still, it is entirely sympathetic toward “the sad seamstress,” who might actually be “one of the Fates … Clotho, sewing our lives.”
(Bishop's studio at Samambaia, where
she wrote "House Guest" -- photo by Ann Marie Duggan)
In the 28 August 1956 letter, Bishop offered her aunt a lively word portrait of another house guest, “an old friend of L’s.” This guest had been with them for two weeks, “resting up from her husband and mother and general debility.” She was “a beautiful Rio ‘society lady’,” who was so “delicate” that she made her hosts “feel like peasants.”

Whereas “the sad seamstress” was obsessed with sewing, the society lady was obsessed with “deciding what she can eat and can’t eat,” opting for “tea and dry toast and baked apples.” The rest of her days were spent “taking a bath, putting on make-up, taking a short walk, [and] taking a nap.” Bishop’s conclusion is that she was a “hypochondriac.” But “in spite of it all she’s really a very nice creature, with nice manners.”

Elizabeth and Lota tried to entertain her and persuade her to do other things: “we’re getting really tough and taking her to a movie in Petrópolis — I hope she doesn’t collapse on us!” (I wonder what was playing at the cinema in Petrópolis in late August 1956!)

After all this background, Bishop finally describes this person, physically, to Grace: “tall, blond, sort of grizzled hair [rather like Bishop’s], big perfect teeth (I envy my Brazilian friends their teeth …) and — one blue eye and one brown eye.” Curiously, Bishop never tells her aunt the name of this striking person.

Bishop’s life-long struggles with asthma, allergies and other illnesses would perhaps make her a little impatient with a relatively healthy person believing she was ill, wasting “so much of her life being sick like that,” with her “five bottles of medicine at her place at the table.” Even so, Bishop wasn’t entirely unsympathetic.

This house guest was a good Catholic, too, and asked to be taken to mass. “Lota — who is very anti-church — tried to get out of taking her.” In the end, other friends provided that service, but Elizabeth and Lota were required to fetch her at “a little church” near them. They arrived and “went in and got her off her knees.”

Bishop then tells Grace an interesting fact about their guest and about the history of Brazil: “She had a Scotch governess for 27 years.” As a result, “she speaks beautiful English with a slightly Scotch accent.” Bishop met other Brazilians who had had this kind of education: “There used to be lots of these brave Scotch and English governesses here.” One of the remnants of this pedagogy and upbringing was that “their ex-pupils all still eat oatmeal every morning!”

In “House Guest” the seamstress confessed that “she wanted to be a nun / and her family opposed her.”

“Perhaps we should let her go,
or deliver her straight off
to the nearest convent — and wasn’t
her month up last week, anyway?”

Tucked in this letter, long vanished, was a sprig of jasmine, which grew outside on her studio. Scribbled in her nearly indecipherable hand, Bishop wrote: “Smell this — if it has any smell left.” Brazilian Jasmine blooms are red, unlike the more commonly thought of white jasmine flower. Perhaps it was not coincidence that Bishop included a sprig of this exotic flower after describing their delicate, beautiful, nice house guest.
(Brazilian jasmine blossom)

The next post will introduce Bishop’s letter of 19 October 1956.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Letters to Aunt Grace, Part 16: The Voice

The first time I heard Elizabeth Bishop’s voice was in the early 1990s. I went to Special Collections at Dalhousie University in Halifax and borrowed an lp record done at the Library of Congress (you could take things out from S.C. at that time). The lp was translucent red! I took it home and listened to a young Bishop reading “Jerónimo’s House” and a couple other early poems. Bishop made this recording at the invitation of Robert Lowell, then Poetry Consultant, in October 1946. It was, however, not her first recording. Brett Millier notes that Bishop made a recording at Harvard University in September 1945, but it wasn’t very good. (194)

For someone as shy as Bishop, there is a remarkable archive of audio recordings of her reading, particularly from the 1960s and 1970s. So many are there that Random House included her in its “Voice of the Poet” series, which is still available, if one is able to play cassettes.
The Library of Congress has recently launched an online digital archive of many of its recordings of poets. Bishop is included, but interestingly, the 1946 recording is not listed. The recordings are of events at which Bishop read with other poets in 1969 and 1974

It appears that Bishop made another recording at Harvard in1947. You can hear it on Harvard’s “Listening Booth” website. Along with a number of other recordings connected to Bishop.

Bishop’s next extant letter to Grace is dated 28 August 1956. Bishop noted, “I’ve been very busy the last few weeks.” She had made a number of trips to Rio, mostly to see the dentist and the doctor; but one thing she did during the previous week’s visit was spend “a horrible day making a recording of poems” in a recording studio at the U.S. Embassy. The recording was for “a commercial company in N.Y.” — what would that have been and why? Bishop doesn’t say. She says that the embassy let her use the studio and her friend Rosinha went with her “and held my hand, figuratively speaking….Lota couldn’t get away.” The recording took all day, “10 to 5, with lunch out.” Bishop’s assessment: “I record abominably, but sort of felt I had to [do the recording].” This commercial outfit did “make a little money,” but Bishop couldn’t “imagine anyone buying them, really.” By the end of the day, she, Rosinha and the sound-engineer were “exhausted.”

One of the Rio trips took her to see the young allergy doctor, whom she had mentioned to Grace a number of times. It is in this letter we learn what gift Bishop decided to give him, since he would not take any money from her: “so I gave him a copy of my book, and now I’m trying to get someone in New York to buy me some sort of very elegant brief-case.” Such items were not easily bought in the Rio of the 1950s. She was quite determined to find some way to repay him for all the “tests and serums etc.,” which he had been giving her for a couple of years. “I hate to think what I would have paid a doctor in N.Y. for it all.” It was this young doctor who had “hit on the infection or whatever it was.” And she happily declared to her aunt that she hadn’t had “asthma for months, for the first time in 15 years or so.”

In Rio she also was getting some clothes made: “a suit and two dresses” because of her weight loss. These new outfits were tailored with such precision that if she gained “an ounce” she wouldn’t “be able to get into them; they’re like the paper on the wall.”

One of the wonderful things about these letters is the way Bishop writes to her aunt as if she is simply talking to her, as if they were chatting over coffee and not thousands of miles apart, with weeks, even months between the letters. Clearly, Grace was a vivid presence in Bishop’s mind, and staying connected was a priority between aunt and niece.

The next post will introduce a house guest.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Elizabeth Bishop’s Letters to Aunt Grace: Part 15 Odds and Ends

Following is the final post about Bishop’s letter of 5 July 1956. Bishop didn’t write only about finances, health and world events to Grace, she was also eager for Grace to learn about her literary successes. At this moment in time that included the Pulitzer Prize, which she received in May for her collection Poems: North & South—A Cold Spring.
(Pulitzer Prize medal)
Bishop had informed her aunt about this prestigious award (which, she said helped convince Lota’s many friends that she {Bishop} really was a poet) in an earlier letter; but that letter is no longer extant. She asked, “I don’t think you got the funny clippings about the Pulitzer P that I sent you from here, did you?” Bishop noted that she had sent the same package of clippings to Aunt Florence, “and she never mentioned them either.” Resignedly, she observed that a batch of eight letters sent at the same time seemed to have “got lost.” But just as well, she added, as the photos of her were “far from flattering, but Lota’s library came out pretty well.” She sent them not only to “amuse” Grace, and to let her aunt see “what a sylph I am…118 lbs — 115 is my goal”; but also because it deeply  mattered to Bishop that her favourite aunt know of this success.

Grace’s most recent letter must have contained a response to a poem of Bishop’s that she had recently read. Her niece replied, “The poem you saw must have been ‘Manuelzinho’ — about L’s kind-of-a-gardener — wasn’t it? It’s all completely true.” So, Grace was keeping track of things on her own, too.
("Manuelzinho," published in The New Yorker on 26 May 1956)
Bishop recounts a few stories about Betty (the cook’s daughter): “She’s almost 18 months old now, has 10, almost 12 teeth, and is ‘into everything’.” Bishop offers another lengthy disquisition about child-rearing to her expert aunt (“but they say NO all day long, when it’s much easier to put the carving knife where it belongs…”), concluding, “Well, all this about babies isn’t exactly news to you, I’m afraid.”

She gets around to Aunt Florence, too: “Your dinner party with Aunt F sounds rather grim!” One can only imagine the things Florence said to Bishop during her childhood and adolescence to make Bishop observe over and over that “she is really absolutely impossible, poor thing,” because she always managed to “say the most unkind thing of all.” One of those things, as Bishop remembered was: “One of her favorite cracks to me is that being a writer makes a woman coarse, or masculine…!”

In spite it all, Bishop continued to correspond with Florence, and when her aunt died in the early 60s, she left her niece a bequest. It would be interesting to know what Bishop did with this money.

This letter also mentions several of her cousins: 1. two Bishop cousins, Kay and Nancy, who had the unenviable task of dealing with Florence; 2. Phyllis, Grace’s daughter, who was about to have her second child; and 3. Elizabeth, Mary’s oldest daughter, who ended up living in Brazil for several years. Family (that is, relatives) were not distant abstractions for Bishop. She kept in continuous contact with her aunts and cousins, and seemed genuinely keen to hear about their activities, especially Grace’s children. As Ellie O’Leary recently wrote in an essay about Bishop and her childhood, Bishop was an orphan but not abandoned. No one can replace parents and siblings, of course, but Bishop’s ties with family were complex and enduring (just like they are for most of us).

As solitary as Bishop was, like her “Sandpiper,” on many levels, she adhered quite persistently to her family, even as they were difficult to deal with, even as they were far away when she lived in Brazil.

The next post will look at a letter Bishop wrote in late August 1956.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

From Our Correspondent in Minsk --

-- comes this delightful visualization of an incident that occurred when EB was complecting the marvellous Cornell Box which in fractal transmogrification graces our masthead.  Natalia Povalyaeva quotes EB:

«The pacifier was bright red rubber. They sell them in big bottles and jars in drugstores in Brazil. I decided it couldn’t be red, so I dyed it black with India ink. A nephew of my Brazilian friend, a very smart young man, came to call while I was doing this. He brought two American rock-and-roll musicians and we talked and talked and talked, and I never thought to explain in all the time they were there what I was doing. When they left, I thought, "My God, they must think I’m a witch or something!"» (Conversations with Elizabeth Bishop, p. 120).


Thank you, Natalia!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Elizabeth Bishop’s Letters to Aunt Grace: Part 14 “These new drugs”

Bishop’s letter of 5 July 1956 contains an addendum dated 16 July. The first part got “mislaid” and she went to Rio for several days. The letter turned up again in her studio at Samambaia and Bishop finished and mailed it, with a cheque for $15, for the maple syrup Grace was commissioned to obtain and send (an amount which Bishop hoped would cover the postage — these days, that amount wouldn’t even cover a fraction of the postage!)

In the initial part of the letter, Bishop had updated Grace about her boils, giving her aunt an account of how they came to manifest. She had “an infected gum, first,” which infection decided to move to her knee, where erupted enough boils that walking was not possible. As always, Lota’s “tender care” kicked in and that with the help of “Antiphlogistine” and vitamin B, she began to feel better quickly, even though the boils persisted: “God knows what it is.” She noted that she would see a doctor in Rio about this situation, “as soon as I can.”

That consultation happened while she was visiting Rio in the days between 5 and 16 July, so Bishop was able to provide a second update in the same letter. As it turned out, the boils were “a bad reaction to penicillen” [sic] which she had taken for the gum infection (three shots of it). “Fortunately,” she noted, “I take metacorten [sic] all the time anyway, for asthma, and that’s just what I should have taken.” Once the penicillin was out of her system, the boils turned to red lumps, then to bruises.
 chemical formula for penicillin
“When someone is allergic like me, you never know what may happen, apparently,” she wrote to Grace, who understood well enough these causations. Just like the “ghastly” plane crashes she wrote about, Bishop observed what we all know (and even more so today, with even more reason), “These new drugs are fearful & wonderful, aren’t they.”

To further reassure Grace, Bishop noted that she had a good allergy doctor, “the best in Rio, a young man, a friend of a friend, and he won’t take a cent.” Even as Bishop argued with him about this generosity, he would not relent, so she told Grace that she’d now have to figure out some sort of present to give him. Stay tuned. Her next letter reveals what gift she chose, and I will let you know when we get there.

Fast forward over four decades: On 2 February 1998, I gave a talk to members of the History of Medicine Society in Halifax, Nova Scotia: “‘In the Waiting Room’: Elizabeth Bishop’s History of Medicine.” Like finances/money, health/medicine were foundational forces in Bishop’s life, affecting every aspect of it. In Grace, she had a correspondent who not only cared about her health issues, but also understood them deeply, having spent most of her early adult life tending to the sick and injured. Doctors and hospitals were present in Bishop’s life from the beginning and they played important roles in shaping her world view. And her letters to her aunt contain many references to all things medical (one of their main subjects).

Thus, it seemed logical to talk to a room full of doctors about Bishop’s close relationship with the medical world. After all, at one point, Bishop almost gave up poetry to become a doctor.

I don’t remember giving the talk, alas, at least not any particulars. But I do remember the q&a was lively and the doctors were surprised and impressed by Bishop’s knowledge of drugs and medical procedures. (If anyone is interested in this talk, I can send a pdf — just make a comment to the blog with your email address.)
 Nova Scotia Hospital (N.S. Archives)
I puzzled for awhile over an appropriate image for this post (how does one show “these new drugs.” But then I thought of the above image of perhaps the most important hospital in Bishop’s life: The Nova Scotia Hospital (a.k.a. Mount Hope), in Dartmouth, N.S., where her mother Gertrude spent 18 years of her life. If you start looking for hospitals, nurses, doctors and other medical elements in Bishop’s poetry and prose, you find quite a population of them, and no surprise. Medical and health issues were not just daily things that happened to Bishop, she pulled them into her art, too, and looked at them from all angles, transformed them into symbols, metaphors, emblems, which resonate for us all.
St. Elizabeth's Hospital
The image above is of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington D.C. One of Bishop’s official duties when she was Poetry Consultant at the Library of Congress in 1949–1950 was to visit Ezra Pound, incarcerated there. Out of those experiences came “Visits to St. Elizabeths,” a somewhat controversial poem. What is fascinating and little known is that the woman responsible for establishing St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, Dorothea Dix, also played an instrumental role in the creation of the Nova Scotia Hospital. I have written in detail about this connection in my book Lifting Yesterday. Bishop was quite aware of Dix’s involvement with both hospitals and said to her friend Dorothee Bowie that the only biography she ever wanted to write was about Dix because she had helped the mentally “insane.”
The next post will be the last for the 5 July 1956 letter and return to poor Aunt Florence and other matters.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia AGM, 18 June 2016

About thirty members and friends gathered at the "In the Village" Cafe in Great Village, N.S., on Saturday afternoon 18 June 2016 for the EBSNS Annual General Meeting. Our guest speaker, Halifax artist Emma FitzGerald, gave a lively talk about her artist residency in Rio de Janeiro, where she worked on a project inspired by Elizabeth Bishop's poems. Here are some images of that day, taken by EBSNS member Susan Kerslake.
(The business part of the day.)
(l to r) (Life member Lois Bray, our new
Vice President Judith van Duren,
and long-time member Barbara Bell.)
(Emma FitzGerald weaving her tales of Brazil)
(Tea, treats and talk)
Thanks to all who came out to help us celebrate Elizabeth Bishop "In the Village." Go to the EBSNS website to read the minutes of the meeting and the President's Report.