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

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Readers Respond to ECHOES OF ELIZABETH BISHOP -- Part Four

In June 2013, the EBSNS launched Echoes of Elizabeth Bishop: The Elizabeth Bishop Centenary (2011) Writing Competition. The editors have asked a some of our readers to provide a comment, a personal response, to the collection. We will post them over the next few weeks. We hope these readers’ responses will tempt you to buy a copy for your own library. It also makes a wonderful Christmas gift!

You find out more about Echoes on the EBSNS website:

You can purchase online at: http://www.elizabethbishopns.org/publications.html or at Bookmark, on Spring Garden Road in Halifax, N.S.

Response from Mary Ellen Sullivan
When editor Sandra Barry handed me my copy of Echos of Elizabeth Bishop I thought -- what a beautiful book! It is so fitting that the tangible part of this book is a creation of Gaspereau Press, in their classic, ageless style. It is something you handle with care, a structure that does justice to the art work and prose pieces contained in it.

I immediately went to page twenty-five “Wallace by the Sea” by Maria Duynisveld.  Last year, at age eleven, Maria sent me her poem “Summer Haze” a beautiful love poem about her farm. “Wallace by the Sea” is equally lovely, an expression of her love for the land and sea and the people who work them. Her story about lobster fishing with Gramps and her brother John Burns is gentle, observant and vivid in imagery. She describes the experience and her relationship with her brother with twists of humour.  Maria’s use of exclamation marks emphasizes her delight and sense of wonder. They signify to the reader just how pivotal this experience is to her.

Co-contributor Anne Pollett, in “The Three Bookmarks,” refers to “the monotony of the task” as a reflective and creative opportunity.  Similarly, Maria speaks of lobster fishing: “Some people might think it’s boring…”  But not Maria it’s a window into something deeper.

People say that the taste of wine, the ‘minerality’, is dependent on the type of rock the grapevines grow on. I think of the skillful simplicity of images and the precision of memory in Elizabeth Bishop’s poetry and prose, where ‘chores’ become wondrous.  I wonder what type of rock lies under Wallace Bay, whether it’s the same type of rock that Elizabeth Bishop stood on in Great Village.  There is certainly an echo, a flavour of Elizabeth’s voice in Maria’s writing

Maria and Mary Ellen, with Maria's dad and brother, Halifax 2012
 The experience of growing up on a farm has greatly shaped and influenced Mary Ellen Sullivan’s writing.  She has no doubt that the natural and social landscape that Elizabeth Bishop loved as a child was the foundation of her writing career. Mary Ellen is the ‘Open Heart Farming’ poetry harvester. She is a member of the EBSNS.

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