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

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Letters to Aunt Grace, Part 89: Jet-pilots and Superman

The final paragraph of Bishop’s letter of 12 August 1961 began with one more complaint about the postal service (something that resonates quite strongly here right now with the dispute between Canada Post and CUPW, its union). She noted to her aunt that “the mails are AWFUL — getting worse all the time.” She reported that “50,000 letter[s] were found hidden in an abandoned house in Rio —  & more on a garbage dump.” Well, things aren’t that bad in Canada!! But the backlog of packages from the surge of online shopping ahead of Christmas is causing great headaches and frustrations on all sides.

Remember that Bishop had made a carbon copy of the letter she was writing, and was intending to send them both. She wrote: “I’ll put the check in this one,” and if Grace got “the copy only, I’ll send another check.” Even the insurance was not much of a guarantee.

Bishop then passed on Lota’s “love and sympathy” and reported that “she is off to Petrópolis … to pay the bills.” Then another update on Elizabeth Naudin, whom Bishop had not seen “for ten days or so,” but she would see her “next week.” Bishop then asked: “Do you know when Mary is coming?” and urged Grace not to “go to Montreal [where Mary lived] unless you really feel up to it.” Grace had mentioned something about Miriam, prompting Bishop to ask for clarification (“What’s the matter…?”). And then she quickly concluded with, “I must get back to the grind” of the Brazil book, sending “lots of love” and noting “I think of you all the time — dreamed about you last night.”

The next day, Sunday, 13 August, Bishop added a postscript. She reported that “a jet-pilot” she had recently met and who was going to New York, had offered to take her letter and mail it in the US “on Monday or Tuesday” — a kind and fast courier (early Fedex!). It was “much safer” stateside, so she had decided not “to send the carbon.” This saviour came in for a nice description: “The pilot is amazing — looks just like Superman!” (By the way, Superman was the co-creation of an American andCanadian.)

After this clarification, Bishop turned to the idea of seeing Grace when she went to the US later in the year to work on the Brazil book. She wondered: “Maybe you’d rather meet me for a day or two in Boston.” But then she wondered if that might be “too far.” If Grace was going to Montreal, that was a possibility. All of this was wishful thinking and speculation, so Bishop returned to “well, let’s wait and see.” It would depend on many things, not the least of which were “how you feel, where you are, and when I get there,” that timing was not yet set.

Bishop reiterated, “I do want to see you this trip.” Elizabeth Naudin had mentioned the possibility of Grace “coming here,” which worried Bishop: “Much as I’d love to show you around, etc — I can’t honestly recommend it unless you are feeling absolutely well and tough — and unless I’m here, too!” She cautioned that “the city will be very hot by then.” As it was, she was concerned that “Mary & family” might catch “something — or other, as it is.” She reiterated that “unless one feels up to travelling around I don’t think it is worth the trip.” And noted that “travelling around is so complicated here.” She told her aunt that she was “supposed to go to some places for this book.” Her plane fare would be paid for such research trips, but as much as Bishop wanted to go to these places, she confessed: “I am scared of planes, particularly Brazilian planes.” Besides, she didn’t “see how I’m going to have time,” because “I write so slowly.”

Nothing about these plans were firm on either end, so Bishop concluded this postscript by urging Grace to “please let me know how you’re feeling.” She wondered if her aunt would be “staying with Phyllis for a while?” Something I’m sure she thought would be a good thing. She also had somehow learned that Aunt Mabel had “apparently … never got that letter I wrote her so long ago now.” She told her aunt that “sometime I’ll write another” and asked: “has she cheered up?”

The next letter was just two weeks later, 26 August 1961. The next post will begin to tackle this quite long epistle.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Poetry workshop at the Elizabeth Bishop House

On Saturday 17 November, Nova Scotia poet and teacher Deborah Banks offered a poetry workshop at the Elizabeth Bishop House. Here is a photo of the participants in the dining room. I am not sure who everyone is, but Deborah is third from the right.
(Photo by Laurie Gunn.)
As a former owner of the EB House, I am deeply grateful to all those who have taken care of it since we had to sell almost three years ago. I especially want to thank Laurie Gunn and the St. James Church of Great Village Preservation Society for its stewardship. It is fantastic to know so many artists are staying there again and readings/workshops and other gatherings are happening there. Laurie reports that there are still a few slots left for residencies in January 2019. The EB House has a Facebook page, so you can make contact with Laurie through it. Thanks Laurie for all you do.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Letters to Aunt Grace, Part 88: Getting to Nova Scotia

Bishop’s next letter to Grace was a two-parter dated 12-13 August. “because of Lota’s job — and mine (more later),” Bishop told her aunt that they had been “in Rio most of the time now.” As a result, they got mail only when they went to the mountains on the weekends, “or when someone brings it to us.” That was the case in this instance, when “a friend brought a big batch,” in which was Grace’s letter dated 26 July, written on the same day of Bishop’s last to her aunt. Grace had written this most recent letter “from the Hospital,” which meant she was still dealing with the aftermath of the operation. This news upset Bishop: “I am so damned sorry to hear you have had such a bad time.” She realized all the more how “brave” her aunt was. Bishop wondered if Grace had received her own 26 July letter, which responded to the news that Grace needed to have surgery: “I bet you didn’t.” Her solution to the unreliability of the mails was to make “a carbon of this and will mail two of them…,” separately.

It is nigh impossible for us in this day of instant, electronic communication to grasp the space-time involved in this correspondence. Keeping track of the back and forth, with the press of daily life intervening, was a challenge at best. But Bishop’s deep connection with Grace made her keen to stay in touch regardless of the frustrations. All this space-time also meant repetition, to ensure news got conveyed and also because Bishop would forget what she had written, as we all would — she didn’t keep copies of her personal correspondence, and even when she did, it was to doubly ensure receipt at the other end. Letter writing was not a simple act on any level. Grace did indeed get Bishop’s letter of 26 July, though just when is impossible to know, since her side of things is lost; but there it is in Bishop’s papers at Vassar. All this said, about delays and lost mail, instant communication also has its own issues. One of the most significant is no sober second thought, we write quickly and send quickly and respond quickly, which can sometimes lead to all manner of misunderstandings. And woe to anyone who doesn’t respond instantly, which can be regarded as a serious slight. Ah, the vagaries of human communication, no matter what the era.

With her carbon copy, twice-sent insurance, Bishop continued: “I do hope everything is going well and that you are feeling better.” For Bishop, this outcome mattered more than her aunt reading any letter she wrote. Based on what Grace had written, Bishop sensed that things were okay: “It does sound as though you had got it good and early, thank God.” Even so, she also sensed that things had been “tough” and declared that she could “sympathize and hope and pray you feel better soon.” Finally, that outcome was all that mattered for this far away niece thinking of her favourite aunt.
(Grace was known to dabble in poetry, mostly humorous verse.
This example, in her own hand, is on a topic that she
knew mostly from the nursing side, but in 1961, 
from the patient side, too. AUA)
Ever the practical person, Bishop included “a small present for you,” which she knew was “a drop in the bucket.” A jot so her aunt could “buy yourself some delicacies … or a new hat….”

Since Bishop was not sure Grace had received the previous letter, which had gone into detail about her fellowship and new job, she next reiterated the situation in a lengthy paragraph. She repeated her intention of “postpon[ing] using” the travel grant “until next year” because Lota was so busy and she “didn’t want to go alone.” She reminded Grace that Lota “is working awfully hard and it is pretty boring for me here in Rio.” Then the “surprise” of the offer of the writing job: “LIFE magazine gets out a series of picture-books, sort of — each about a different country.” She down-played the text she would write as “about 100 pages or a bit more,” and expressed even more strongly her view of “Time and Life,” declaring that she “loathe[d] … everything they stand for — but they pay well.” One has to pause here, again, and wonder why Bishop chose to accept this offer, even if she was bored in Rio. Was it only the money? A reason that did not fully mesh with Bishop’s general views about “commerce and contemplation.” Our declared reasons for doing anything are often underpinned by a raft of subconscious reasons that might actually surprise us. Bishop was as human as the rest of us, and could choose things that were not necessarily in her best interests.

She repeated once again that another big inducement to accepting was the air fare to “N.Y., 1st class, and expenses there for three weeks, in October, while we ‘revise’.” As much as anything, as future letters to Grace attest, this prospect became quite an ideé fixe for her, because she began to factor in a serious intention to get to Nova Scotia. As if psyching herself up, she explained to her aunt that “revise” meant that “they take what I write and put it through their own special meat-grinder so it sounds just like them and not like me.” Even as the self-declared reasons for not putting herself through this process mounted, she kept returning to “but they pay well enough to make it a fairly good bargain, I think.” Did she really think so? Our species’ capacity for rationalization is significant.

She still had an out because she had “not signed the contract yet,” even though she had it in hand. However, she had “already done three chapters,” so she thought she would “go on with it,” even as “it is hell — I hate this kind of writing — ALL of Brazilian history, geography, and politics reduced to a pill form.” And the turn around time for this work was “two or three months.” For someone who wrote painfully slowly, this demand was perhaps the hardest to achieve. The immediate upside to the work was that “it keeps me awfully busy!” Matching Lota, one thinks.

Then the inducement of “if I get to N Y in October I am going to stay on an extra week or ten days and somehow or to her  get down to see you.” Bishop realized that she had already explained some of this to Grace in the last letter: “oh dear — my brain’s not functioning very well these days.” She was already planning her itinerary: “I could fly to Boston — stop over one or two nights in Worcester,” to investigate first hand “poor old Aunt F[’s]” situation, “and then fly down to Halifax for a couple of days.” She realized it meant “awfully little time — but I am determined to get to see you if I get that far.” Her words do seem to hold some sense of urgency, a real need to see Grace, which perhaps was a strong reason to go against her better judgement.

The main part of this letter soon wound down, but before Bishop mailed it, she added a lengthy postscript the next day, which will comprise the next post.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Letters to Aunt Grace, Part 87: Aunts and Cousins

The next subject of Bishop’s 26 July 1961 letter was a series of ponderings about family. The pending trip to NYC to work on the book about Brazil had brought up the hoped for possibility of getting to Nova Scotia to see Grace. The other aunt that came in for consideration was cranky Aunt Florence, about whom Bishop had been hearing from her paternal cousins: “Nancy wrote of moving her [Florence],” because “the place she was at changed hands and got worse, it seems.” Or so her cousin reported. Bishop dryly observed that her cousins “seem to love to write me all the morbid details.”  Bishop confessed to Grace, “I don’t trust any of my [paternal] cousins very far, I’m afraid,” a situation which she observed was “awful.” She was puzzled and frustrated about their persistent reporting, telling Grace what her aunt undoubtedly already knew: “She’s much more their aunt than she’s ever been mine, God knows.” And being so far away, “what on earth can I do about it, here?” But Bishop was a curious person and she still had ties to this difficult old lady, so after the question (you can feel the exasperation in it), the next sentence began: “However.” Bishop couldn’t really help herself, perhaps: “if I get to N Y I am going to go and investigate at least.” (Maybe like a traffic accident when one can’t look away, even though one wants to.) Bishop continued, “She sounds in very bad shape and I do wish she would just die peacefully in her sleep now.” Florence didn’t fulfill this wish until 1963.

After dispatching Aunt Florence, Bishop turned to her maternal cousin Elizabeth Naudin, who was much closer in space-time, though perhaps not much closer in affection, even as Bishop kept trying. Bishop told Grace that she had recently “seen Elizabeth once or twice,” even declaring that “she was here last week one hectic day,” that is, at Lota’s apartment in Rio, clearly not a convenient day because “we had two carpenters here (just like Laurel & Hardy)” — one can imagine that set up!. In addition, there were “people coming and going and the phone never stop[ped] ringing for Lota all day long.”

Elizabeth Naudin must have brought her children because Bishop observed, “E’s little girls are really very cunning.” Quite a strong and strange word to describe young ones. She reported that “they were going to dinner with the in-laws that day and were all dressed up,” though it is unclear why that would be “cunning.” The oldest, Suzanne, came in for another word from Bishop, “clever, all right.” On the day of the visit to the apartment that was “a mess — no doubt about it,” as Elizabeth and her girls were leaving, Suzanne “thanked me politely for a book I’d given her and then said ‘Good-bye — good-bye to you and your funny apartment…’ — looking very malicious.” Perhaps Bishop was too disposed to seeing something negative in the context of her continuing frustrations in her relations with her cousin. In any case, Bishop told her aunt that because it was “a month’s school vacation,” Elizabeth had “gone to spend ten days up in Teresopolis with the children — they have the in-laws’ house up there.” She also reported that the Naudins “have a car — a Brazilian-made one, but the biggest … and she drives — I do admire her courage!” (Having myself witnessed driving in Brazil in 1999, both in the country and the city, I too admire Elizabeth Naudin’s courage!).
 (Elizabeth Naudin at the in-laws in Teresopolis, 1962, AUA.)
After this update, Bishop reported on something Grace would have known about: “I think Mary [Bulmer Ross, Elizabeth Naudin’s mother, Grace’s sister] is now coming in October.” This mention of a visit is the first in the extant letters, but clearly it was a plan Bishop had heard about already from her cousin. The timing of her aunt’s visit meant, “I’m afraid I may miss her completely,” because of the planned trip to NYC for the Brazil book. “Maybe,” Bishop hoped, “we’ll overlap for a few days.” In the end, she did see her aunt, an encounter Bishop reported to Grace later in the year.

Without even a breath, the next paragraph began: “I envy you going fishing.” Clearly, the operation had not slowed Grace down for too long. Bishop then asked about one of Grace’s step-grandchildren: “is Freddie still involved with the same man?” I met Freddie Bowers through Phyllis Sutherland — Phyllis’s step-niece. They were very close. Freddie was a troubled person, however, and committed suicide in the late 1990s.

Bishop then averred, “I did write to Aunt Mabel a long time ago.” Perhaps she had been complaining to Grace that she hadn’t heard from Elizabeth. She had sent the letter to Florida. Perhaps it had got lost, so she said she would “try to get off a note this week to G.V.,” more problematic a task since “I can’t stop working at all now — I have to have 100 pages in in August — and for me that’s an awful lot.” The Brazil book involved not only the demand to write, but Bishop was also “run[ning] around to libraries, etc. looking things up.” Finally, this task meant she had to “type and type and type.”

Lota’s job was also keeping them in Rio for long stretches, and that meant “Our ‘couple’ are up there all alone with the cats,” meaning at the house in Samambaia, and Bishop reported that “they’re all getting lonely.” Elizabeth and Lota were able to return mostly only on the weekends, and “the cats won’t leave us alone …. I slept with all three last time.”

Bishop’s letter was starting to wind down: “I guess that’s all my news.” She had to head off to do errands: “sell some $$$$ — buy a pair of shoes — and a lot more typing paper.” As her thoughts trailed off, she noted that “‘winter’ seems to be over — it’s hot again.” She wistfully noted that if she “didn’t have to work,” she’d “be out on the beach for a swim.”

Finally, she returned to Grace’s situation, hoping that her aunt was “all right and that the operation proved to be very minor.” She signed off “With lots of love and please write.” Bishop’s own next letter was written less than a month later, on 12 August 1961. The next post will turn to that epistle.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Letters to Aunt Grace, Part 86: The beginnings of the Brazil book

Just over a month had passed when Bishop wrote her next letter to Grace, dated 26 July 1961. Lota’s new job with the park had taken them to Rio shortly after Bishop had written her previous letter and she reported, “We are still in Rio — three weeks at this stretch.” This letter was triggered by one Bishop finally received from her aunt, dated 14 July, which had arrived in Petrópolis on the 22nd (not too bad considering the distance). “A friend brought down some accumulated mail,” and Bishop was alarmed enough by Grace’s news to respond as soon as it came to hand.

What concerned Bishop was a report that Grace had had an operation. Just what the reason was for such an intervention is not clear, but Bishop’s “These damned lumps and things,” hint of some sort of cyst or growth. Her concern came out further in a frustrated observation: “What a nuisance the female … body is …” Fortunately, it appears to have been benign: “From what you say, it doesn’t sound too bad, but I hope you aren’t being brave!” Bishop knew how stoic her aunt was. By this time, she “hope[d] to goodness it is all over and everything is all right.” She reported that they were “going home again at last on the 28th, day after tomorrow, and so maybe I’ll find a letter from you or Phyllis,” at the post office.

As serious as this report was, Grace had also offered the cheerier news that all was well with “the new baby,” meaning Phyllis’s third child, Miriam. Miriam had two older brothers, Wallace and David, who clearly doted on their sister, to which Bishop responded, “isn’t it nice when the older children are crazy about the baby like that.” She then gave an account about “our friend here who has twelve [children]”: “the two little ones are both mad about babies and one day I saw them almost tearing the cook’s … baby apart — they both wanted to hold it at the same time.” This tugging, Bishop reported, did not bother the infant in question in the least: “the baby was lying placidly on the sofa, sucking a pacifier, not minding at all.”

This talk of babies reminded Bishop, of course, of “Monica,” and she told Grace that while it was “not very original of me to say so … we do miss [her] … dreadfully, after seeing her every day.” Bishop especially missed her “always grinning” good nature. When Mary Morse left for New York, Bishop noted, Monica “had two teeth and was sitting up.” Bishop hoped that they would be “back in September.”

The next paragraph of this fulsome letter turned to a subject that was clearly beginning to preoccupy Bishop in a serious way — the book about Brazil that she had mentioned in the previous letter. Even as Bishop remained ambivalent and conflicted about this project, she took it on, perhaps partly because Lota had become so busy and preoccupied with the big park project. Bishop was starting to feel some grief over losing the quiet time at the house in Samambaia, so perhaps she decided that it might help her to be occupied during the long weeks in Rio.

Bishop reminded her aunt that she “got a grant for ‘foreign travel’ — to be used this year and/or next — but because of Lota’s job we decided to stay put this year, and I’m just hoarding it for the time being.” This segued into confirming to her aunt that “now I’ve taken on a job, too.” Sometime in the intervening month, Bishop had agreed to the Brazil book, but, as she confessed to Grace, “[I] almost wish I hadn’t, it’s such a headache.”

She described its parameters: “LIFE magazine asked me to write the text of a small book on Brazil.” She noted it was part of “a series … each a different country.” Right from the start she was under no illusion about its value: “Probably no one reads the text, anyway, just looks at the photographs.” She observed that the visual component of these books “are wonderful, usually.” But declared outright: “that kind of writing is hard for me to do.” She was expected “to cover the whole country — history, economics, geography, arts, sports — everything, even if superficially.” A daunting task even for a seasoned scholar, which Bishop was surely not.
(The Author's bio inside the Life World Library's Brazil.)
Bishop was not behind the bush about why she choose to take on this task: “they will pay well, and also pay for three weeks in NY to work on it with them [the editors] — and the plane fare.” It was serious money, so she decided, perhaps against her better judgement, that she “might as well tackle it.”

Not only did she have doubts about her ability to pull it off, and of the value of this kind of writing, she also observed that she didn’t “like the magazine and don’t like them much,” regarding “them” as “high-pressure salesmen types.” In the end, “I am doing it for the money.” Period. She did weakly aver that she knew “a lot about Brazil by now, of course, willy nilly.” Not the most confident of assertions.

The other big incentive was that trip to New York, which she hoped might happen “in October,” with the possibility that she “MIGHT get to N.S. too.” At this point, she paused to wonder if she hadn’t “already told you all of this … forgive me if I have.”

Getting to the US also meant that she might also be able to go “see Aunt Florence, without warning, to try to find out what’s going on.” This next subject and other family matters interjected themselves and the Brazil book receded for a couple of paragraphs. The next post will take up these family issues.

The writing of the “Life World Library” book about Brazil and the upsetting editing process that ensued has become (in)famous in Bishop lore. The reasons we do anything are often complex, and especially so for something as significant as writing a book. All the reasons Bishop stated to her aunt must be taken at face value and she was certainly not apologetic for the primary one: money; but her ambivalence and conflict, present from the beginning, laid a foundation for an unsettling and, in the end, unsatisfying effort.

Bishop did not seek out the work, but the timing of this unbidden offer was important. It presented itself just as Lota was becoming immersed in the park job, purposeful work on a major development that had not only implications for Rio but also for the whole nation. In that moment, Elizabeth and Lota did not know how consuming the park would become, but Bishop somehow sensed that a shift was happening and the sudden appearance of such an offer perhaps seemed like a sign. Because her serious writing (especially poems) took so long to manifest, this “busy work” would be a way of demonstrating her interest in her adopted country and a way to occupy herself in the midst of the work swiftly consuming Lota. The psychology behind her decision was not as simple as “I’m doing it for the money,” but whatever the deeper reasons, accepting the offer was not an especially good decision.

Benjamin Moser writes insightfully about the results of an effort that, it could be argued, was a mistake on Bishop’s part; but at the time (even with her reservations), Bishop took it on and did the best she could. What happened to this strange anomaly in Bishop’s oeuvre after her death is not on her. Scholars have their own agendas. We all do things in the moment that we later regret and would rather forget, all part of being human. Bishop lived in Brazil for over five years after Brazil was published in 1962. One wonders how many people she told about it, except to complain. She sent copies to a few friends with some corrections made in the margins; but once the deed was done, Bishop turned quickly to other things, putting the unpleasant experience behind her.

Bishop instructed the Time-Life editors to send a copy to Grace (perhaps she thought the grandchildren would enjoy looking at the pictures). Unlike all the other books she sent to her aunt and cousin, which were lovingly inscribed, Bishop did not sign this copy; rather it arrived with an impersonal card with a printed inscription: “With compliments Elizabeth Bishop Time Inc. Book Division.” Decades ago, I found a copy of this ubiquitous book in a used bookstore in Halifax. I confess that I have only looked at the pictures! Her frustration with the whole experience is well-known among Bishop scholars. I just never took the time to read it. I know so little about Brazil, that I would not be able to identify the issues. Even so, I should read it one of these days.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Letters to Aunt Grace, Part 85: More updates

The final paragraph of Bishop’s 30 June 1961 letter is a mixed list of updates. She reported first that “Lota is working hard,” assuming that Grace would understand it was because of the new job Bishop had mentioned in her January letter. She observed that “life is very strenuous these days and thank heavens it is cool now.”

Next she noted that she had not seen Elizabeth Naudin “for about 3 weeks.” She reported that the Naudins “have a car now so can come to see me, I think.” But that clearly had not yet happened, so Bishop was going to “call Ray today.”

An interesting but still tentative development was a wire from her “N Y agent … about a job they want me to take on.” This refers to the Time-Life book about Brazil that Bishop worked on in the early 1960s. The letter that had been sent to her about this project “of course, got lost,” and she wasn’t sure she would “feel I can accept … but if I can it will pay pretty well, at least.”*
(The cover of the Time-Life book Bishop did.)
The next item on the list was Grace’s report that she had “layringitis [sic].” Even though Grace was “a long way off, maybe” this problem was “the same kind of flu that’s been going around here.” Lota has succumbed and “lost her voice completely for three days (a terrible problem for a Brazilian!)” and especially so with her new job gearing up.

A “//” signaled a shift in tone to “Our three orange trees are all bearing,” which meant that Bishop was making marmalade, “2 dozen jars.” Both the oranges and the preserve were “delicious.”

She then reported that “Sunday night we had six guests for supper,” and asked her aunt: “guess what” they had: “pancakes and maple syrup.” Bishop was stretching out that 1960 gift as long as she could, writing that she still had “a quart or more left.” This number of people were kept supplied with pancakes because “the cook had taught her husband how to fry them, too,” and “they had two frying pans going.”

A dash signaled the next shift, back to family. Bishop had recently heard from her paternal cousins “Kay & Nancy” with “grim and horrible news about Aunt F.” She avoided particulars. Bishop confessed to feeling “awful about her,” but she didn’t “know what to do.” Just what “awful” means is somewhat ambiguous, but still she felt she was somehow not doing all she could to support these relatives. Bishop confided that she trusted Nancy, “but no one else in that family.”  Bishop wondered if Florence “should be moved to another nursing home …. I just don’t know.” The problem, according to Bishop, was that Florence “behaves so badly that no place wants her.” She concluded that the whole situation was “tragic.” There was no love lost between Bishop and her difficult aunt, but still she kept tethered to that Bishop side, staying in touch. She noted that if she did “make any money” that she would “make a quick trip to NY, and then go to see for myself.”

Another “//” signaled the end of this short but packed letter, urging Grace to “take care of yourself” and “write me again soon.” She asked specifically for her aunt to tell her about her health and to “send a snapshot of the baby [Miriam Sutherland].”

Bishop’s next letter to her aunt was written just over a month later, a longer one with more detailed updates of nearly every topic mentioned in this June missive. The next post will introduce 26 July 1961.

*Note: Bishop did accept this commission with Time-Life. The fraught process of editing the book, which has become legendary, took her to New York City. In the end, Bishop was not happy with the result. Some subsequent scholars and commentators also take exception to it, such as Clarice Lispector scholar Benjamin Moser in a 2012 New Yorker essay.