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

Monday, March 29, 2010


My first encounter with Elizabeth Bishop took place when I was a high school student in New Jersey, either in Oscar Williams’ A Pocket Book of Modern Verse, or the Caedmon LP which included her reading of “The Fish.” The Williams anthology, a tiny well-packed book whose green cover was dotted with miniscule photographs or paintings of the poets represented, was a lovingly assembled book, one which made it possible to plunge in at random and find something irresistible. As for the recording, what I remember is that her gentle, straightforward, unostentatious reading – the very opposite of Dylan Thomas! – made the triple rainbow at the end so moving, powerful and expressive, filling the room the way they fill the boat.

My encounter with Bishop must coincide with my first visits to Nova Scotia – our family vacationed in Petite Rivière, in the summers of 1961 and 1962, and I am certain that the Williams anthology accompanied me on these trips. I wish I could say that I made the connection of place and poet then, but this does not seem to be the case. However, Nova Scotia imprinted itself on me powerfully. Six years later I dodged the American military draft, and in 1970 my parents bought a cabin by the ocean in West Jeddore, as a place where the whole family could be together. This is where my wife Jocelyne and I live now. The intensity of my first impressions of Nova Scotia remains with me, raising the question: did Bishop set me up for Nova Scotia, or did Nova Scotia set me up for Bishop?

[To learn more about composer John Plant and his work, please visit his website.]

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