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

Monday, March 8, 2010

FIRST ENCOUNTERS IV: How I first met Elizabeth Bishop, by Joy Laking

Many years ago I was driving along near Great Village and suddenly a very old fashioned Acadian Lines Bus came the other way. “Wow,” I thought, “I just can't believe the old buses they put on our route.” A day or two later, I heard through the grapevine that PBS was making a film on Elizabeth Bishop. I had never heard of Bishop. Being an avid reader, I was intrigued that I had lived in this area for ten years and nobody had mentioned her to me. I quickly found a copy of her poetry and prose. My three children were small and I thought I could read her short stories to them. All went well until I read “The Baptism” and the little girl dies of pneumonia. Quickly, I changed the ending, much as I always did with Cinderella. In my version of Cinderella, she meets the prince, they become friends and go off to University together. In my version of “The Baptism,” the little girl soon recovered.

Elizabeth Bishop's name kept popping up. I went into Truro one evening for a Bishop talk by Peter Sanger at the Truro Historical Society. There I also met Sandra Barry. Sandra is a wonderful woman who is so full of enthusiasm for EB that one can't help admiring her tenacity. Later, I was approached to support the Elizabeth Bishop Society. I happily donated one of my serigraphs called aptly “In the Village.” When the fundraising draw was held, Sandra Barry won the print (perhaps she bought all of the tickets). In any event, none of us could imagine a better winner.

"In the Village" by Joy Laking

Over the years, Elizabeth Bishop has gradually crept into my life. When I was on the board of Ship's Company Theatre, one of our summer plays was about Elizabeth Bishop's adult life, written by Donna Smyth. It was a powerful play with an amazing set, and I can still see “Bishop” swimming in real water towards the shore. Just prior to Jim and I going to South America last year, we had an Elizabeth Bishop scholar, visit the gallery from Brazil. This new friend put us in touch with another friend and we ended up with perfect accommodations in São Paulo.

Then last June, Jim and I went to breakfast on Saturday morning in Great Village as we always do. I was approached to be on the EB Society Board. I wanted to say, “No. I am on too many boards.” However, I gave it some thought and decided that working on the EB centenary is something that I have to support. And so jump right in I did. The centenary celebration is right on many different levels. Hopefully, most Nova Scotians will finally know who Elizabeth Bishop is. The centenary will also draw attention to the value of poetry and prose and encourage more creative folk to write. Our area of rural Nova Scotia is depressed because of declining population and declining jobs. Church closures and school closures are always being debated. The centenary will not permanently change the economic climate of this area but we are already filled with community pride as we work on this wonderful party celebrating Elizabeth Bishop's birth!!

[To view more of Joy's work please visit http://www.joylakinggallery.com/]

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