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Elizabeth Bishop


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Elizabeth Bishop Essay, Research Paper

Sam Worley

English 2013

May 3, 1999

Why Elizabeth Bishop was Considered to be Dickonsonian in

Her Writing Style

Poet Elizabeth Bishop was as simple as she was complex. The

lucid and uncomplicated images she created with her

seemingly elementary style were anything but; in fact, the

complexity that resides within her characteristically simple

prose, which demonstrate a purity and precision like no

other, are known only to those who can see beyond their

fa?ade. Attention to outer detail and an unquenchable desire

to portray her inner pain, Bishop favored a more simplistic

approach to convey the immense pain and suffering she

endured throughout her life. Utilizing the concepts of

surrealism and imagery, as well as incorporating landscape

and geography, the troubled poet cleverly and quite

appropriately captured her audience with images of her own

anguish.

Only since her death has Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979) been

generally recognized as one of the four or five finest

American poets of this century. One reason it’s taken so

long may be Bishop’s low profile: she lived in Brazil for

almost half her productive life, published a slim new book

of poems only once a decade, disliked giving public

readings, and participated in none of the “movements” of her

time.

Bishop’s masterly descriptive powers were the energy she

invested in an attempt to found a poetry not on what had

happened to its author, but on what its author saw and felt

and shared with others in the present, whether what was

shared was a set of friends, a series of real or imagined

travels, books read, or sights seen.

Bishop, besides being an award winning poet, was a prolific

letter writer. Her friend and publisher, Robert Giroux, has

assembled and edited over 500 of the letters Bishop wrote to

her friends from around the world.

Emily Dickonson’s closest friends knew she wrote poetry,

because she often included poems or lines from poems in her

many letters. What they had no way of appreciating, however,

was the magnitude of her solitary achievement. When she died

at 56 her sister Lavinia found in a drawer over 1,700 poems

— the result of a lifetime’s concentrated work. And since

the publication of a small selection of those poems four

years after her death, Dickinson’s reputation has risen;

today her place among the very best poets to have written in

English is unchallenged.

Dickinson in her early 30’s made some tentative attempts to

get published, but her work was far ahead of its time and

she did not meet with success. Only seven poems were

published in her lifetime, each changed by editors to suit

the day’s standards of rhyme, punctuation and meter.

The many similarities between Bishop and Dickonson are

clearly evident in their lives and their writing styles.

Both women were from the New England area; both never

married; both wrote about their pain, suffering and anguish;

both were minimally published before their deaths; both used

a simple. easy to read, writing style; and both wrote or

incorporated nature into their themes. The only differences

were Emily Dickonson’s religion and isolation, whereas

Elizabeth Bishop was well travelled and considered to be an

agnostic.

Elizabeth Bishop nearly mirrored Emily Dickonson in

every way, and that is why she is considered to be

“Dickonsonian.”

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