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

Thursday, September 30, 2010

In Which a Brief Hiatus Is Announced --

During the past week the final line of "Over 2000 Illustrations and a Complete Concordance" has acquired very practical and immediate new resonances for me, in connection with which I'll be having surgery on my right eye tomorrow afternoon. I expect to make a full and swift recovery, but it is not unlikely that our "Today in Bishop" feature will be having to take a vacation for the next few days.

Thank you for your indulgence. I'll be looking forward eagerly to getting back to my joy-filled task as soon as may be. Reading Elizabeth Bishop every morning before breakfast is an activity I can heartily recommend to everyone!

Monday, September 27, 2010


EB Projected: 100 Films about Elizabeth Bishop

Deadline: February 1, 2011

This is a call for short films or single-channel videos with a duration of between one and ten minutes about the poet Elizabeth Bishop's life, letters, landscape, thoughts, poetry, and dreams. She was a American Pulitzer prize winning poet who had deep family roots in Great Village, Nova Scotia, Canada.

The film festival, sponsored by the Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia and the Elizabeth Bishop Centenary Festival Committee, is part of the 2011 centenary celebrations of her birth, and will take place in August, 2011 in Great Village, Nova Scotia. We are currently planning a screening in Halifax, NS as well.

If you are interested in more information about Bishop, please have a look at the blog spot:


Eligibility: This call for entries is open to all professional artists. There is no submission fee. The EBSNS is presently applying for funding to pay screening fees and will keep all participants updated. In addition, there will be a "People's Choice" vote taken at each screening and the filmmaker whose film receives the most votes will receive a week retreat at the Elizabeth Bishop House in Great Village (travel and food not included).

For submissions please send:

  • A DVD or mini-dv tape (NTSC) labeled with the film title, the artist's name and the film's duration.
  • A brief synopsis of the film (50 words)
  • A brief bio about yourself (50 words)
  • Artist contact information, including email address and telephone number
  • A list of the Director, Producer, and participants
  • A list of where the film has been screened before and if it has won any awards, if applicable.

Please enclose a stamped self-addressed envelope if you would like your submission returned, otherwise it will become part of the EBSNS archives.

For overseas submissions, please write "For Cultural use only. No commercial value" on your mailing envelope.

We cannot accept responsibility for lost or damaged applications.

The postmarked deadline to receive submissions is February 1, 2011 and selected artists will be contacted via email by April, 2011.

For further enquiries please email lrdornan@nb.sympatico.ca

Submissions may be mailed to:
EB Projected
c/o LR Dornan
83 York St.,
Sackville, NB
E4L 4R6

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday Wonder Question V: Bishop and Wordsworth? Bishop and Washington Irving??

Many scholars have noted the role Wordsworth plays in Bishop's poetry, but I wonder if anyone of our readers hears the echo of "Tintern Abbey" that I do in "The Shampoo"? I have in mind the line "The shooting stars in your black hair," which for me brings to mind the phrase "the shooting lights / Of thy wild eyes" [lines 118-119 of "Tintern Abbey."] David Kalstone in Becoming a Poet discusses one of Robert Lowell's drafts in which Lowell writes:

One reads his "Dearest friend, my dear, dear friend,"
and weeps for Wordsworth, yes, and Dorothy --
All that dry, horselike, Viking energy --
How soldierly their Northumberland reserve
Defied the Walsung's incest! ... I will serve
England's true genius, I desire to bend
With humorous awe to love's contingency,

Yet cringe disloyally from their fierce joy --
Even Victoria in all her glory
is less Olympian. Poor Wordsworth's sorry
Lightning-rod figure and sublimity
Say little after forty... The marvelous boy,
Still (thirty) guides his sister to the sylvan Wye,
Mirrors the shooting lights in her wild eye!

Kalstone asks "Were Dorothy and William meant to be prototypes of the young Bishop and Lowell?" [p. 183] I think it more likely, on the basis of the echo I hear of "Tintern Abbey" in "The Shampoo," that Lowell had in mind Bishop as William and Lota Soares, (whom Bishop addresses as "dear friend," in her poem) as Dorothy.

Kalstone doesn't mention "The Shampoo" in his discussion of Lowell's draft. Neither does Henry Hart in his extended essay "Robert Lowell: the Politics of the Sublime," (Twentieth Century Literature, vol. 37, no. 1 (Spring, 1991), pp. 105-129). Hart's analysis (pp. 123-125) posits the same pairing as Kalstone's: "In this tangled psychodrama, Lowell casts himself as the egotistically sublime Wordsworth, characteristically aligns himself with the mad, despotic King George, and casts his friend as Wordsworth's adoring sister, Dorothy. While Lowell represents the imperial father, he acts as Bishop's brother. In either case, possible sexual relations smack of incest." [p. 123] Hart goes on to assign to Bishop the words in Lowell's draft that begin "I will serve England's true genius," but it seems more plausible to me that it is Lowell himself (or his persona) who is speaking here.

* * *

A great deal more fancifully, I wonder, too, if Bishop's conjunction of "precipitate and pragmatical" draws upon the following passage from Washington Irving's The Art of Book-Making in which the two words are, it is true, somewhat more distant the one from the other, but in which, too, the mention of the frizzled and then grizzled wig might have been irresistible as a private subtext:

"But the personage that most struck my attention was a pragmatical old gentleman in clerical robes, with a remarkably large and square but bald head. He entered the room wheezing and puffing, elbowed his way through the throng with a look of sturdy self-confidence, and, having laid hands upon a thick Greek quarto, clapped it upon his head, and swept majestically away in a formidable frizzled wig.

"In the height of this literary masquerade, a cry suddenly resounded from every side, of "Thieves! thieves!" I looked, and lo! the portraits about the walls became animated! The old authors thrust out, first a head, then a shoulder, from the canvas, looked down curiously for an instant upon the motley throng, and then descended, with fury in their eyes, to claim their rifled property. The scene of scampering and hubbub that ensued baffles all description. The unhappy culprits endeavored in vain to escape with their plunder. On one side might be seen half a dozen old monks, stripping a modern professor; on another, there was sad devastation carried into the ranks of modern dramatic writers. Beaumont and Fletcher, side by side, raged round the field like Castor and Pollux, and sturdy Ben Jonson enacted more wonders than when a volunteer with the army in Flanders. As to the dapper little compiler of farragos mentioned some time since, he had arrayed himself in as many patches and colors as harlequin, and there was as fierce a contention of claimants about him, as about the dead body of Patroclus. I was grieved to see many men, to whom I had been accustomed to look up with awe and reverence, fain to steal off with scarce a rag to cover their nakedness. Just then my eye was caught by the pragmatical old gentleman in the Greek grizzled wig, who was scrambling away in sore affright with half a score of authors in full cry after him. They were close upon his haunches; in a twinkling off went his wig; at every turn some strip of raiment was peeled away, until in a few moments, from his domineering pomp, he shrunk into a little, pursy, "chopp'd bald shot," and made his exit with only a few tags and rags fluttering at his back.

"There was something so ludicrous in the catastrophe of this learned Theban that I burst into an immoderate fit of laughter, which broke the whole illusion. The tumult and the scuffle were at an end. The chamber resumed its usual appearance. The old authors shrunk back into their picture-frames, and hung in shadowy solemnity along the walls. In short, I found myself wide awake in my corner, with the whole assemblage of bookworms gazing at me with astonishment. Nothing of the dream had been real but my burst of laughter, a sound never before heard in that grave sanctuary, and so abhorrent to the ears of wisdom, as to electrify the fraternity.

"The librarian now stepped up to me, and demanded whether I had a card of admission. At first I did not comprehend him, but I soon found that the library was a kind of literary "preserve," subject to game-laws, and that no one must presume to hunt there without special license and permission. In a word, I stood convicted of being an arrant poacher, and was glad to make a precipitate retreat, lest I should have a whole pack of authors let loose upon me."

I suppose this is going rather too far...

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Successful launch of Elizabeth Bishop Centenary Writing Competition, 2011

The Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia wishes to extend a heartfelt thank you to all those who participated in and attended the launches of “In the Village”: The Elizabeth Bishop Centenary Writing Competition, 2011.

Two lively gatherings were held, one at the Elizabeth Bishop House in Great Village, N.S. (Wednesday 22 September 2010) and one at the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia in Halifax, N.S. (Thursday 23 September 2010). The enthusiasm expressed and shared by all those who gathered helped to send this activity off into the world with the right tone.

The Writing Competition officially opened on 15 September 2010 and will close on 15 March 2011. For all the information about the competition (including entry form and guidelines) see the Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia website.

We thought that you might like to see a couple photographs taken at the launches.

Launch at EB House, Great Village, N.S. Left to right: Claire Miller, Karen Casey, Paul Zann (photo courtesy of Donez Xiques)

Launch at EB House, Great Village, N.S. Left to right: Rosaria Campbell, Joy Graham, Laurie Gunn, Creston Rudolph (Photo courtesy of Donez Xiques)

Launch at Writers' Federation of Nova Scotia, Halifax, N.S. Left to right: Claire Miller, John Barnstead, Lenore Zann, Joy Laking, Binnie Brennan, Sandra Barry. The image between Lenore and Joy is "In the Village," the serigraph by Joy Laking that is 1st Prize in the Writing Competition. (Photo courtesy of Laurie Gunn)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

"In the Village": The Elizabeth Bishop Centenary Writing Competition, 2011 -- Launch

The Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia
officially launches
“In the Village”: The Elizabeth Bishop Centenary Writing Competition, 2011

Date: September 22, 2010
Time: 3:30 p.m.
Place: Elizabeth Bishop House, 8740 Great Village, N.S.
Date: September 23, 2010
Time: 3:30 p.m.
Place: Writers Federation of Nova Scotia, 1113 Marginal Rd., Halifax, N.S.



“I was five. My grandmother had already taught me to write on a slate my name and my family’s names and the names of the dog and the two cats. Earlier she had taught me my letters, and at first I could not get past the letter g, which for some time I felt was far enough to go. My alphabet made a satisfying short song, and I didn’t want to spoil it…. By the time school started, I could read almost all my primer, printed in both handwriting and type, and I loved every word. First, a frontispiece, it had the flag in full color, with ‘One Flag, One King, One Crown’ under it. I colored in the black-and-white illustrations that looked old-fashioned, even to me, using mostly red and green crayons.”

[from Elizabeth Bishop, “Primer Class,” The Collected Prose, New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1984.]

Photograph by Laurie Gunn

Learning to read and write is arguably the single most important primary education for any writer. Elizabeth Bishop had a particularly vivid recollection of the process which brought her to this uniquely human accomplishment. Her earliest memories of learning to read and write are set in her maternal grandmother’s kitchen, her childhood home in Great Village, Nova Scotia, quickly followed by her first formal pedagogical experience at the Great Village School. Both buildings still stand and continue to foster the language and literary arts.


The Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia’s mission is to raise awareness of Elizabeth Bishop’s connection with Nova Scotia, and to encourage young people to read Bishop’s work. Part of the vision of the Elizabeth Bishop Centenary celebrations in Nova Scotia is not only to mark this important anniversary and honour Elizabeth Bishop’s life and art and continuing legacy, but also to encourage Nova Scotian artists of all ages and disciplines to pay tribute to Bishop with the creation of new work.

As the EBSNS discussed what projects it would sponsor to mark Elizabeth Bishop’s 100th birthday, a writing competition, with a focus on Nova Scotia students from Elementary to Senior High, quickly became the first choice. The society felt a writing competition was an appropriate way to fulfill its mission and the centenary’s vision to bring more young people to Bishop’s poetry and stories and foster creativity and artistic excellence.



You are invited to join us on 22 and 23 September in Great Village and Halifax to help us launch this exciting EB100 event.

There will be special guests and a chance to talk with EBSNS members about the competition and all the other Elizabeth Bishop Centenary events being planned for 2011.

Photograph by Laurie Gunn



“In the Village”: The Elizabeth Bishop Centenary Writing Competition opens for submissions on 15 September 2010 and closes on 15 March 2011. Winners will be announced in June 2011 and awards will be presented at an Arts Festival to take place in Great Village, 19-21 August 2011. Stay tuned for exciting announements about this festival!

Much more information, including Guidelines and Entry Form, about the writing competition can be found can be found on the EBSNS website: www.elizabethbishopns.org – click on the “Writing Competition” link in the menu. Also on the website, you can listen to Halifax storyteller Claire Miller read Elizabeth Bishop’s story “In the Village” (click the audio file link provided on this page).

Photograph by Laurie Gunn


The EBSNS will also be making a preliminary annoucment about “In the Village”: The Elizabeth Bishop Centenary Arts Festival, 19-21 August 2011. An exciting line up of writers and musicians will be attending and performing at the festival. So come and learn what else is in store for the EB100 celebrations!!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Nova Scotia Connections: Commemoration

The first act of public commemoration of Elizabeth Bishop in Nova Scotia occurred, if my memory serves me, in the summer 1992. The Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia was formed in 1994, so it was essentially the people of Great Village, along with some scholars, academics and writers (myself included), who got together and decided to put up a marker of some kind acknowledging Bishop’s connection to her childhood home. (The idea of forming the EBSNS was being discussed by a number of individuals as early as 1992, but it was nearly two years later when the society came into existence – I’ve been looking at the incorporation papers for the EBSNS and it became official in April of 1994 – where has the time gone?)

I remember attending quite a few meetings and having lots of discussions with people in Great Village, but I do not remember the specific moment when the choice of the type of commemoration was made. It was decided to erect a bronze plaque with her name and dates and a line from her poetry. I do not want to take more credit than is due (the process was a group effort all the way), but I think it was me who brought forward the line from “Crusoe in England”: “Home-made, home-made! But aren’t we all?”

The committee that had been formed decided that the plaque should be cast at the Lunenburg Foundry, in Lunenburg, N.S., a storied business that has been in existence for decades, and was involved in casting hardware for our famous schooner, Bluenose, as well as for the replica, Bluenose II.

I would have to go back to the old files to find out who designed the plaque – a company in Halifax – and they arranged for the casting. I am not sure who suggested St. James Church as the site for the plaque. At that time, the owner of Elizabeth Bishop’s childhood home was an elderly woman named Hazel Bowers, so placing the plaque there was not an option. Besides, we all wanted it to be completely accessible to the public. The church seemed an obvious choice, situated as it is right next to the EB House and smack in the middle of the village. The church was a site of great significance for Bishop, so much so that she turned it into a powerful iconic image in her writing.

The unveiling of the plaque was a day of celebration and drew quite a few people to the village. We had put together an exhibit of the wonderful Bulmer family material which is now at Acadia University (see the permanent link to the digital archive of this material on this blog) – at that time, the collection was still in Bishop’s maternal family’s hands.

Photograph by Laurie Gunn

The plaque is still on the church – there are now other public commemorations of Bishop (a few years ago the EBSNS erected two large panels about Bishop which are displayed in the summer on a beautiful pergola structure by the Great Village River – see the EBSNS website for a closer look at the panels, which are digitally reproduced there).

Public commemoration can be a controversial activity – we all have our ideas of what is important and what should be acknowledged. Commemoration in Nova Scotia tends to focus on history, and usually political, military and economic history. Being a historian, I don’t object to this kind of commemoration, but rarely do we honour our artists in such permanent public ways. Somehow, in 1992, a group of people from Great Village and from around the province in general recognized the importance of Great Village and Nova Scotia to Elizabeth Bishop, recognized the importance of Elizabeth Bishop to Nova Scotia, and recognized the importance of poets and poetry in our lives (historically, culturally and personally) and decided to make a statement about this importance in a quiet but definite way. Bronze is remarkably enduring.

We will be commemorating Elizabeth Bishop in many ways in 2011, marking her centenary and marking her continuing influence in the world today. As we embark on this year-long celebration, I wanted to remember this initial act of commemoration because it was genuine and farsighted.

Monday, September 6, 2010

First Encounter XXVIII: In the Village, by Cathy Fynn

I learned about Elizabeth Bishop from a writer friend who had spent a week at the house in Great Village. I assumed it was a sort of halfway house for writers – a place to kick start the writing habit. I was ripe for rehabilitation, having been hooked on trying to write the same story for 20 years.

I met with Sandra Barry at the Bridge Street CafĂ© in Sackville. Over a 2-cup pot of Earl Grey, Elizabeth Bishop came to life. How had I missed such poetry? Where had Elizabeth (and Sandra) been all my life? (I’m sure every EB newbie says this.)

Now I was really excited, and intimidated. I hadn’t had a poem published since mom sent my 27 stanzas of rhyming couplets about the Kennedy assassination to the Telegraph Journal. It got rave reviews, but that was 1963 and I was 8 years old.

And did I mention that I was afraid of being alone in a strange house? Having grown up with eight siblings, many of us sleeping in the same bed, I never got used to sleeping solo (which did get me into trouble growing up, but that’s another story).

EB was an astonishing poet, but she was also a Maritimer. She would have understood my reticence (and my preoccupation with place) and welcomed me graciously. So I pack up my MacBook and a package of index cards and head east.

Forty-five minutes later, I’m standing in the driveway, feeling like an interloper. The man staring at me from the service station across the street doesn’t help. Now he’s walking towards me, wild hair flying out from under his ball cap. I jump in my car and lock the door. (I know, I really ought to get out more.)

He knocks on my window. “I’m Rick. Do you want me to mow the lawn?” I resume breathing. Rick is looking for odd jobs, assuming that I was a caretaker of the house. He tells me about the community, the history of the place, and introduces me to the two guinea hens, known as the village idiots.

Priding myself on surviving the first crisis, I pick some tulips from a bed along the verandah and go in to make tea. I fall instantly in love (with the house – the tea isn’t bad either). I immerse myself in the shelves of books by and about Elizabeth Bishop. My writing can wait; this is real treasure.

I stop reading at midnight and vow to start my writing in the morning. I spread out my index cards on the dining room table and climb the steep, shallow stairs. I go directly to the big bedroom at the end of the house, glancing sideways into EB’s room, half-expecting her to be sitting up in bed reading under her skylight.

For some reason, I’m not afraid at all. The house hums, the furnace grunts and I settle into an easy sleep.

The next day I make an obligatory visit to the antique store behind the house. (When one is faced with a pile of blank of index cards and a three-story barn of old things, there really isn’t a choice.) In one of the back rooms, a 1940’s chiffon wedding gown hangs in the corner.

A man about my age (I think everyone is my age and my height) is bent over a glass cabinet of military medals. “Do you think that will fit me?” I ask him, nodding at the dress. Absurd question. He replies: “Planning on getting married are you?” Fair question. “No, I’ve already done that twice.” “Well,” he says, “Then you’re all practiced up.” He winks and I take the dress.

As I get out my credit card, I ask the storeowner about the gown (he’s definitely younger than I am.) “Things come and go here,” he says, “but I think it’s from Schubenacadie. Yeah, I remember now. This gown was never worn. The lady’s fiancĂ© was drowned and she never married. Never left the house again.”

Back to the house to stare down my demons. My mother also suffered from mental illness when I was a child. And although I didn’t lose her, she was lost most of the time – hospitalized, drugged or depressed. Maybe that’s why I kept going over the same story – trying to find some clue I missed that could have changed things.

In this house I don’t sense any of the desperation, fear or loneliness that Elizabeth must have experienced – none of the detached, other-worldliness of her poetry. I imagine the horror of her mother’s scream but there is no echo of it in the walls. Perhaps even houses have selective memories.

By the end of my stay I have become unstuck – learned to separate the life from the story. The life may be sad, but the story can be good, the writing rich and resonant. Elizabeth Bishop is a testament to triumphing over ‘tiny tragedies’.

By the way, the wedding dress fits (well, close enough). I went back to the antique store to thank the gentleman of the military medals for his help. His name is Walter Millen, or Water Melon as his friends call him. He said he would perform the ceremony, but I think both the dress and I are happy with where we’ve landed.

Cathy Fynn is a writer who lives in Sackville, New Brunswick.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Nova Scotia Connections -- Picture Worth A Thousand Words

During her life, Elizabeth Bishop had photographic portraits done by a number of well-known photographers: Josef Breitenbach, George Platt Lynes and Rollie McKenna, to name just a few. For someone as shy, reticent and private as Elizabeth Bishop, there are a remarkable number of photographs of her at every stage of her life, including from her childhood.

Indeed, Elizabeth Bishop’s family started to record her life in this visual medium almost from birth. Two of the earliest photographs of Bishop are found at Acadia University Archives — AUA has a large collection of Bishop’s family material which it has digitized; to see this collection go to the permanent links section of this blog and click on “Elizabeth Bishop’s Nova Scotia Family at Acadia University.”

One of the things immediately apparent when one looks at this family material is not only how many photographs there are (hundreds), but how vast the range of years of their creation. This family material (officially called “The Bulmer-Bowers-Hutchinson-Sutherland family fonds,” which is a list of the names of the creators and custodians of this material) begins in the mid-1800s with early ferrotype/tintype photos of Elizabeth Bishop’s maternal ancestors. The formats for the photographic images range from Victorian carte-de-visites, postcards, and early film prints and extend right up to those dreadful instant polaroid snapshots from the 1970s and 1980s, the ones that developed right before your eyes. What one sees when looking at this family material is a sort of history of photography in microcosm.

Bishop’s maternal family members clearly enjoyed having their picture taken. They not only sat for many studio portraits throughout their lives, they also were avid amateur photographers, recording their own daily lives in ways that are rather remarkable. Photography was an established technology by the 1910s and 1920s, but cameras were not as ubiquitous as they are today (and there was no such thing as Facebook!). However, the Bulmer family devoted a good deal of time recording themselves on film.

Elizabeth Bishop was born into a family quite serious about pictures. The first images of her that I mention above were essentially snapshots, not professional studio portraits. As far as we can tell, these pictures were taken only a few weeks after she was born, taken by her own parents. But, as a baby she was also the subject of formal portraits. The first such portraits were taken in Worcester, MA. When Bishop came to live in Nova Scotia in 1915, her maternal family also arranged to have her portrait done, in Truro, N.S. (near Great Village, the largest town in the county). The photographer that the family chose to do the portrait was a fascinating man named J.E. Sponagle.

As a young man, Sponagle had gone off to the American mid-west where he attended the Guerin School of Photography in St. Louis, Missouri. Fitz W. Guerin is still a controversial figure in the history of photography – having produced elaborate genre-photographs which today seem heavily Victorian, filled with drama and bathos and innocent erotica. Just what a young boy from Nova Scotia took away from his experience with Guerin might be a mystery, but Sponagle came back a dedicated photographer. He returned home and set up Sponagle’s Studio in Truro, which he operated for 50 years. He became one of the most respected and “best-known” citizens of the town, involved in all manner of community activity. His photographic archive, a good deal of which is found at the Colchester Historical Society Museum in Truro, is said to be “a pictoral history of the person and events of twentieth century Truro.” Sponagle died in a car accident in 1961 at the age of 78.

J.E. Sponagle (Courtesy of Colchester Historical Society Museum)

According to his obituary, one of Sponagle’s “earliest subjects was the famous Col. William ‘Buffalo Bill’ Coady,” who was a friend of Fitz Guerin. Well, another of his early subjects was the famous poet Elizabeth Bishop, long before she was a poet or famous. (I wonder what she would have thought about being in Coady’s company.)

Sponagle had a way with his young subject, something clear from the charming portrait of Bishop he created around 1916, when she was five. He would not have been long home from his Missouri sojourn when he took this photograph, a young man just starting to establish himself as a respected artist and businessman.

Elizabeth Bishop by J.E. Sponagle, 1916

The five year old Bishop was already very familiar with cameras. As she grew, she herself became interested in taking her own pictures (she and her Vassar classmates were know to experiment with photography in the 1930s; she often sent photographs of Brazil to her aunt and cousin in Nova Scotia during the 1950s; there is a delightful photograph of her holding her camera, taken by Ashley Brown in 1965 in Salvador, Brazil). She wasn’t always happy with the photographic portraits done of her, even by well-known photographers, but, like her family, she knew that having her picture taken was expected and necessary – it was an old, established practice, something most of us submit to with varying degrees of acceptance.

I wonder what J.E. Sponagle would think if he knew that the little girl who sat for him in his studio in 1916 became a world-famous writer, that by capturing this image of Bishop at such a tender age, he was helping to hold onto her for posterity. The old saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” does have validity – what this portrait of Bishop means might very well be different for each person who looks at it. Someone recently said to me that in Bishop’s poems she is observing so acutely, embodying observation so accurately, that it is as if her poems themselves are staring back you. I thought this observation most profound.

In the photographs of Bishop still in existence, like this delightful and expressive image, we have a chance to look directly into her eyes – sort of – and wonder about what we see there, and what she sees, as her direct gaze looks back out at us.