Course meets during the last seven weeks only, First Class: March 20; Last Class: May 3.
Elizabeth Bishop is a 20th century North American (American and Canadian) poet who did not adhere to a single geographical center, nor a single tradition or school of poetry (modernism, symbolism, surrealism, confessional, post-modernism, etc.). Born in Massachusetts and raised in Nova Scotia (what she calls “her true North”), she writes poems linked to her native ground, yet also is a poet of travel: Brazil, where she lived for many years, is home away from home for her, as is New York, and, for shorter stays, Paris. She is no more geographically anchored than she is easily classified in terms of schools of poetry. Bishop authored stories, composed poems, and was an essayist and frequent letter writer (notably to Robert Lowell). Her relatively slim collection of poems is as eclectic as her life: she wrote both in free verse and conventional forms, and the subjects of her poems are wide-ranging: sea poems, city poems, poems of remembrance, political poems, poems of the north and poems of the south (Nova Scotia and Brazil). Bishop also studied music, and was an accomplished watercolorist. Bishop’s poetry will be at the center of this course, and we will study her for her grasp of poetic form, her musical-poetic virtuosity, and for her visual accomplishments in poetry (her ekphrastic poems). While her own work will be at the center of the class, we will study poetic theory (Hollander’s Vision and Resonance ) and consider poetry’s relation to music and visual art. We will also read literary criticism that addresses Bishop’s relation to form, place, and politics.