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

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Elizabeth Bishop’s Questions of Travel: Fifty Years After - Day 3

[For the convenience of participants (and to excite the envy of the rest of our readership) we provide the schedule of today's activities at the EB conference, currently underway in Sheffield]

Saturday 27th June

Coffee (8.30-9am)

Panel 8 (9-10am)

8 Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell
Dining Room

Chair: Thomas Travisano (Hartwick College, USA)
Melissa Zeiger (Dartmouth College, USA) “The Riverman,” Stranded Mermaids and Cold Water: Elizabeth Bishop Takes a Swim
Ruth Hawthorn (Independent Scholar) Revisiting “North Haven”

Panel 9 (10-11.20am) 

9A Correspondences: Bishop’s Letters and Prose 
Dining Room

Chair: Jonathan Ellis (University of Sheffield, UK)
Sophie Baldock (University of Sheffield, UK) Word Travels: Journeys from Letters to Poems in Questions of Travel (1965)
Siobhan Phillips (Dickinson College, USA) Bishop and the Politics of the Personal (Letter)
Michael O’Neill (Durham University) “Thinking with One’s Feelings”: Elizabeth Bishop’s Literary Criticism

9B Bishop and Animals (2)
Ennis Room

Chair: James McCorkle (Hobart and William Smith Colleges, USA)
Katherine Ebury (University of Sheffield, UK) “Almost criminal”: Nature Before the Law in Elizabeth Bishop’s Poetry
Lhorine François (University of Bordeaux Montaigne, France) Retrieving elusive otherness through Elizabeth Bishop's animal poems
Sarah Kennedy (Downing College, Cambridge University) “Swerving as I swerve”: Empathy and Displacement in Elizabeth Bishop’s “Rainy Season; Sub-Tropics”

Coffee (11.20-12)

Plenary Lecture (12-1pm)

Deryn Rees-Jones (Liverpool University, UK) Bishop's Nagging Thoughts
Dining Room

Lunch (1-2pm) Sharman Room

Panels 10A and 10B (2-3.20pm)

10A Ekphrasis and the Visual Arts
Dining Room

Chair: Linda Anderson (Newcastle University, UK)
Bridget Vincent (University of Melbourne, Australia) Picturing shame: Elizabeth Bishop’s ekphrastic doubt
Susan Rosenbaum (University of Georgia, USA) The Case of the Fallen S: Vertigo, the Avant-Garde, and Bishop’s Questions of Travel
Lin Su (Essex University, UK) Becoming a Gourmet Cook: Elizabeth Bishop, Leonora Carrington and the Act of Cooking

10B Disruptive Journeys: Place, Space, and Translation
Ennis Room

Chair: JT Welsch (York St John University, UK)
Chris Wilson Simpkins (University of South Africa, SA) Inside/Outside: Bishop's Use of Place Against Capitalism
Maria Gens (University of Porto, Portugal) Bishop’s Brazil: A story of love and discontent
Mariana Machova (University of South Bohemia, Czech Republic) Travelling in Translation

Coffee (3.20-3.40pm)

Panels 11A and 11B (3:40-5pm)

11A Architecture and Space
Dining Room

Chair: Melissa Zeiger (Dartmouth College, USA)
Jo Gill (Exeter University, UK) ‘An immense city, carefully revealed, / made delicate by over-workmanship’: Elizabeth Bishop’s Architectural Poetics
James McCorkle (Hobart and William Smith Colleges) Elizabeth Bishop’s Islandologies
Fiona Shaw (Northumbria University, UK) Elizabeth Bishop and the Writer’s House

11B Questions (and Answers) of Travel
Ennis Room

Chair: Angelica Nuzzo (City University of New York, USA)
Claes Lindskog (Lund University, Sweden) The Painter’s Eye and the Colonial Gaze: Ontological Boundaries in the Brazil and Nova Scotia Poems of Elizabeth Bishop
Lloyd Schwartz (University of Massachusetts, USA) Answers to Travel: Elizabeth Bishop’s Poetry of Retrospect
Ben Leubner (Montana State University, USA) Innocents Abroad? Elizabeth Bishop and James Merrill Overseas

Closing Remarks (5-5.15pm)
Dining Room

Conference dinner at Wig and Pen, Campo Lane, S1 2EG (7.30pm start)

Friday, June 26, 2015

Elizabeth Bishop’s Questions of Travel: Fifty Years After

[For the convenience of participants (and to excite the envy of the rest of our readership) we provide the schedule of today's activities at the EB conference, currently underway in Sheffield]

DAY 2 
Friday 26th June

Coffee (8.30-9am)

Panel 5 (9-10.40am)

5 Brazil/Brasil 
Dining Room

Chair: Angus Cleghorn (Seneca College, Toronto, Canada)
Neil Besner (University of Winnipeg, Canada) Flores Raras e Banalíssimas/Rare and Commonplace Flowers: Brazil, Bishop, and Biography
Maria Lúcia Milléo Martins (Univerisade Federal de Santa Catarina, Brasil) Elizabeth Bishop: Eros in brushstrokes of light and shade
Elizabeth Neely (Texas Wesleyan University, USA) Losing and Finding Bishop in Brasil
Regina Przybycien (Jagiellonian University, Poland) Bishop’s Brazil/Brasil’s Bishop 25 years ago and today

Coffee (10.40-11am)

Panel 6A and 6B (11-12)

6A Forms of (Auto)Biography 
Dining Room

Chair: Heather Treseler (Worcester State University, USA)
Vidyan Ravinthiran (Durham University, UK) “Manuelzinho” and Me
Laura Helyer (University of Southampton, Chichester, UK) Imagining the Life of Gertrude Bulmer Bishop: Travels Between Verse and Prose

6B Another Sense of Self 
Ennis Room

Chair: Ruth Hawthorn (Independent Scholar)
Marcel Inhoff (University of Bonn, Germany) Elizabeth Bishop's sacred exteriors
Arsevi Seyran (Stony Brook University, USA) Negative Capability in “Filling Station”: Who Loves Us All?

Plenary Lecture (12-1pm)

Linda Anderson (Newcastle University, UK) A Palimpsestic Journey: Repetition and Remembering in Elizabeth Bishop’s Poetry Dining Room

Lunch (1-2pm) Sharman Room

Panel 7A and 7B (2-3.20pm)

7A Change and Transformation 
Dining Room

Chair: Stephen Burt (Harvard University, USA)
Philip McGowan (Queen’s University Belfast) Elizabeth Bishop’s Work of Fire
Angelica Nuzzo (City University of New York, USA) “… every so often the world is bound to shake”: Elizabeth Bishop’s Questions of Travel and Life Change
Katrina Mayson (University of Sheffield) Elizabeth Bishop: A “bad case of the Threes”; one, two and (an)other

7B Home and/as “Elsewhere”  
Ennis Room

Chair: Anna Barton (University of Sheffield, UK)
Miyuki Amano (Prefectural University of Hiroshima) Understanding why “In the Village” is at the very heart of Elizabeth Bishop’s Questions of Travel
Brian Bartlett (St. Mary’s University, Canada) Bishop at the Movies
Mark Bauer (University of California, Berkeley, USA) The Elsewhere of Memory: Bishop’s Poems of Childhood in Questions of Travel

Coffee (3.20-4.40)

Last Letters: A roundtable on Lota de Macedo Soares’s Correspondence (3.40-4.40pm) 
Dining Room 

Chair: Jonathan Ellis (University of Sheffield, UK)

The roundtable will begin with a short paper by Dave Hoak (Independent Scholar) entitled Proofs of Love: The Last Letters of Lota de Macedo Soares. Other participants include Regina Przybycien, Lloyd Schwartz and Thomas Travisano.

Wine Tasting (5-7pm) 
The Library
[Organised by Richard Mason]

Poetry Reading (7.30-8.30pm) 
Dining Room

Readings by Paul Batchelor, Frances Leviston, Conor O’Callaghan, and Caitríona O’Reilly

BBQ (8.30pm start) 
Music Room and Garden/Terrace

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Minutes of the Annual General Meeting of the Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia, 20 June 2015

Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia
Minutes of Annual General Meeting
20 June 2015, 1:30 p.m.
In the Village Café, Great Village, N.S.

President Laurie Gunn called the meeting to order and welcomed about twenty members and guests to the EBSNS AGM for 2015. She made note of the fact that there was an Open House at the Elizabeth Bishop House that afternoon, in case anyone wanted to visit.

Secretary Sandra Barry read the Minutes of the 2014 AGM, finding a minor factual error as she did so. As there were no other errors or omissions, Sandra moved the acceptance of the corrected 2014 Minutes. Second Patti Sharpe. All in favour. Accepted.

Treasurer Joy Graham presented the Financial Report for the term 1 April 2014 to 31 March 2015. As of 31 March 2015, the bank balance in the EB account was $9,061.41. Joy made note of some of the expenditures and income. She noted, for example, that the EBSNS had received a donation from the estate of Donalda Nelson (one of the most faithful EBSNS members), as well as a donation from a member of Donalda’s family. Overall, activity had returned to a more regular or normal level, with all centenary and legacy projects completed. Joy moved the acceptance of the Financial Report. Second Meredith Layton. All in favour. Accepted.

Joy then distributed an information sheet, with an income and disbursements breakdown for the period from 1 April to 20 June, 2015, which indicated that the balance in the EB account was $11,052.17. Again, she noted a few of the particulars.

In the absence of Nominating Committee member Bruce Gray, board member John Barnstead presented the Nominating Committee Report. He noted with sadness that founding board member Angus Chisholm was stepping down from the board. John thanked him for his faithful service and said that we would be returning to Gus shortly.

The proposed slate of officers and board for 2015-2016 were:

Laurie Gunn – President
Patti Sharpe – Vice President
Sandra Barry – Secretary
Joy Graham – Treasurer

John Barnstead – Past President
Lois Bray
Bruce Gray
Meredith Layton
Pat Townsend
Judith van Duren
New board members proposed:
Cathy Mazur
Laura Sharpe, who will be our inaugural “youth” board member

As there were no nominations from the floor, John declared the slate of officers and board accepted.

Laurie Gunn presented her President’s Report (attached below), which summarized the society’s activities in the previous year and looked forward to The Elizabeth Bishop Festival on 8 August 2015.

Her final item was to extend a heartfelt thank you to Angus Chisholm on behalf of the EBSNS for his many years of service to and support of the EBSNS. She presented him with one of her lovely photo cards containing two complimentary tickets to the Suzie LeBlanc festival concert. She noted that we will miss Gus’s steady presence, wisdom and sense of humour at board meetings, but the EBSNS will keep hold of him for good because she asked for a motion to make Gus a Life Member of the EBSNS. Immediately moved by Patti Sharpe. And immediately seconded by Pat Townsend. All in favour. Accepted with a hearty round of applause.

Laurie moved to have her report approved. Second June Chisholm. All in favour. Accepted.

Meredith Layton rose and spoke about an important development in the village with regard to the pergola. She noted that the structure had sustained damage from the flood on 22 September 2014 and the grounds had been disturbed by the construction of the new bridge. The Great Village Historical Society and the Great Village Garden Club partnered to bring in gravel and restore the grounds immediately around the pergola. The gravel was donated by Masstown Concrete and delivered by Fred Priest. A work party from both organizations spent a number of hours working to return the pergola to its proper state. Lowland Gardens once again donated flowers for the planters. The panels were mounted for the summer season. Everyone agreed that the pergola looks great again. And it was decided that a letter of thanks would be sent to the Historical Society and Garden Club.

The final item of the meeting was the official unveiling of The Elizabeth Bishop Festival program. Laurie, Patti and Sandra described some of the activities that will happen in Great Village on 8 August 2015, a full day of events with over 30 artists and artisans. They discussed the nature of the partnership with the In the Village Café, which will be providing venue space and all the food.

Laurie asked Gus if he would move to adjourn the 2015 EBSNS AGM. Gus so moved and the meeting was adjourned.

The In the Village Café provided tea, coffee and their signature lemonade, along with a wide array of delicious sweets, of which all in attendance partook with gusto. After a fifteen minute break for all to get their treats, everyone settled in for the highlight of the afternoon.
 Photograph by Brenda Barry
Sandra introduced guest speaker Binnie Brennan, a long-time member of Symphony Nova Scotia and a writer whose novel Like Any Other Monday was recently published by Gaspereau Press. Sandra noted how during a casual conversation at a coffee shop, Binnie mentioned a growing interest in the silent film comedy star Buster Keaton. And from this moment a lively, on-going conversation about Keaton began between them. Sandra noted how wonderful it was to watch Binnie’s initial interest blossom into a full-blown passion, which took her on a fascinating journey of research and writing, culminating in her novel. Sandra thanked Binnie for bringing Buster Keaton and his uplifting art into her life, and alerted to those assembled that on Sunday, on Turner Classic Movies, Keaton’s great film “Steamboat Bill Jr.” was being broadcast.

Binnie Brennan presented a fascinating account of her journey, even noting Elizabeth Bishop’s connection to Keaton. Bishop was a Keaton fan and wrote but never finished an homage poem to the comedian, which Binnie read. Binnie described some of her research and the path that lead her to write about the final years of Keaton’s vaudeville days, before he embarked on his film career. Part of this path included several writing retreats at the Elizabeth Bishop House. She read passages from Like Any Other Monday and generously answered the many questions from a rapt audience. Everyone was energized by this engaging talk/reading. Sandra thanked Binnie for sharing some of her infectious enthusiasm and keen knowledge of one of the most important comedians of the twentieth century.

Slowly, the gathering dispersed and went out into the beautiful sunshine of the last day of spring 2015.


President’s report 2015 – Laurie Gunn

I can’t believe all the good things that were accomplished in the last year. We are truly celebrating the life and work of the poet Elizabeth Bishop through various activities and projects and I am pleased to be part of it.

Last July we set up an Elizabeth Bishop display in one corner of the sanctuary of St. James Church, for folks who are interested in learning more about EB and her connection to Great Village. We are hoping to make a more permanent display in the near future. The St. James Church Preservation Society has already approved an area of the sanctuary for our new permanent display in 2016.

On August 17th, 2014 the society organized an “In the Village Afternoon” to celebrate young people who had made a connection to Elizabeth Bishop in the last few years. We invited them to come and share what creative things they were involved in. It was a delightful afternoon with a good attendance from the public and the program was entertaining and the food provided by the “In the Village” Café was delicious.

In September in honour of the Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia’s 20th anniversary it was decided to put together a list of the most significant resources, that the society, as well as organizations and individuals in Nova Scotia, have created about or been inspired by Elizabeth Bishop. Sandra Barry and Patti Sharpe did an excellent job creating this useful tool, in the form of a brochure, for students, teachers, scholars and readers who wish to learn more about Elizabeth Bishop.

In October of 2014 we were invited to a meeting by the St. James Church Preservation Society of Great Village, to discuss ways to use the church for community based activities. At the meeting the EBSNS was asked if we might have a one day EB activity in the summer of 2015. Sandra Barry, Patti Sharpe and myself began meeting in December to plan the event and continued to meet and email through the winter and spring. We have an amazing day for August 8th with activities for everyone. The festival is a celebration of Nova Scotia’s rich artistic and cultural heritage which we will tell you about a little later in the program. I wish to thank Sandra Barry for doing an excellent job filling out and sending off the grant applications in hope of obtaining funds for our one day arts festival. We are continuing to look for volunteers as well as patrons of the festival. If you are interested please let Sandra, Patti or myself know. We are also pleased to have hired the services of Laura Sharpe who has created a Facebook account as well as Twitter account. We are enjoying her postings and she is helping to keep the Festival front and centre on the web.

This spring we ordered 10 new “In The Village” banners to replace some of the older banners that have faded because of the sun. Most of you may have noticed that the EBSNS has a new website. A big thank you to Becky Colwell who has looked after and paid for our website since it was created. It needed to be transferred to a new
server and updated as well. Becky employed the very talented Heidi Helm to create the website that we have today, at a reduced cost to the society. Becky has also contributed her own funds to help pay for the server costs for the next few years. Heidi has also created a tutorial so that the executive can update the website themselves. And last but not least, I wish to thank Gus Chisholm for all his years of service to the EBSNS. He was one of the founding members and is also a past president. We shall miss his wisdom and his sense of humour. I ask that someone make a motion to have Angus Chisholm
as a life member of the Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Our North Haven Correspondent Writes...

...to remind us that spaces are still available to attend the Elizabeth Bishop Symposium to be held in North Haven on August 14 and 15, 2015.  A description of the event and a link to purchase tickets may be found here.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Our Correspondent in Sheffield Writes Us --

-- with a REMINDER that today is the last booking date for the international conference "Elizabeth Bishop's Questions of Travel: Fifty Years After," which is being held at Halifax Hall, The University of Sheffield, 25-27 June 2015.  For the convenience of the participants, and also for the benefit of those whose hearts may be in Sheffield but, alas, unaccompanied by their other organs -- only because these latter have been stranded elsewhere by the emaciated state of their owners' pocketbooks, -- we will be posting the daily schedule for this event later this week, as well as the abstracts of the presentations.  

Further information about registering for the conference may be found here and here.  

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Artist and Blacksmith Tom Spence will share his craft at the Elizabeth Bishop Festival

Born in Springhill, N.S., in 1953, Tom Spence, CD, BFA, moved a lot as a child in a military family, but was given every opportunity to draw and learn about art. He spent uncounted hours with the Jon Nagy “Learn to Draw” kit and was enrolled in a two-year correspondence art course as a young teen. After high school, he enrolled at Xavier College in Sydney, N.S., in hopes of attaining a degree in Fine Arts. Alas, it would not happen as he enrolled in the Air Force a year later (and ever after kicked his butt for not sticking it out in college).
Tom spent the next thirty-four years (retiring in 2007 with CD) in service to Canada, always involved in the art community in some way wherever he ended up. He studied gemmology and jewellery making, operated a stained glass business, sat as President of the Norlite Art Club in Cold Lake, Alberta, and created the occasional painting and drawing. Before retiring from the Air Force, he enrolled at the Nova Scotia College of
Art and Design University in Halifax, N.S., and graduated in 2008 with (finally) a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree (BFA) with a major in Fine Art.
Tom's portable forge.
Tom also served as Treasurer for the Truro Art Society from 2013–2015 and participated in many of the society’s shows. Tom is also involved in blacksmithing, pottery, gem cutting, fine jewellery making, woodworking, wine making, beekeeping and rebuilding an antique car. He is currently involved in renovating an old farmhouse near Chester, N.S., with his wife, Alison.

Tom will set up his portable forge in the yard of the Elizabeth Bishop House. Bishop herself knew an artistic blacksmith, Mayhew (Mate) T.  Fisher, whom she called "Nate" in "In the Village."

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Singer/Songwriter Rosalee Peppard will perform at the Elizabeth Bishop Festival

Nova Scotian, Rosalee Peppard (www.rosalee.ca) and her effervescent art are truly unique: a maritime women’s musical oral historian, Rosalee collects and transcribes an authentic living echo of the voices of Canadian women she interviews and researches. She crafts their stories into “song portraits” and shares them passionately and powerfully in her “hauntingly beautiful live performance” (Halifax Chronicle Herald).
Rosalee has received two Dr. Helen Creighton Folklore Research awards and a Colchester Heritage Award for her work published on three CDs: “No Place Like Home,” “Legacy,” and “Voices.” Her song, “Elizabeth Bishop” (on “Voices” 2011) was created for EB100.

Rosalee tours internationally and has just returned from Belfast where she was invited to present her “LIVING TITANIC — A Musical Memoir Of Atlantic Canada’s Only Survivor: Hilda Mary Slayter” at the 2015 International Titanic Convention.
Rosalee Peppard in action.
Rosalee will be performing for the first time at the Elizabeth Bishop House during the morning of the festival.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A Gathering Place for Expression: The Elizabeth Bishop Festival Market

One of the main events of the Elizabeth Bishop Festival taking place in Great Village on 8 August 2015 is the Festival Market, where over a dozen artists and artisans will gather to share their creations. This post is a profile of textile artist Cathy Mazur.

Cathy Mazur was born in Amherst, N.S., and is now a new resident to Great Village, after spending forty-one years working in Northern British Columbia. Nova Scotia kept calling her home.

Cathy has always had an appreciation for art, especially the quirky and whimsical. An accomplished quilter, potter, genealogist and gardener, she will try her hand at anything.
All forms of art are considered therapy to her. Non-traditional designs and bright colours bring happiness to her demeanor. 
"I caught a temendous fish"...

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Check Out Great Village Then and Now on the Elizabeth Bishop Festival Facebook Page

Laura Sharpe of Great Village has been the creative and expressive mind behind the Elizabeth Bishop Festival Facebook Page. Laura is a student at Cobequid Education Centre in Truro, N.S. She has been writing fantastic "Great Village Monday" essays about her memories and experiences of living in Great Village. On Monday, 9 June, she posted a wonderful photo montage of Great Village then and now. Check it out! Though many things have changed since Elizabeth Bishop's time there in the 1910s and 1920s, many things have stayed the same. I for one am thrilled with what Laura is doing -- showing us her Great Village and how it echoes Elizabeth Bishop's village -- and how her own generation inhabits this still vibrant community. Bravo, Laura! And thank you for your fantastic work. Laura and her sister April and their friend Serena George will be at the festival screening two short films they have created -- and I think we'll be able to convince Laura to share the photo montage with everyone, too.

[Note: I am not on Facebook, so I am not able to comment on her work there -- but I'm happy to have this place to do so.]

Sunday, June 7, 2015

A Gathering Place for Expression: The Elizabeth Bishop Festival Market

One of the main features of the EB Festival taking place in GV on 8 August 2015 is the “Festival Market” where over a dozen artists and artisans will gather to share their creations. This post is a profile of author Janet Maybee.
Janet Maybee got her BA (English) at the University of  New Brunswick, where one of her classmates and great friends was Robert Cockburn, who later as professor there introduced Sandra Barry to Elizabeth Bishop, a rather pivotal happening! Janet proceeded to Dalhousie for MA (Honours) English, writing a thesis on the history of theatre in Halifax. She spent twenty-five years of teaching, mostly in special education and drama, plus local community development projects, writing hundreds of press releases for worthy (often lost) causes. She is currently Research Associate at Maritime Museum of the Atlantic and working on history of pilot service in Halifax Harbour, but mostly indulging in serious granny addiction.
In the fall, Janet’s book about Francis Mackey will be published by Nimbus Publishing of Halifax, N.S. Mackay was a respected harbour pilot with a spotless record of twenty-four years’ service when he boarded Mont Blanc on the evening of 5 December 1917 and spent the night anchored outside the closed submarine nets. The aging French ship had been loaded in New York with a deadly cocktail of highly volatile explosives. A series of mischances the next morning led the outward bound Norwegian vessel Imo into collision with Mont Blanc, gashing her forward hold deeply. Fire broke out instantly and as there was no possible way to save the munitions-laden ship the captain ordered the crew to the lifeboats; at 9:04:35 a disastrous explosion devastated Richmond and caused terrible damage across the rest of Halifax. Mackey was vilified in the press, in part because he survived while so many thousands were killed or maimed.
After the Wreck Commissioner’s Inquiry he was arrested along with Captain Aime Le Medec of Mont Blanc and the port’s chief examining officer, Commander F. Evan Wyatt. All three were charged with manslaughter and criminal negligence in the death of Mackey’s longtime friend, Imo’s pilot, William Hayes. A Nova Scotia Supreme Court justice, Judge Benjamin Russell, determined the charges were unfounded and released Mackey from prison on a writ of habeas corpus. However, C.C. Ballantyne, the minister of marine and fisheries, refused to restore Mackey’s license. With a wife and six young children to support, the pilot found himself unable to work at his profession. He spent the next four years and his life’s savings in frustrating attempts to gain reinstatement. Reasons for denying the return of his license were never given.
Check out this amazing link for a multi-media account of the explosion: 
Janet will be manning the Bookmark table at the Festival Market – come and talk with her about her exciting new book. Janet gave a talk about this fascinating subject at the Elizabeth Bishop House a couple of years ago.
Janet with Sandra at the Elizabeth Bishop House
for an afternoon talk about Francis Mackey

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia Annual General Meeting, 20 June 2015

On Saturday, 20 June 2015, at 1:30 p.m., the EBSNS will hold its AGM at "In the Village" Cafe in Great Village, N.S. We are delighted that Elizabeth Bishop Festival artist Binnie Brennan will be present to give a reading from her recent novel Like Any Other Monday. We are billing this AGM as the EB Festival Warm-Up, so come and learn more about the big event happening in Great Village on 8 August 2015. Everyone is welcome.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Lifting Yesterday — Supplement — Chapter 7: A trip to Brazil

Chapter Seven covers the time in Bishop’s life from when she arrived in Brazil to her death. I felt far less confident writing about Bishop’s experiences in Brazil than anywhere else. What did I know about Brazil? But one of the things I did see in her letters, memoirs and poems written in and about Brazil was that her earliest years resurfaced and echoed in her experiences there. When I finally went to Brazil, even though for only a brief visit, I could see instantly why that place, seemingly so far from Nova Scotia and New England, resonated with her and reminded her of her childhood.

I can’t imagine that I would ever have gone to Brazil were it not for Elizabeth Bishop. And for Brett Millier who so kindly invited me to be part of the panel she was setting up for the Bishop conference that took place in Ouro Prêto in 1999. Brett wrote a wonderful letter of support which helped me secure travel funding from the Province of Nova Scotia. Though now over fifteen years ago, I still have vivid memories of that trip, and occasionally still tell stories about it. Going there was an honour and privilege for which I will always be grateful.

In Ouro Prêto, I stayed at the Pousada Casa Grande, a pleasant little inn on the road to Mariana, not all that far from Bishop’s “Casa Mariana.” Here is the view from the window of my room with Itacolomy in the distance.
We attended a garden party at Casa Mariana where we all took photos of each other (it was long before “selfies” existed!). Here is a photo of me with Laura Menides (my room mate during that trip, on the left) and our dear friend Michiru Tsubura (centre). Michiru presented the most delightful “musical biography” of Elizabeth Bishop in the gorgeous baroque opera house in this astonishing city.
After the conference many of us went to see Lota’s house at Samambaia near Petropolis, and, of course, Bishop’s studio there. Many things astonished me on this trip (I suspect I was in a state of  constant astonishment, like Bishop’s state of “constant re-adjustment,” for the entire time), but the massive granite escarpment soaring above the grounds of the house at Samambaia was astonishingly breathtaking.
There were many grand moments (the beach in Rio, for example), but some of the most memorable were the tiny, often brief encounters with something (for example, coming upon a white horse standing quietly on a cobbled street in Tiradentes, early in the morning when the mist was heavy and everything was still). One of the most memorable moments for me was seeing a small sculpture done by Aleijadinho of a mother and child reading. It was in a glass case in a museum in Mariana and it cut right through my astonishment and spoke about the way we are all connected. It triggered a little poem.
Mother and child reading
(after a sculpture by Aleijadinho)

for Susan Kerslake

The silence in the pause between words
held forever in the grain. The dark wood
still and moving in the same moment
not of Revelation but realization
repeated day after day; the turn of the page,
the cut of the chisel. Who were they?
Why this moment? when breath is quiet
and meaning gentle. So much hidden purpose
carved lovingly in the hands. Two figures
fused, formed by the delight of life,
by the compulsion of mind and heart.
Two figures part of a lifelong leap of faith.
Two centuries and more, and then
my eyes startled by a warm sienna
gesture, texture raw and lucent.
I can only hold this magic in my mind,
carry it like a day-dream. Then fold
their durable embrace into the silence
between my words.