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

Monday, May 10, 2021

Elizabeth Bishop’s House in Key West, Florida

Illustrator, friend and EB fan Emma FitzGerald recently shared a link to a site with photos of Elizabeth Bishop’s Key West house taken by Florida photographer Mark Hedden. You can check them out by clicking here. This house is now owned by the Key West Literary Seminar. You can learn more about their good work with thisimportant house by clicking here.

 (Elizabeth Bishop in Key West, late 1930s)

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Clacton remembered for different reasons

I follow a blog, Ernest Blair Experiment, presented by Bob Maher – with a wide range of subjects, including a special focus on geography and the idea of place. In a recent post, which you can see by clicking here, Bob shared a photo of Clacton on the east coast of England, taken in 1938. It was quite a bustling resort community and this photo shows some of the attractions that drew people there in gret numbers. Bob was born and raised in England, but lives now in Nova Scotia. I am always interested in what Bob offers, but this post intrigued me because Elizabeth Bishop’s great-uncle, the painter George Wylie Hutchinson lived in Clacton. George was born in 1852 and died in 1942. During the last couple decades of his life, Clacton (I have also seen Clacton-on-sea and Greater Clacton, which is where George is buried, in the Bulmer family archive, housed at Acadia University) was his home.

In any case, I was delighted to see the image below of this community, where I have never been, at that time, a time when George was very much alive. He was still painting, but also had become a photographer. He and his second wife, Lily Yerbury, lived in a snug bungalow that they had named “Thelma,” and George also grew roses. Indeed, roses were a passion for him. You can see a photo of George, circa 1921, standing in the yard of Thelma, by clicking here. I know it is well over a decade before the photo Bob shared, but George was a stalwart of Clacton in his day, long retired from the active illustrating career he had at the turn of the twentieth century. I asked Bob if I could post his photo and he kindly gave me permission. 

(Clacton, England, 1938)

Saturday, April 10, 2021

At the Elizabeth Bishop House Great Village, Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia artists Joy Laking and Susan Patterson sent a week together at the Elizabeth Bishop House in early February 2021. In their own very distinctive styles, they captured the week in paintings. They painted out of the windows, as well as the interior of the historic old house. To learn more about both painters, go to their websites.


Susan Paterson (https://susanpaterson.ca) obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Mount Allison University in 1980 and has been a practicing artist ever since. She has exhibited extensively across Canada, is represented in private and corporate collections around the world, and has won many awards for her work, including a Purchase Award in Art Renewal Center’s 15th International Salon; second place, Still Life, in Art Renewal Center’s 14th International Salon, and second place, as well as finalist in several BoldBrush online art competitions. She was awarded an Elizabeth Greenshield grant, several Artist‘s Residencies, Nova Scotia Arts council grants and a scholarship to study at the Academy of Realist Art in Toronto. She is a juried member of the Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour and has been featured in various publications, including International Artist magazine. Her work was included in “Terrior, a Nova Scotia Retrospective” at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in 2016; ‘Capture2014, Nova Scotia Realism’, juried by Tom Smart, and ARC 14th Salon Live Exhibit in Barcelona, Spain, 2019. 

“I was so pleased to be able to spend a week with my good friend Joy Laking at the Elizabeth Bishop House last winter. We were quite lucky to arrive just before a major snowstorm which provided us with beautiful views from the house. We painted from inside looking out, because it was extremely cold that week, too cold to work outside. Besides the landscapes I was very inspired by the house itself. Early in my career I did a lot of paintings of my grandmother's house and being in the EB house reminded me of that. It brought back memories of the warmth, coziness and history of an old, well-loved home. I loved the light in the house and painted it coming through lace curtains, reflecting off glass, hardwood floors and papered walls. Joy and I worked long hours and the week went by quickly, but it was such a joy to spend time in the home and, through drawing and painting it, come to know it better.”


Joy Snihur Wyatt Laking (www.joylakinggallery.com) graduated from the University of Guelph with a Fine Art Major in 1972. Since that time, she has lived and painted professionally in Nova Scotia. Joy has had a solo exhibition at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia which subsequently toured for a year and was an instigator and a part of Capture 2014, an exhibition of realism curated by Tom Smart at Dalhousie Art Gallery 2014. She has exhibited nationally and internationally. She received the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal 2012, the Halifax Woman of Excellence Award 2009, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Marigold Centre 2020/2021.She has been featured in many magazines and books, Including International Artist.
In 2020, Joy’s book The Painted Province, Nova Scotia through an artist’s eyes was published. Joy’s play “Invisible Prisons” has been performed around the world, and in 2020 was performed virtually by the Zucker School of Medicine in New York. ““The Elizabeth Bishop House in Great Village is a cultural treasure, and I am proud that I am a volunteer on the committee to help make it sustainable. Although it is only ten kilometres from my home, it was an absolutely wonderful experience to spend a week there painting with my friend Susan Paterson. We started early and painted late and enjoyed the surrounding of the old house, the window views and the friendship. Artists are generally solitary people, and it is always a special treat for me to have time to chew the fat with Susan.”

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Nova Reads Elizabeth Bishop

The Writers' Federation of Nova Scotia will host a Zoom reading of Elizabeth Bishop's poetry by Nova Scotia writers on 14 April. You can find out more and how to register and attend by clicking here. One of the principals involved is Brian Bartlett, well-known and prolific Halifax writer and big EB fan. Nice to see the WFNS doing this for National Poetry Month.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Beach on Gioia ... with Bishop

It has been some time since the last post, but I am delighted to share a review done for us by our correspondent in Tacoma, Washington, who also happens to be the newest member of the EBSNS. It is a delight to be able to offer something so substantial, after a lengthy hiatus. Happy Spring!


On Leading Literary Lives: A Review of Dana Gioia’s Studying with Miss Bishop

By Tristan Beach

Gioia, Dana.
Studying with Miss Bishop: Memoirs from a Young Writers Life. Paul Dry Books, 2021. 186 Pages.

Every reader has two lives—one public, the other secret. The public life is the one visible to teachers, friends, and families… But every true reader has a secret life, which is equally intense, complex, and important. The books we read are no different from the people we meet or the cities we visit. —Dana Gioia 

So begins “Lonely Impulse of Delight,” the first essay of Dana Gioia’s witty and sagacious memoir collection, Studying with Miss Bishop. Throughout the book, Gioia presents “portraits” of important “teachers” in his growth from reader to college student to rising ad executive enmeshed in a secretive literary life. These teachers loom grand yet kind (Robert Fitzgerald), polite yet frank (Elizabeth Bishop), troubled yet authentic (John Cheever), and intimidating yet human (James Dickey). The more obscure, but arguably most important teachers, neither of whom Gioia had ever met, bookend the collection. And each teacher provides Gioia with important examples of how to read, how to write—how to critique writing and talk about it—and how to live one’s life resolutely on one’s own terms.


Gioia’s first great literary teacher was his Mexican uncle, Ted Ortiz, a Merchant Marine and “proletarian intellectual” who died in a plane crash when Gioia was only six. Gioia never knew his uncle but nonetheless inherited his vast library. As Gioia relates, this library of numerous authors, painters, poets, philosophers, and composers presented a gateway to a wonderous, reading-fueled inner life that laid the foundation for his literary pursuits. However, Gioia’s upbringing in a working-class Sicilian/Mexican immigrant community in Hawthorne, CA, contextualizes much of his enduring efforts to lead both a public life—one of material prosperity—and a secret literary life—as a future revolutionary figure in contemporary poetry.

He writes, “By the standards of Hawthorne, a rough and ugly industrial town, my love of books was clearly excessive, indeed almost shameful… I needed to hide it, if only to keep it pure. A private passion is free from public pressure.” Presenting, candidly, this double life to the reader complicates Gioia, the literary giant—while paradoxically deepening the reader’s sense of relation. This sense of relation perhaps speaks to the strangeness and the loneliness of literary life, especially one lived in secret. Gioia acknowledges that those of us who pursue such beautiful lives as these will typically hide from shame or out of self-preservation.

Gioia’s upbringing also influenced his resistance to treading the same narrow paths many of his Harvard classmates embraced in the 1970s. In the preface he writes, “The professions we enter change the ways in which we look at the world and ourselves. I recognized my sense of being a poet was changing in ways alien to my sense of the art, which was neither cerebral nor elitist. I didn’t want to write in ways that excluded people, especially the people I came from. … I wanted my poems to be moving, memorable, and accessible.” To him, Harvard “was training me to be a research university professor of literature”—and not the poet he wanted to be. Thus, he left the academic world of literature to “figure things out on [his] own” and returned to Stanford, his undergraduate alma mater, eventually achieving an MBA and embarking on a new path in business. He followed the examples of T.S. Eliot and Wallace Stevens, both of whom juggled business and writing throughout their lives.

 However, Gioia was more immediately and directly encouraged through his numerous encounters at Harvard with Robert Fitzgerald, related in “Remembering Robert Fitzgerald,” who had already led a literary life prior to academia. While at Stanford, Gioia’s interactions with John Cheever, as related in “A Week with John Cheever,” left a deep impression on him: Cheever had never attended college, but was held in high esteem, especially following his late career resurgence. Yet among these examples that informed and affirmed Gioia’s resolve in cutting his own path, his tutelage under Elizabeth Bishop is probably the most surprising.


Although she graces the cover (and title) of this collection of memoirs, Elizabeth Bishop’s “portrait,” which was previously published in The New Yorker, in 1986, constitutes fewer pages than expected. However, her presence carries throughout, and Gioia’s experiences in her classroom provide rare insight into a side of the late poet that few readers glimpse—Bishop, the teacher.

 Early in her modern poetry class, Bishop matter-of-factly states, “I’m not a very good teacher.” This disarming frankness in admitting one’s shortcomings is enough to sour many people’s confidence. Thus, by the second day of class, the roster had dwindled to five students, Gioia still among them. Yet, Gioia’s description of Bishop’s personality and pedagogy feel surprisingly progressive. He characterizes her as “politely formal, shy, and undramatic… She wanted no worshipful circle of students and got none.” At the same time, his first encounter with the poet, whom he had known only through her books (and he had read them all), is palpable, even strange: “It was an odd, almost uncomfortable sensation to have the perfect world of books peer so casually into the disorder of everyday life.”

In the essay, Gioia describes Bishop teaching her students to love and find pleasure in reading poetry through memorization, recital, discussion, and reading closely—for effect and craft versus critical analysis. Bishop focused more on accessing poets such as William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, and Robert Lowell as humans laboring to produce works of the soul. This was a far cry from the rigorous, unsparing critiquing that Gioia had previously encountered. Bishop’s approach greatly appealed to Gioia’s own sense of writing for readers—rather than critics. And his respect for her sincere humility as well as her life outside of the academic establishment (beginning teaching at 60) further provided important examples for Gioia as a writer at a crossroads, in 1975. Gioia’s essay provides a wry, luminous, and unadorned portrait of Bishop.


Possibly the most affecting essay of the collection, “Letters from the Bahamas: Memoir of a Poet I never Met,” pays tribute to and preserves the memory of Ronald Perry, whom Gioia describes as “a forgotten poet.” Gioia first encountered Perry through his poetry, reviewing Perry’s National Poetry Series-winning collection, Denizens. Gioia describes the book as “technically brilliant” and “surprising,” as the ambiguous, sensual poems that comprise the collection engage the reader, leading through uncertain and unexpected turns. In reviewing Perry’s book, Gioia accidentally began a prolific correspondence with an obscure yet extremely generous and intelligent friend. Perry’s presence in the final essay of the book casts a long shadow over the rest. On the day the two were scheduled to meet in New York, in 1982, Gioia was informed that Perry had suddenly and mysteriously passed away the night before.

 As the essay continues, Gioia relates biographical information about Perry, detailing his upbringing, his literary struggles, and his own double life as a poet. Being outside of the academy, Perry was unconnected from most literary circles. Among his handful of independently published pamphlets, he had produced two full collections of poetry, spaced twenty-one years apart. The latter collection, Denizens, subsequently revitalized his career for a short time and connected him with other contemporary writers and critics, including Gioia. Yet his death cut short what might have been.

 The lesson that Perry imparted is not lost on Gioia, who admits that his literary career, like Wallace Stevens’s before him, “had been marked by silences,” stating that by the time he encountered Perry, he had been “[living] in the future tense.” His brief friendship cut short, Gioia resolved to make a change—“I, who had so carefully avoided human drama, found myself in the midst of one.” Practically overnight, Gioia joined a small number of Perry’s friends, including the poet Donald Justice, in working to preserve and sustain Perry’s literary legacy.

 By Way of Conclusion

If there is an arc in Studying with Miss Bishop—a book written over the span of decades and published, at last, in the 21st century—it is an arc of agency, of taking the reins of one’s life and participating in the lives of others. As the book is organized chronologically, Gioia begins modestly as an introspective and curious child, a receiver of a vast treasure trove of literature. He progresses into adulthood, encountering teachers and mentors, and critics—adapting to circumstance while building his own literary life. In the final essay, we observe Gioia taking part in managing Perry’s affairs, connecting mutual friends together, and celebrating the deceased poet’s gift to the world: poems, letters, and confessions now sitting “undisturbed in boxes in the University of Miami library.”

 Amid this tragedy, Gioia reveals a sobering maturity, recognizing the frustrating blocks, long silences, and quiet, constant defeats of literary life—whether lived solely or in secret. He remarks that literary life is “a fragile existence made tolerable, sometimes even redeemed, by the intoxication of creation and the intensity of literary friendship.” By framing his literary teachers and forebearers in “portraits,” Gioia presents a collective mirror of himself and his experiences, reflecting candid, firsthand lessons and inviting his readers to commune within a richly storied, multidimensional inner life, revealed.


Tristan Beach is a student in the PhD in English program (Rhetoric and Composition emphasis) at the University of Nevada, Reno (beginning Fall 2021). He is an English lecturer at Saint Martin’s University, in Washington state, and has taught college EFL across China, 2014–2017. He received his MFA in Poetry from Goddard College in 2013. Tristan is also the Poetry Editor of Pif Magazine and was recently elected to Olympia Poetry Network’s board of directors. His poems, creative nonfiction, and commentary appear in Pitkin Review, rawboned, Pif Magazine, The Writer in the World, and Shantih. He frequently collaborates with other writers in the Olympia-Tacoma-Seattle area.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Helena Bonham Carter reads Elizabeth Bishop

A correspondent in Germany, who is a fan of both Elizabeth Bishop and Helena Bonham Carter just sent me a link to the latter offering a truly delightful reading the former's "Letter to NY." Check it out here. Stay safe and well.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Sanderlings and Sandpipers

Belfast’s Mary Montague is a poet, naturalist and writer for The Guardian. In a recent piece she describes an encounter with sanderlings, akin to semipalmated sandpipers, marvelous shore birds that are mesmerizing to watch. Mary is a big Elizabeth Bishop fan and has been to Nova Scotia and Great Village. When she was writing this piece, Mary wrote me to ask if the bird Bishop saw that inspired “Sandpiper” might have been a sanderling, and it could have been; but I have always been under the impression that she was seeing semipalmated sandpipers. In her Guardian piece, Mary evokes EB’s “Sandpiper” as she watches the fascinating birds inhabit the shoreline. Bishop is turning up in so many places these days. It is nice to see her words resonate with so many people, on so many levels. Her relevance continues to intensify.

You can find out more about Mary Montague on her website, and read all her pieces in The Guardian by clicking here.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Moya Pacey’s new poetry collection

Australian poet Moya Pacey has published a new collection, Doggerland, evocative poems about her childhood in England. Each poem is a memory gem, as vibrant as it is unsettling, as resonant as it is mysterious.

Moya was the winner in the adult category of the Elizabeth Bishop Centenary Writing Competition in 2011 and is featured in our Echoes of Elizabeth Bishop collection (2012). Indeed, one of the poems in her new collection, “I Feel You Breathing,” is a poetic version of the story which won her first place. This collection is one that Bishop herself would appreciate, filled as it is with particular and peculiar details, and the child’s perspective.

(Moya Pacey from her Facebook page)

Monday, February 8, 2021

"Second Load of 110" --

-- was the bus I took home from Lyndon School when I was in Primer Class -- we had to wait until the First Load had been safely delivered before we could embark on our quotidian trip home. I have spent this morning watching the 1936 Japanese film "Mr. Thank You," based on Yasunari Kawabata's short story of the same name, a depiction of a bus covering a route of some eighty kilometers through rural Japan to Tokyo, its driver as famous along his route for expressing his gratitude to every person he passed and flock of chickens he scattered as Abner Packer was on the road to Mobile for exchanging waves with Buddy and Miss Sook in Truman Capote's "Christmas Memory"; just the other day I was reading C. S. Lewis's The Great Divorce, with its bus journeying from Hell to Heaven, and its own curious driver. These disparate vehicular peregrinations combine for me with the bus in Bishop's "Cape Breton" and thence with its Doppelganger journeying west in "The Moose" -- all these embodying some vast archetypal microcosm, the universality of which in literature I find appropriately paralleled in mathematics by the computational universality of one of the simplest one dimensional cellular automata, "Rule 110" (wouldn't you just know it would be 110...) in Wolfram's numbering scheme for such objects. Looking out the window of this Bus of Buses, I can just make out now, for once, then, something -- 

Apostles.  Lupins.
Admonitory fingers.
Their sole suppliants.

for Elizabeth Bishop
on her one hundred tenth birthday.

I am so grateful to my partner in crime, Sandra Barry, for providing the First Load of 110 earlier this morning, making this second load possible, and to her partner in crime, Emma Fitzgerald, for having generously shared with me some time ago a photograph she took of lupins in the garden of Casa Mariana in Ouro Preto, which convinced me of the universality of correspondences between Nova Scotia and Minas Gerais.  

Happy Birthday Elizabeth Bishop!

On this stormy day in Nova Scotia (we have already seen over 30cm of snow where I am situated) which marks Elizabeth Bishop's 110th birthday, I share a bright, cheerful and sunny drawing from Emma FitzGerald, the illustrator of Rita Wilson's wonderful book about EB, A Pocket of Time (Nimbus 2019).

Of this image, Emma writes:

"I am attaching 'Bike and Bloom' which I sketched in Great Village in October 2013 during my first residency at the Bishop house, a few days after the anniversary of her death. It is currently being reworked into a largescale 'mural'/wall art for a financial institution in downtown Halifax at King's Wharf on the water, (my deadline for refining the drawing is Feb 8 - Bishop's Birthday) so it will have a new life in a new form."

Emma will let us know when her mural gets underway -- probably not for some time, but even so, something to look forward to when the snow is swirling outside and the wind howling.

Happy Birthday Elizabeth Bishop!

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Elizabeth Bishop Day in Key West


This proclamation just in from Malcolm Willison. Nice to see the folks in Key West will mark EB's 110th birthday, even amid a global pandemic. Thanks Malcolm for sharing this news with us. (click to enlarge the image)

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Brainpickings on "One Art"

The poetry blog "Brainpickings" calls "One Art" "the ultimate pandemic poem" and "a haiku in the higher mathematics of meter." Read more effusions here.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Dana Gioia and Elizabeth Bishop, et al.

Just out, a new memoir by the American poet Dana Gioia, reprising his delightful New Yorker piece about Bishop, which appeared in the 1990s, as well as encounters with a number of other famous writers who influenced him. I am delighted to write that we will be featuring a review of this book by American poet, scholar and educator Tristan Beach. His review will appear sometime in February. Stay tuned!

 “Wonderfully evocative of the literary world in the 1970s and 1980s, these essays are fascinating snapshots of remarkable encounters which, when brought together, chart a delightfully unusual path to literary success.”―Booklist

 “In deft, graceful essays, poet, literary critic, and librettist Gioia recalls six 'people of potent personality' who shaped his vocation . . . An appealing literary memoir.”―Kirkus Reviews

  “Reading Studying with Miss Bishop is like being at one of those memorable dinner parties, attended by the best and brightest, sparkling with wit and excellent conversations.” ―Julia Alvarez, author of In the Time of the Butterflies and Afterlife

 “Gioia has been uncommonly lucky in meeting many major poets, among them Elizabeth Bishop. His portrait of her in these pages is shrewd and subtle. The famously elusive poet quivers into life here.”―Jay Parini, author of Borges and Me: An Encounter

 In Studying with Miss Bishop, Dana Gioia discusses six people who helped him become a writer and better understand what it meant to dedicate one’s life to writing. Four were famous authors―Elizabeth Bishop, John Cheever, James Dickey, and Robert Fitzgerald. Two were unknown― Gioia’s Merchant Marine uncle and Ronald Perry, a forgotten poet. Each of the six essays provides a vivid portrait; taken together they tell the story of Gioia’s own journey from working-class L.A. to international literary success.

 PUBLICATION DATE: January 12, 2021

ISBN: 9781589881518


SIZE: 5 in. x 8 in.

FORMAT: Trade Paper

PAGES: 184 pp.

PRICE: $16.95

DISTRIBUTED BY: Consortium Books Sales & Distribution 800.283.3572 www.cbsd.com


Thanks to John for welcoming in 2021. As he wrote, I will be returning to Letters to Aunt Grace, sometime in the near future. Bishop would turn 110 on 8 February, were she alive -- with the pandemic still raging around the world, celebrations on this anniversary will have to be mostly virtual. The EBSNS has set a date for its 2021 AGM -- Saturday 19 June, in Great Village, N.S. Let us hope it can happen this year! Again, stay tuned and thanks for reading the blog.

Friday, January 1, 2021

WELCOME, 2021!

 It hardly seems possible that a decade has now passed since Nova Scotia marked Elizabeth Bishop's centenary year in 2011.  This year, as we continue to follow Sandra Barry's detailed presentation and explication of Bishop's correspondence with her Aunt Grace, we will also from time to time look back on some of the beautiful moments of the centennial celebration, filled as it was with the contributions and original works of so many writers, musicians, composers, artists, readers, scholars, and people from so many other walks of life.  

Welcome, 2021!  Come into the kitchen of EB House and have a cup of tea and a slice of cake with us, and then settle back for a nice long chat.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Happy Holidays

On the eve of the solstice and as the holidays approach, the EBSNS extends warmest best wishes to one and all. Few of us will be sorry to see 2020 end. Let us all hope that 2021 will be safer and better.

(Looking over the back field towards the river
from the verandah of the EB House. Photo by Brenda Barry)

(Looking through an upstairs window in the EB House
at St. James Church. Photo by Brenda Barry)

Wishing for peace and health for each of us and for the world. Blessings of the season.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Suzie LeBlanc appointed to new post

 EBSNS Honorary Patron Suzie LeBlanc is making history on the West Coast of Canada with Early Music Vancouver. Congratulations Suzie!!

(Suzie sitting in dining room of the Elizabeth Bishop House
in Great Village, N.S. Photo by Laurie Gunn.)


December 7, 2020 

Lauded Canadian Soprano and Early Music Specialist Suzie LeBlanc Appointed EMV Artistic and Executive Director

 LeBlanc becomes first female Artistic and Executive Director in EMV’s 50-year History

 Vancouver, BC - Early Music Vancouver (EMV), alongside its Board of Directors, today announced the appointment of Suzie LeBlanc C.M. as Artistic and Executive Director. LeBlanc is the first female to take the helm at EMV since its founding in May 1970. She will assume the role on January 4, 2021. 

A charismatic and tireless champion of early music and Acadian culture, LeBlanc is an internationally celebrated Canadian soprano, an early music specialist and educator who is admired by artists and administrators alike. Born in New Brunswick, but currently residing in Montreal, she has managed a globe-spanning career for 35 years, has served as Director of Cappella Antica at McGill University since 2018, and was the Founder and Artistic Director of Le Nouvel Opéra from 2005-2019. LeBlanc has been awarded four honorary doctorates for her immense contributions to music and music education, and was named a member of the Order of Canada in 2015. 

"I am tremendously excited to be joining an organization I have long admired - and with whom I have a deeply personal connection - having first performed with EMV in 1984. As I lead EMV in its next chapter, I approach this opportunity with great enthusiasm and a profound sense of responsibility,” says LeBlanc. “We are in an unprecedented time fraught with challenges, but also with great opportunity. I look forward to building on the strong foundations of EMV and its excellent reputation to create meaningful and inspiring experiences for performers and audiences alike. Throughout my career, it has been important to me to uncover the work of women composers and amplify undervalued voices in historical music.

Recently, it has been my pleasure to provide mentorship to young Indigenous artists working to include an Indigenous narrative within the early music community. I look forward to collaborating with like-minded artistic and community organizations in Vancouver to foster sustainability, diversity and inclusion.”

 LeBlanc brings with her artistic credibility and extensive accomplishments in organizational stewardship, mentorship, programming, and fundraising initiatives, coupled with key relationships across the local, national and international music sector.

 "At the conclusion of an extensive international search, it was clear to all involved that Ms. LeBlanc was the perfect leader to step into this demanding role at this extraordinary time in our collective history. Only the third individual to occupy the position in EMV's 50-year history, LeBlanc brings a wealth of unstoppable stamina, intellectual rigor, and inspired creativity to the role," says Fran Watters, EMV Board President. "Her appearances as a performer have consistently been some of our audience's most memorable concerts. We look forward to what we know will be equally memorable: her artistic vision, her programming initiatives, her sense of innovation, and her impact on the EMV community and beyond.” 

LeBlanc’s very first professional engagement was for Early Music Vancouver in 1984, performing with the Montreal-based Musica Secreta ensemble. She has performed on main stages throughout Europe (1987-1999) including Het Concertgebouw, De Nederlandse Opera, The Vienna Konzerthaus,Wigmore Hall, and the Proms in London. She has toured the globe with world leading Early Music ensembles and worked with conductors and collaborators Ton Koopman, Sigiswald Kuijken, Richard Egarr, John Toll, Emma Kirkby, Rachel Podger, and Stephen Stubbs. Returning to Montreal in 2000, she performed with major symphony orchestras on both sides of the border. Her 70 professional recordings have received international praise including a GRAMMY Award for Lully's Thésée, a CINI award (Italy) for the opera Orfeo by Sartorio, and an East Coast Music Award (ECMA) for Best Classical Recording of the album “I am in need of music”, set to the poetry of Pulitzer-Prize recipient Elizabeth Bishop.

In 2005, she founded the Montreal-based company Le Nouvel Opéra - alongside Alexander Weimann, also Artistic Director of Pacific Baroque Orchestra (PBO), who will become her collaborator once again through EMV. Le Nouvel Opéra produces baroque opera and contemporary works in its home city, as well as Vancouver and Berlin - and has recorded several albums. Under LeBlanc’s guidance, the organization possessed a strong education mandate, offering mentorship and running workshops via Lunenburg Academy of Music Performance, the Orford Art Center and Mount Allison University. LeBlanc has always been a devoted early music educator, currently serving on McGill University’s Faculty of Voice.

“I first got to know Suzie as a fan of her recordings and then had the honour of working with her on stage many times over the years. She is an internationally renowned artist who brings decades of experience working at the very top of the field of early music,” says Matthew White, former EMV Executive and Artistic Director, and current CEO with Victoria Symphony. “A uniquely creative and innovative thinker, I am confident that Suzie will help to further expand the definition of what encompasses historically informed performance practice and grow EMV’s audience and impact both regionally and internationally. I’m excited to see the ways in which Vancouver will be made richer by her contributions.”

LeBlanc succeeds Executive and Artistic Director Matthew White, who assumed the role in 2013 after the retirement of long-time Artistic Director José Verstappen and Managing Director Sarah Ballantyne.

LeBlanc will oversee the remainder of EMV’s 2020/21 Season, a series of professionally produced, pre-recorded concerts broadcast online via EMV’s Digital Concert Hall. 

About Early Music Vancouver (earlymusic.bc.ca)

Early Music Vancouver (EMV) has a long-standing international reputation for the presentation, production and study of classical and traditional repertoires using “historically informed performance practices.” Historically informed performance is based on two key aspects: the application of the stylistic and technical aspects of performance, known as performance practice; and the use of period instruments which may be reproductions of historical instruments that were in use at the time of the original composition.

EMV now offers the largest programme of its type in North America, presenting and producing an average of 50 to 60 concerts per year featuring internationally renowned local, regional, and guest artists. EMV has a Main Season that runs through the Fall, Winter, and Spring, as well as a growing annual summer festival that was rebranded as the Vancouver Bach Festival in 2016. In 2019, EMV began the Pacific Baroque Series in Victoria, BC. It also has substantial education and outreach programmes including the Baroque Orchestra Mentorship Programme and BC Scholarship Programme. Most recently, EMV launched its Passport Series, a series of concerts that explore the diversity of music from different musical cultures on different continents, in their unique historical context.




For further media information, contact

Laura Murray | C. 604.418.2998


 Angela Poon | C. 604.569.5343



Friday, November 27, 2020

Letters to Aunt Grace, Part 149: Houses, poems & more

After the two deeply personal family issues that comprise the bulk of Bishop’s 3 August 1963 letter to her aunt, she began a slow wind-down, still focused on various family and domestic matters. 

Grace had taken to heart Bishop’s query in a previous letter about possible houses available in Great Village and had sent along “information about the houses,” for which Bishop thanked her aunt. Bishop had already indicated to Grace that this desire for a house in Nova Scotia was “just a wild day-dream of mine,” reiterating it again. That said, Bishop thought “several of them sounded good,” good enough that she was “awfully tempted to write about them.” But concluded quickly, “it’s crazy.” She felt that one day she would “get back again,” and then she would “go there and look around.” She was especially interested in “the old Angus Fulmore house!” Her preference was for “something old, and with one of those heavenly peaceful views.” She also wanted “as much land as possible – I’d want a cow, some ducks! – and a pig or two.”

(Great Village from Hustler Hill, with St. James Church
in centre of view.)

As unlikely as it might be, Bishop still thought “it may happen yet” because they were “getting fed up with Brazil in many ways.” She couldn’t say “what will happen politically.” She was thankful to her aunt for sending the information, “it is nice to have those places to think about.” Indeed, she told Grace that she remembered “most of them, I think.” 

With only a dash for a pause, she then reported, “I have three N S poems on the fire now – and a new short one about the painting – IF it turns out all right,” revealing that indeed the receipt of the painting had instantly triggered not only the idea for but the actual start of “Poem.” 

As nice as all this poetry was, Bishop quickly noted that she was “too hard up again to be dreaming about real estate,” confessing that she had “dug into that fellowship that was supposed to be for travel only,” guessing “they’ll be lenient.” This fellowship was likely from the Chapelbrook Foundation. She was awarded one in 1960, so she had held onto it for some time. 

Then a quick gear shift to one of her perennial concerns: “What you say about Miriam sounds awfully good to me.” Bishop asked the child’s age (just over two) and editorialized, “In the world as I see it right now – rather gloomily, I’m afraid – being slightly retarded [“oh dear,” as Bishop was wont to say] won’t make the slightest difference.” In Bishop’s view, “no one will ever notice at all!” Indeed, she felt that Miriam “may even catch up, or be very good at one thing – who knows.” It must be remembered that it was 1963 and cultural views of people with learning and cognitive challenges were significantly different. Bishop’s unfortunate language and assessment was, sadly, the norm. She quickly added, “I’m sure Phyllis is a good ma.”

The remainder of the letter was a series of short paragraphs that flitted about various subjects. A brief commentary on the weather and seasons followed. It being August, Bishop wondered if it was “strawberry season” in Nova Scotia (a bit past by that point). In Brazil it was, of course, winter, one that hadn’t been cold, only “a few cold spells, but since we’ve been in Rio all the time we’ve scarcely noticed it.” Indeed, Bishop observed that she had “been swimming off and on all ‘winter’.” 

The next two-line paragraph asked, “What’s the matter with Hazel’s back?” meaning her cousin Hazel Bulmer Snow. Bishop then asked Grace to “remember me” to this cousin, “Aunt Mabel, wherever she is,” and also to “the Leightons [sic: Laytons] and Ruth Hill.” The latter was her mother’s best friend in childhood. 

Grace had told Bishop about a new “fur jacket,” which sounded “very swell,” to her niece. When Bishop had been last in New York, she wrote, “I borrowed a fur coat,” which “had been a beautiful one, but was falling apart.” She remembered that “once in a restaurant I threw it back over the chair and revealed two huge safety pins holding the sides together.” 

The penultimate paragraph shifted to her paternal side by observing that she had yet to hear “a word about Aunt Florence’s ‘estate’ – if any – for months.” When she had last heard, “in early June,” from her Bishop cousin Nancy, her “husband was very sick in the hospital.” Since then, “not a word.”  She reported to Grace that “they are all fighting … about whether what is left of the Bishop Co. should fold up or not.” She observed with no irony and much relief that she was “glad I’m far away,” and noted that she was “the only B[ishop] left,” scribbling in the margin, “(thank goodness).” 

The final paragraph quickly concluded with Bishop’s plan to “write lots of notes telling people why I haven’t written.” Elizabeth Naudin had passed on Aunt Mary’s observation that Grace was ‘looking awfully well” when they had seen each other. So, Bishop hoped that her beloved aunt was actually “feeling that way.” She urged Grace to “please write soon and repeat anything I should have known from the missing letter.” Concluding, as usual, with “Lots of love.” 

Bishop’s next letter, a substantial epistle, was not written until late September. The next post will begin to account for it. 

Click here to see Post 148.


Friday, November 20, 2020

Letters to Aunt Grace, Part 148: “Poem”

Bishop’s late July encounter with Elizabeth Naudin – which triggered her account of the tensions between them in her 3 August 1963 letter – had been prompted by a gift from Aunt Mary that Naudin was commissioned to deliver: “Mary sent me a little painting by Uncle George [Hutchinson] (I’m sure – It isn’t signed, but it must be).” This painting was none other than that which is now routinely called the “Poem” painting. Bishop was always open to receiving any and all family treasures that her aunts were willing to part with. The receipt of this special gift immediately triggered a response, the language of which formed a core of the poem she wrote years later: “tiny, a long shape – adorable – Do you remember it?” It is as if the poem was already starting to clarify, in proto-form: “it is really awfully good – just a little sketch.” Bishop acknowledged unequivocally: “I am crazy about it.” Then added more prescient poem phrasing: “I think it must be Nova Scotia – there is a brown house, the other white.” For Bishop it “looks like N S” because she had never seen “that kind of brown house anywhere else!” she was clearly thrilled, this painting cutting through all the frustration and disappointment she had felt because of her cousin’s behaviour. Bishop asked Grace: “Do you know anything about it?”

It must be remembered that this painting would have initially been in her grandparents’ home – a painting done by George W. Hutchinson perhaps in 1898 when he spent nearly a year in NS. The Bulmer family home, humble as it was, was filled with artwork done by GWH and Maude Shepherdson (as well as other painters – e.g., the portraits of Arthur and Gertrude that hung there were done by a now unknown itinerant painter). Bishop grew up looking at walls covered with this kind of creativity. Mary was not known for being generous, so that she passed on one of Hutchinson’s painting was, in a word, a big deal. Mary had inherited a number of Hutchinson paintings after Elizabeth Bulmer died in 1931. The person who ended up with most of them after Mary died was Elizabeth Naudin (which makes me wonder if she was a bit annoyed that her mother was giving away some of her family inheritance).

Bishop declared to her aunt: “I am awfully glad to have it.” And she noted that the only thing connected to George Hutchinson that she had was “that photograph of him and ‘dear Lily’ you sent me.” Lily was Lily Yerbury, Hutchinson’s second wife. Bishop knew something of Hutchison’s life, knew he had returned to Nova Scotia from England at some point. Scrawled in the left margin of the letter was another question: “Do you know what year G.H. was back in N.S.? – around 1900?” 

(George W. Hutchinson and Lily Yerbury Hutchinson,

circa 1920s. AUA.) 

Having this little painting made her want more: ‘I’m wondering if sometime I could have the one Aunt Maud [sic] used to have over the bookcase for so long.” This painting was also likely of Great Village: “a bigger, rectangular one – a stormy sky, trees, water, too – remember it?” She imagined that “Uncle George [Shepherdson] has it.” It was a painting she “always liked very much.” Though she wondered if George Shepherdson had “given it or promised it to someone else.” Quickly, she added, “I don’t want to be greedy – but I have nothing of his [GWH], (until M sent this one) nor of Aunt Maude’s.”

Shortly after this yearning, Bishop typed: “I wonder how Uncle George [Shepherdson] is?” Even after all the years that had passed, even after all the abuse she suffered from his hand, Bishop still wondered about this problematic relative. She thought “perhaps [Grace] said in the letter that got lost” how he was doing. In the end, Bishop simply labelled him, with some small degree of pity, if not sympathy, “poor old guy.”

Before she moved on to the next part of the letter, she reported to her aunt that while the Naudins were in Montreal for the family wedding, “they found out …. What was ailing little Patricia – cortisone taken the wrong way”. Bishop hoped that “maybe now she’ll be all right.” And then she told Grace that the Naudins were heading “to Porto Alegre to live, next week sometime.” She told her aunt that this “big city” was “south quite a way,” a place she had “never been,” and concluded, “perhaps a better climate for the baby.”

The next post will pick up the final subjects of this important letter, including more nostalgia for the North.

Click here to see Post 147.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Letters to Aunt Grace, Part 147: Family tensions

Bishop’s next paragraph in the 3 August 1963 letter broached a delicate family matter, but since Grace understood the context (or at least could probably guess it), Bishop was not explicit. Rather, she wrote around it, assuming her aunt understood. 

Bishop confirmed that she had a letter from Grace dated 15 August, “but oh dear the one before that must have got lost.” Bishop’s preoccupation with Lota’s operation and recovery may have been a factor in the lost thread – if the letter had been delivered at all (which is not clear). Bishop hated missing any of Grace’s letters. In that 15 July letter, her aunt had referred to “one in which you spoke about Suzanne” (that is, Elizabeth and Ray Naudin’s oldest child). This reference is what made Bishop realize that one of Grace’s letters had not reached her: “I didn’t get that [one].”

In her May letter to Grace, Bishop had expressed frustration with Elizabeth Naudin. Realizing that Grace had written about her cousin in the last letter made Bishop reflect: “I shouldn’t have said anything, I suppose, even to you.” That said, Bishop respected her aunt and noted that she still would have liked “to know what you think,” that is, she wanted to know what Grace had written about this subject. Sometimes the significant space-time between these exchanges created gaps that could not be bridged. 

Bishop then reported that her cousin “got back in the middle of my hospital stay and called up.” The Naudins had gone to Montreal to attend Joanne Ross’s wedding. Part of the reason Elizabeth Naudin had made contact was because Aunt Mary had sent Bishop something via her daughter (more about this something in the next post). Bishop told her aunt that she wasn’t able “to see her until two days ago.” 

Clearly, the reunion had not gone well, though Bishop does not give the details. All she was willing to share was her feelings, starting by observing that she had “a very high boiling point, you know.” The issues between these cousins had been on-going, Bishop reiterating that “it takes me a long time, years sometimes, to get really angry.” Her tolerance and patience and benefit of the doubt had run out, for some undisclosed reason. Bishop declared that she was now “ANGRY” to the point where she was “not going to see her again and that’s that.” When the high threshold was breached, Bishop noted “I’m afraid I stay that way.”

Grace would surely have wanted to know the details, but Bishop was wary of putting them on paper (and perhaps it was too complicated to explain). She said only that “when I see you I’ll tell you about it.” Even writing this much seemed too sensitive to Bishop, so she asked her aunt to “Please say nothing at all to Mary, naturally.” Bishop had already written Aunt Mary “a note, but said nothing.” Bishop concluded, about her own role in the matter, that she was “weak-minded, that’s all – one of my big troubles!” And ended the subject with “enough is enough.”

Bishop shook off that unpleasant report and for the rest of the letter focused on a range of subjects (all for the next posts). When she reached the end of the letter on the second page, however, she realized she was not quite done with the upsetting subject. She turned the second page upside down and typed a short paragraph about her cousin and their severing. First, she expressed her regret: “I’m awfully sorry about the E business.” She reported to Grace what her aunt likely knew, that the Naudins were “going away from Rio,” that is, moving; in the end, the distance meant “it will be all right.” Most importantly, it meant “Mary need never know.”

Bishop observed that this young cousin “has never really liked me, I feel, -- or something – maybe she doesn’t like anybody.” Something else had happened though, as Bishop then wrote with clear exasperation: “there are some things I just can’t take.” A hint of what might have caused tension from Elizabeth Naudin’s point of view is Bishop assuring her aunt that she “never once said anything critical to her – held my tongue always.” Bishop appreciated her cousin’s children and gently noted, “I did like seeing the little girls.” In the end, Bishop chalks up the division thus: “We have nothing in common, of course.” As Bishop’s letters to Grace reveal she “offered” frequent “invitations, introductions etc.” But her cousin “refused every” one of them, “always.”

Bishop’s benefit of the doubt had her think at one point that her cousin “might be timid – but no – I don’t think its that.” And then the final quick comment that perhaps was a direct clue to the source of the tension: “And he’s always been rude and aggressive – from the start.” That is, Ray Naudin.

(Thomas Travisano, Elizabeth Naudin, Phyllis Sutherland,
Sandra Barry, circa 2000. At Phyllis's home
in Balfron, N.S.)

Decades later, when I met Elizabeth and Ray Naudin, there was no hint of this tension. The Naudins seemed genuinely interested in their famous relative who was getting so much attention in the literary world. Certainly, with respect to her maternal family history, Elizabeth Naudin possessed a significant material part of it: a small gallery of George W. Hutchinson paintings, including “Large Bad Picture.” These paintings were inherited by the “little girls” after the Naudins died. All this said, I did learn from Phyllis Sutherland that the Naudins possessed a sense of their stature in the world, which didn’t always sit well with Phyllis. Well, this kind of dynamic happens in most families. What it says to me is that Bishop remained actively involved in family dynamics throughout her life, even when she was far away in Brazil and could easily have dispensed with it all.

The next post picks up the gift, an important gift, that Mary sent to Bishop.

Click here to see Post 146.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Letters to Aunt Grace, Part 146: Lota’s operation

Bishop’s 3 August 1963 letter to her aunt is a dense, two-pager, which will require several posts to work through. The subjects are primarily domestic and family, which means complicated. Even though her previous letter was written only a month before (about the average time between letters for Bishop), she noted that it felt “as if I hadn’t written you for a long time.” That feeling was, she determined, “because so much has been happening,” especially in the past two weeks: “Two weeks ago today Lota was operated on for an intestinal occlusion.” She had been discharged only “two days ago.” 

Bishop then offered Grace, a retired nurse, an account of the whole process, which started with “stomach upset.” Bishop observed that Lota had experienced this condition “once or twice lately, vomiting.” They chalked it up to her “being overtired” from all the busy, stressful work on the Rio park. The difference “this time” was “the vomiting didn’t stop.” She went for “X rays the 2nd day” and was “rushed off to the hospital.” This issue was serious, causing the indomitable Lota to be “fed intravenously,” which required “a tube in her poor nose for about eight days.” Bishop’s comment about this intervention: “Poor thing, it was tough.” All was well now: “she’s fine but naturally tired,” and was still sporting “a huge bundle of bandages” and “all the stiches in.”

(Lota on right, at a meeting about the park, early 1960s.)

Bishop had only praise for the hospital, which she described as “excellent and so were the doctors.” It was standard practice to “let someone – or want someone, called the ‘acompaniente’ – to stay – so I stayed, along with the nurse.” Bishop slept in the large room for “a week.” She conceded that the whole ordeal was “an awful scare for a few days.” 

One of her big tasks was “to keep ALL visitors away except me and one or two close friends.” And now that they were back home, at their apartment, this job became even more difficult: “Brazilians treat a sickness like a party – or like a wake.” It kept Bishop and the maid “running all day long fending off callers, serving hundreds of little coffees.” Or so it seemed to Bishop. And all this “getting rid of people” had to be done “tactfully.” 

After the ordeal, Bishop hoped that Lota would be “made to rest for a month.” Bishop reiterated that the cause of it all was “mostly because of overwork, I suspect.” But Lota was already gearing up again, as Bishop wrote, “yesterday she had her secretary here and dictated letters – oh dear.” 

Bishop noted that it had been a “good thing … it happened here instead of in New York – where it would have cost a fortune.” Then Bishop confessed to Grace that she “lied to her [Lota] for 24 hours or so (the Dr. said to),” telling her “she wasn’t going to have an operation.” But barely “half an hour” before the surgery, “the nun came in and asked her, ‘Daughter, do you believe in God?’” The “very anti-church” Lota replied, “More or less, sister.” Then she turned to Bishop and declared, “Well, you can’t fool me any longer, after that!” 

Bishop quickly observed that Lota “was very brave, -- I must say.” Scribbled in the left-hand margin next to this long paragraph, Bishop wrote: “9 people visited with me all through the operation! 2 ½ hrs.” 

They had some support from “our best friend, Mary Morse,” who came to Rio “from Petropolis with her two adopted babies.” Grace would have remembered Monica, who was “almost 3 now.” The second child was only “3 months.” Bishop’s word for these children: “darlings!” As much as she adored these babies, however, she observed to Grace: “I know what you mean about small children!” 

Adding them to the mix in the household when she “was tired from all the hospital business” was a challenge. Monica was active and just as Bishop “had barely got to sleep,” the child “was pounding at the door saying, ‘Open the door, Aunt Elizabeth – I want to say good-morning to the canary’.” Not to mention her “jumping up & down on top of” Bishop. As soon as Lota left the hospital, “Mary went to stay with friends.” Having them all together in the apartment “would be too much for an invalid.” 

After this dramatic and detailed account, Bishop quickly concluded, “all is fine now and everyone recovering.” 

The next subject Bishop broached concerned a stressful and delicate family matter. The next post will pick up this reveal. 

Click here to see Post 145.