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

Thursday, August 30, 2012

New book about Elizabeth Bishop by George Montiero

Writer and scholar George Monteiro from Brown University, has a new book just out from McFarland (http://www.mcfarlandbooks.com/?p=2479 ): Elizabeth Bishop in Brazil and After: A Poetic Career Transformed. I’ve not yet seen it, but it is always exciting to see more written about Bishop’s time in Brazil. George is the editor of Conversations with Elizabeth Bishop, an indispensable collection of interviews done during Bishop’s life.

Monday, August 27, 2012

More Elizabeth Bishop at the Atlantic Film Festival 2012

In addition to John Scott’s short “First Death in Nova Scotia, Toronto film-maker Cassandra Nicolaou’s film “Where Are the Dolls,” also based on an Elizabeth Bishop poem and featuring well-known Canadian actress Megan Follows, will also be screened at the upcoming Atlantic Film Festival, on Sunday Sunday evening, 16 September 2012.

It is tremendously exciting to have these Bishop films receive an opportunity for a wide audience during such a festive occasion. I am glad that the AFF organizers scheduled them on different nights, which will expand that audience.

To find out more about Cassandra Nicolaou’s film, click this link. See you at the movies!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Suzie LeBlanc talks to Radio-Canada about the Elizabeth Bishop Legacy Recording

Listen to an interview with Suzie LeBlanc, en fran├žaise, on Radio-Canada’s feature “Les Meilleurs Moments.” It is posted until Monday, 27 August 2012. Here is the link:

We hope you will consider supporting the Elizabeth Bishop Legacy Recording project (go to www.eb100legacyrecording.blogspot.ca and make a contribution!!). We are just over 10% to our goal, so have a way to go. Every contribution is helpful. Be sure to check out the perks (thank you gifts) we have set up. Contribute online or send us a cheque. All the information is on the site.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012



Halifax, NS (8.22.2012) -- First Death in Nova Scotia, the latest adaptation of an Elizabeth Bishop poem by director John Scott, will premiere at the Atlantic Film Festival in Halifax, NS. The short was filmed in January 2012 in Great Village, NS where Bishop’s maternal grandparents resided. Bishop spent formative years in Great Village and often wrote about her experiences there in her poems and short stories.

The film stars talented newcomer Anneke Stroink as a young Elizabeth Bishop and  Zoe D’Amato as her mother Gertrude. Set in the early 20th Century, the film was shot at the period perfect Blaikie House Bed and Breakfast. Cast and crew were housed at the Blaikie House as well as at Bishop’s family home the Elizabeth Bishop House. Director of the Elizabeth Bishop House and Bishop scholar Sandra Barry says the film “is wonderfully atmospheric, evocative, true to the spirit of the poem and to the actual events on which the poem is based.”

“I’m so happy that the Atlantic Film Festival is presenting this film that celebrates the work of Elizabeth Bishop who I believe was the greatest storyteller and poet who ever lived here” said John Scott.  “I hope audiences find that this adaptation of her poem lives up to her legacy.”  

John Scott has won many awards and distinctions as an independent filmmaker and producer. Recent work includes the widely reviewed feature-length documentary Scouts Are Cancelled and the short Dear Pam both of which premiered at the Hot Docs Documentary Festival in Toronto. Scouts are Cancelled won the Rex Tasker Documentary Award for Best Atlantic Documentary at The Atlantic Film Festival in 2007.

Scott worked as field producer for Street Cents and as a news editor with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He has an MFA in Film and Video Production from the University of Iowa and teaches film and video production at Ithaca College in Ithaca, NY.

Scott has produced two other adaptations of Bishop’s poems -- One Art and Sandpiper. The short films are part of a long-form documentary in development called, Elizabeth Bishop and the Art of Losing.

For more information on the film, visit John Scott’s website at http://www.magpieproductions.com/ 
For information about screening times, please see:

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Elizabeth Bishop Legacy Recording Update – We Still Need Your Help!

I’m excited to report that the recent session for the EB Legacy Recording was a great success. It means that the settings by composers John Plant and Christos Hatzis have been recorded. The Alasdair MacLean and Emily Doolittle settings will be done later in the fall. Suzie, the musicians and the technicians say that they are really pleased with how things went. They found St. David’s a wonderful venue and will probably use it again in the fall.

You can see them hard at work in this action shot of Blue Engine String Quartet (with Dinuk Wijeratne and Suzie LeBlanc on the right), taken by John Adams (Stonehouse Sound):

You can also see them here, happy after all their hard work, also taken by John. From left to right: Conductor Dinuk Wijeratne, Suzie LeBlanc, Christos Hatzis. How wonderful that Christos came down from Toronto to be at this session!

We are really hoping to have some video to post of the sessions, and other things, soon.

If you check out the EB Legacy Recording site (www.eb100legacyrecording.blogspot.ca) you can see that we are making progress with the fund-raising campaign. We still need your help to make this beautiful music come to life again so that we can bring it to the world. We have some wonderful perks for your contributions and are cooking up some more ideas, which we’ll be putting up very soon – stay tuned!

On Thursday, 23 August, the Elizabeth Bishop Legacy Recording project and fund-raising campaign will be featured in the Colchester Weekly News (part of the Truro Daily News outfit (http://www.trurodaily.com/). The piece will appear in the newspaper itself and will also be online for awhile. Thanks so much to Sherry Martell who did the piece. Her interest and support is greatly appreciated.

Thanks to all of you who have contributed – we are most grateful – but as you can see, we are still some distance from our goal. With economic times as they are, artists are needing to find new ways to raise money and support their creative endeavours. Crowd source fund-raising is one of those ways. It means that anyone can be part of the team and help bring amazing art into the world because all it requires is a small contribution. Of course, we’d love to have and would be grateful for big contributions, but, truly, it is lots of people helping in any way they can that builds the support we need.

Around Elizabeth Bishop there is an amazing community of readers, artists and scholars, across the globe. In Nova Scotia, that community has grown amazingly because of the EB100 celebrations in 2011 and the work of the EBSNS since 1994. All the creative projects that were done in Nova Scotia last year happened because of a strong, vibrant arts community. There are countless worthy projects out there to support, but we believe this one is a real winner! Its reach will be far and wide. The music is so beautiful (I can say this enthusiastically as a member of all the audiences for the performances in 2011, all of which were utterly memorable.) We hope that you, too, will support this project. Become part of the Elizabeth Bishop community – it is a welcoming place and Bishop’s art will enrich your life!

We look forward to hearing from you.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Elizabeth Bishop Legacy Recording Rehearsal at St. David’s Church – 13 August 2012

I open the north side door of St. David’s Church and enter the quiet, still sanctuary. The heat and humidity, the noise and bustle of the busy downtown streets of Halifax recede. Even as sound technician Rod Sneddon adjusts microphones, there is a lovely, deep silence enveloping this space. I sit near the back of church, on a cushioned pew that makes no creak, even though the wood is old. This church was well-built. It survived the Halifax Explosion.

I am early for the afternoon rehearsal for the Elizabeth Bishop Legacy Recording, so I settle into my seat and try to absorb the quietude around me. Rod comes over to say a quick hello. Shortly afterwards, Dinuk Wijeratne arrives (http://www.dinukwijeratne.com/). He is conducting the ensemble. We chat for a little while, in hushed voices. I learn about the many exciting projects he has done this summer, the equally exciting projects he is now working on, including a commission for the acclaimed Gryphon Trio.

Slowly, the musicians appear, one by one, and settle into their spots, tune, find their own levels and their relations with each other. Suzie LeBlanc (http://www.suzieleblanc.com) arrives. I chat with her briefly. We discuss how to get some photographs to an editor at The Colchester Weekly News. She introduces me to the producer John Adams of Stonehouse Sound (http://stonehousesound.com/). What a team Suzie has assembled for the Elizabeth Bishop Legacy Recording!

This session is to rehearse and then record the four beautiful Bishop settings, the songs, composed by Christos Hatzis (http://homes.chass.utoronto.ca/~chatzis/). There are eleven musicians (violins, viola, cello, bass, flute, clarinet, oboe, bassoon, French horn, and harp – the members of Blue Engine String Quartet (http://blueenginestringquartet.com) and Symphony Nova Scotia (http://www.symphonynovascotia.ca) – and then there is Suzie’s stunning voice.

What a privilege it is to sit in the quiet of St. David’s, to watch and listen to these consummate musicians work through the pieces, discuss the music, the process. To watch the technicians arrange equipment. I have never seen the inner workings of a recording session. I suppose for the musicians, it is familiar, a matter of course. I find it intriguing, exciting, mysterious.

I hear the settings of “Insomnia” and “The Unbeliever.” Even as this is practice, with starts and stops, and discussion, as the music soars through the high-ceilinged sanctuary, in spite of the warm air, I shiver. Whenever I have heard these settings and the others that will be included in this recording, I feel a thrill of excitement, a pang of pride, but even more, I am deeply moved.

I don’t want to leave, but I must. As quietly as I can, I slip out the north door into the now bright sunshine and steamy air. As I write this little note, I still hear the music in my mind (it is decidedly hum-able, songs that inhabit one’s soul).

The campaign to raise funds for the Elizabeth Bishop Legacy Recording continues. We need your help. Go to www.eb100legacyrecording.blogspot.ca to find out how you can be part of this historic project: the first time Canadian composers set Bishop’s poems – and they did so as part of the Elizabeth Bishop Centenary, 2011 – and presented in a series of memorable premiere performances that Nova Scotians had the great privilege to hear last year. Our goal is to share this music with the world. Your help is deeply appreciated.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Interview about Elizabeth Bishop Legacy Recording campaign on CTV Morning Live!

This morning (9 August 2012), Suzie LeBlanc and I were interviewed by Heidi Petrack on CTV Morning Live (Atlantic) – http://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/ctv-morning-live-1.687875 – about the Elizabeth Bishop Legacy Recording project. It was a great opportunity to spread the word about the fundraising campaign – see the campaign website at www.eb100legacyrecording.blogspot.ca. We are hoping to be able to link to or post a video of this interview at some point – we’re working on it. Stay tuned! Heidi was incredibly supportive of the Elizabeth Bishop Centenary celebrations in 2011, and we are grateful for her continued interest in the EB100 legacy. Thanks, Heidi!

Just over a week after we launched the campaign, we have reached 10% of our goal – that is $6,000. Thanks to all the people who have already contributed, helping us get the momentum going. As I mentioned in my last post, we will be putting up an HONOUR ROLL page next week, one way we can publicly thank everyone who has contributed and will contribute. We also have some fun video to post over the next few weeks. Our dear blog master, John Barnstead, has had a well-earned break this week (even so, he has managed to post a few “Todays in Bishop.”

Suzie and her fabulous team of musicians are doing another recording session next week here in Halifax, at lovely St. David’s Church (http://saintdavids.ca/). Their session in June recorded the John Plant songs. This session will record the Christos Hatzis songs. There will be a third session in September to record the Alasdair MacLean and Emily Doolittle songs. Not only is the fund-raising campaign gaining steam, but the recordings are happening – tremendously exciting to have this project manifesting.

We still need your support – the campaign will continue through August and September and we will be posting updates and other information. Keep watch on this blog and also check out the EB100 Legacy Recording blog (www.eb100legacyrecording.blogspot.ca) – it is there that you can learn about our progress and all about the “Perks” we’ve collected as thank yous for your contributions! Check them out!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Momentum Is Building -- Elizabeth Bishop Legacy Recording

A week ago today we officially launched the crowd source fund-raising campaign for the Elizabeth Bishop Legacy Recording. We are nearing the $5,000 mark!!! We want to thank everyone who has contributed so far. Your interest in and support for this exciting project is greatly appreciated! Momenutum is building. Help keep the ball rolling. We still need your contributions and your help spreading the word!!!

Keep watch on this blog and on the EB Legacy Recording blog (http://eb100legacyrecording.blogspot.ca/) for updates and more information. Next week, we will put up our HONOUR ROLL with the names of contributors. We will also be posting new videos and other background information about the campaign, the composers and the pieces being recorded, during the next several weeks.

Below is a lovely commentary about Bishop’s poem “Sunday 4 A.M.,” by composer John Plant, whose setting of these intriguing words is one of the pieces recorded for the cd. “Sunday 4 A.M.” was published in The New Yorker on 20 September 1958. The text of the poem is readily available online with just a search of the title. Stay tuned for updates and interesting features.



I’ve tried to create the sense of a flooded, floating dreamworld at the beginning. There’s a profusion of religious imagery in this poem, but this imagery is all jumbled up with secular hardware, and sometimes rusty hardware at that. I evoked the “cross- and wheel-studded” with swooping lines punctuated by irregular jagged pizzicatos. The “ancillary / Mary” suggests the Virgin Mary, both because of the color blue and the word “ancillary” (in the Latin text of the Annunciation Mary identifies herself as “ancilla Domini”, the handmaiden of the Lord) — but it also might be an old acquaintance, tall Mary Sterns. The steady upward movement suggests not only her tallness, but the vaporous evanescence of her appearance and indeed of her identity. Nails suggest the cross, but the nails are rusty, in a homely kitchen knifebox. The agitated music here is meant to suggest rusty nails rattling around in a box. A “vox humana” is a stop on a church organ — or a parlour organ; but the voice is rather that of a discontented ghost.

The gray horse needs shoeing!
It’s always the same!
What are you doing,
there, beyond the frame?
If you’re the donor,
you might do that much!

The donor might be God, the putative giver of life, or a patron who donates an altar (altered) cloth to the church. I've turned these lines into a sort of baroque da capo (ABA) aria, but one which fragments at the repeat.

Turn on the light. Turn over.
On the bed a smutch

The dreamer briefly awakens, but only to fall into another dream; the constant is the jumbling of religious and secular imagery. The smutch on the bed becomes a Renaissance painting on an altar (altered) cloth — Gesso is what you put on a cloth or canvas in order to be able to paint on it; and the gold suggests the gold leaf of a Renaissance religious painting. Given Bishop’s own Presbyterian upbringing, I’ve crosspatched a sort of distorted Protestant hymn with Gregorian chant here.

The cat, a predator, emerges from the other dream, or perhaps it’s a real cat which transmogrifies into a dream cat; musically, I've shown the cat pursued by its ghost shadow (bowed/pizzicato passages in canon). I hope the moment that cat jumps to the window, moth in mouth, is clear — the pizzicato is intercepted by a single loud sustained note.

Toward the end, the brook is flooding the dream — to the point that it reaches the stairs, even reaches the dreamers' foot dangling from the bed — until a bird, heard from outside, in the real world, puts everything right by arranging two notes at right angles — (the sacred and the profane? the dream note and the note heard in the real world?) by reorganizing the dreamer’s perspective as she awakens. This poem is adjacent to “Sandpiper” in Bishop's collection Questions of Travel, and I am certain that the proximity of the two birds is deliberate. — John Plant

Thursday, August 2, 2012


The EBSNS and Suzie LeBlanc officially launched the “crowd source” fund-raising campaign for the Elizabeth Bishop Legacy Recording on Monday, 30 July 2012. We were thrilled to have a feature about Suzie and the campaign, written by John Allemang, appear in the Arts Section of that day’s Globe & Mail (a link to that feature is found in the News Links section of this blog). Above is the wonderful video Suzie did to tell you about the campaign. We have set up a separate site for the campaign -- please visit to find out more:

One of our first contributors – Rose Morley wrote: “I read of this wonderful initiative in yesterday’s Globe & Mail; as I love hearing of epiphanies on any scale or in any area, I thought it quite wonderful that Elizabeth Bishop’s poetry could have such an affect on as glorious and established a singer as Suzie LeBlanc. The article also sent me to my shelves to re-acquaint myself with Bishop’s words once more. I am so glad to contribute to the recording and am looking forward to hearing it. Suzie LeBlanc is without doubt my favourite soprano.”

On Thursday morning, 8:15 Atlantic time, Suzie LeBlanc and Sandra Barry will be interviewed on CTV Morning Live with Heidi Petracek!!!


Little Miss Elizabeth Bishop, circa 1916.
This photo was taken by Truro, N.S. photographer
J.E. Sponagle

My dream six years ago was to have A Canadian composer set A Bishop poem to music. What actually happened during EB100 in 2011 was beyond my wildest dreams – and it was all because of Suzie LeBlanc’s vision. All the events of EB100 were wonderful and brought lively experiences to and created vivid memories for hundreds of people. I am grateful for it all. But I am proudest of the music that was inspired by Bishop’s art and deeply grateful to Suzie, the composers and all the musicians for all they did to bring it into being and for all they are doing now to make this recording a reality.

The settings of Bishop’s poems that were composed by Christos Hatzis, Alasdair MacLean, Emily Doolittle and John Plant are beautiful, powerful, and remarkably different – the range is astonishing – and with Suzie’s voice and the playing by a group wonderful musicians, the results will be, in a word: magical!

We need your help to make this cd a reality. Help us make history. Be a part of this lasting legacy. We are deeply grateful for all contributions – every amount helps. Visit the campaign site and find our more about this project and how to contribute.

We will be posting progress reports on the campaign site. And we will also be posting updates about the campaign on this blog – additional videos, comments from the composers. Stay tuned!!!!