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

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

An Apology

"Don't blame you, don't blame me, blame that man behind the tree," to paraphrase the late Governor Huey B. Long of Louisiana...

"The mail-boxes are never collected so one has to go to the Post Office; and there there are glue-machines which are frequently incopacitated by their own glue so that one gives up and goes to the woman who runs a stamping-machine, even if the stamps are much nicer... I don't believe I've made that at all clear, but you'll be able to gather that mailing a letter here is quite an undertaking and actually what I do most of the time is hand my letters over once a week here to a friend who is going to Rio to mail them for me."

[from a letter to Marianne Moore, written (if not mailed) from Samambaia, Petropolis, Brazil, March 3, 1952 -- history does not record (apparently) when it arrived in Brooklyn...]

Sandra will have apprised this establishment's patrons of the various and sundry Technical Difficulties (tm)-- actually not sun-dry at all but fairly damp, only occasionally exposed to the sun at all, in fact, since the weather in southern Indiana has been unseasonably chock-a-block with thunderstorm and flood this spring -- which have assailed your humble servant during his sojourn amongst our Neighbours to the Southwest (tm). My experiences with the local phone company, the local internet service provider, my modem manufacturer, the folks who hold the second mortgage on my laptop, and the all-too-numerous additional personages requiring arcane rites of propitiation and self-abasement before they will even point an accusatory finger at the next potentially-responsible party on my list would make the corrupt politicians in the classic depiction of Tammany Hall which opens this post seem like innocent children playing ring-around-the-rosey by comparison. I take comfort in the thought that Bishop, too, often experienced analogous difficulties trying to communicate with "the outside world" during her travels.

Be that as may be, I have forwarded a partial collection of "This Day in Bishop" materials for May to Sandra, who will post them as circumstances permit while I am drawing water and hewing stone in the wilds of the Hoosier State. My mother and I do make occasional pilgrimages thirty or forty miles to the south, to the University of Evansville, and on those occasions I will avail myself of the hospitality of that gracious institution to post additional reflections on Bishop's work.

Thank you all for your forbearance.

Best wishes,

John Barnstead

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