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

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Reports from Worcester and Prague -- Elizabeth Bishop's 100th birthday celebrations

Our Worcester correspondent writes:

Greetings from Worcester!
We visited the Bishop grave site at Hope Cemetery on February 8, as we do every year for a brief reading. This year, there was too much snow to get anywhere near the Bishop plot but we read “The Bight” in a blistering wind then ran off to a Brazilian restaurant to recover. In the attached photo of Hope Cemetery, the Bishop marker can be seen just to the right (at the base) of the large center tree. The snow is deep enough to obscure everything below the line, “All the untidy activity continues” – beyond that, it was certainly awful but we were cheerful!
Best regard,
Francine D’Alessandro
Worcester County Poetry Association
See the WCPA site for more information about upcoming Elizabeth Bishop centenary celebrations in Worcester.

A snowy Hope Cemetery, 8 February 2011


Our Prague correspondent writes:

Dear Sandra,
Let me just briefly tell you about our modest commemoration of Bishop’s
anniversary here in Prague. Last night [11 February 2011], there was a small celebration of her birthday at a literary café of the publishing house Fra, which published her selected poems in translation. It was a great evening, the poet Petr Borkovec and I did most of the talking and reading. I translated “Sandpiper” for the occasion (and there was an interesting ornithological debate about it). A young Slovak poet read her poem inspired by “The Bight”; the painter who made the cover of the selected poems spoke about his painting; and a well-known choreographer prepared minimalist choreographies of “Roosters” and “One Art” (two dancers performing on a tiny coffee table), which were a great success. I think it’s amazing how Bishop’s works inspire other arts. And I was surprised how well the readings and the dance worked together. Hopefully, I will have some pictures to send [see link below].

On February 8 I gave a little live interview (some five minutes) on the radio, and there will be two or three longer radio programs about Bishop and her anniversary later in the year. Also, we are organizing a writing contest in English for our students at the Literary Academy – the topic is “One Art,” they are supposed to write a poem or a prose piece beginning with the first line of “One Art.” I’m quite curious what comes out of it. The translation of “Sandpiper” should appear in some literary magazine, but before I send it I have to make sure about the correct Czech translation of the name of the bird – the trouble is that there are about three different Czech names which translate "sandpiper" as it seems to be a large family of birds with lots of species. Would you or anyone round you know the full Latin name of the bird she most probably had in mind when she wrote the poem? It probably does not matter too much as all the three Czech names in question that refer to birds which look and behave in a very similar way, but I think Bishop deserves exactitude in details like this.
Best regards, Mariana Machová

See photographs of the evening mentioned above, taken by poet and photographer Ondřej Lipár, at http://www.flickr.com/photos/redroom/sets/72157625899989857/

[Ed. note: Mariana has two books of translations of Elizabeth Bishop's poetry and prose. She visited Great Village and the Elizabeth Bishop House about five years ago and began her translation of "In the Village" there. I think I answered her question about the sandpiper. Bishop is likely referring to the Semi-palmated Sandiper (Calidris pusilla), especially common on Nova Scotia shorelines during their southward migrations in August and September.]

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