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

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Elizabeth Bishop at the ALA, by Kay Bierwiler

The 2019 American Literature Association annual meeting was held in Boston in late May.  Several sessions were devoted to Elizabeth Bishop’s poetry and prose.  Most of the sessions were in a panel format. Presenters and attendees were from Canada, the United States and England.

The first session focused on research done at the Bishop archive at Vassar College.   Bethany Hicok moderated, and each panelist presented a paper.   The papers were:  “Too Shy To Stop:  Elizabeth Bishop and the Scene of Reading” presented by Heather Tressler; “I Miss All That Bright, Detailed Flatness: Bishop in Brevard” presented by Charla Hughes; “All The Untidy Activity: Travel and the Picturesque in Bishop’s Writing” presented by Yael Schlick; and the” Matter of Bishop’s Professionalism” presented by Claire Seiler. This was one of my favorite presentations.
The second session was titled “Bishop and Humor.”  Sponsored by the Elizabeth Bishop Society, it focused on humorous and witty aspects in Bishop’s writings.  It was chaired by Angus Cleghorn of Senaca College in Toronto.
Panelists included Thomas Travisano who highlighted humorous examples from Bishop’s letters to Robert Lowell. Jonathan Ellis focused on “Humorous Elbowings:  Funny Turns in Bishop’s Poems and Stories.” Rachel Trousdale discussed “Love and Comical Inadequacy.”
The third session was titled “Swenson and Bishop:  Influence, Intimacy, and Empathy.” Joel Minor discussed “In the Bodies of Words: Curating the Swenson and Bishop Letters.”  The second paper by David Hoak discussed “Swenson and Bishop in Conversation: Efforts of Empathy and Intimacy.” The last presentation by Paul Crumbley focused on Swenson’s “Attitude and Questions of Influence”.
The poet Frank Bidart was celebrated with a roundtable discussion of his works.  Later in the evening he gave a poetry reading. Bidart was a friend of Bishop and one of her literary executors. His latest book is “Half-Light:  Collected Poems.”  He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 2018.
(Kay Bierwiler on left, with Sandra, at EBSNS 2018 AGM.)

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