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Elizabeth Bishop: Poems, Prose and Letters (Library of America) Hardcover – February 14, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

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Starred Review. No further proof is necessary to show that Bishop—still not widely known beyond literary circles at the time of her death in 1979—has, posthumously in the last three decades, become one of America's most popular 20th-century poets, but this hefty and handsome volume from the Library of America certainly clinches the deal. Between its covers one can find most of the perfectionist author's oeuvre, more than enough to confirm Bishop as a master at revealing the complexity of simple, often painful things (I said to myself: three days/ and you'll be seven years old./ I was saying it to stop/ the sensation of falling off the round, turning world/ into cold, blue-black space./ But I felt: you are an I, you are an Elizabeth). All the poems gathered in the now-classic Collected Poems are here, as are the unpublished drafts released in 2006's controversial Edgar Allen Poe and the Jukebox. The memoir and fiction pieces of Collected Prose are also reprinted, along with a few other pieces of scattered nonfiction, as well as a generous selection of Bishop's enthralling letters. Bishop's work is deeply compassionate and necessary reading, and now almost all of it can be found in one place. (Feb)
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"Bishop was not just a good poet but a great one. She accomplished a magical illumination of the ordinary, forcing us to examine our surroundings with the freshness of a friendly alien."
-David Lehman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Library of America (Book 180)
  • Hardcover: 975 pages
  • Publisher: Library of America; Reprint edition (February 14, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1598530178
  • ISBN-13: 978-1598530179
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #257,443 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Boopy Snoopers on September 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This carefully edited book collects much of Bishop's poetry and prose--fiction, memoir, reportage, reviews--between two covers for the first time, and that is all for the good.

The best introduction to Bishop's work, however, is still "The Complete Poems, 1927 - 1979," supplemented by the best pieces in "The Collected Prose" (1984), edited by Robert Giroux, who is also co-editor of the present Library of America book and editor of "One Art" (1994), the mammoth selection of Bishop's letters. The earlier editions of her poems and prose were published in an era when editors still respected Bishop's excellent judgment about which of her poems and prose pieces should appear in print. Bishop was her own best editor, and I don't think the publication of so many of her abortive poems serves her particularly well.

My main criticism of this book has to do with the "Letters" section. As with the Library of America edition of Flannery O'Connor's writing, this selection offers letters not available in "One Art" (or in O'Connor's case, "The Habit of Being"); but the Library of America edition does not supersede "One Art" because it offers fewer letters in total. Both O'Connor and Bishop were epistolary geniuses on the level of Keats and Hopkins and we deserve editions of their letters that aspire to comprehensiveness. There is a new edition of Bishop's correspondence with Lowell on the way, but what about her letters to Marianne Moore, May Swenson, and other friends with whom she had significant correspondences?
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By J. Cohen on March 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For my money, this book beats out Bishop's "Collected Poems" (from Farrar Straus & Giroux) or any of the other separate volumes of Bishop's writing (be it letters, prose, etc.). In this volume you not only get all of her collected and uncollected poems, but there's also a very generous selection of her letters and prose. So for all but the most hardcore Bishop fans, this one volume should satisfy most of their Bishop-reading needs. Also, as with all of Library of America's books, this volume is a very handsome edition in hardcover with a very professional binding that will last much longer than any of Bishop's cheaper, soft-cover editions. In addition, I greatly prefer this edition's typography to the above-mentioned "Collected Poems."
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on March 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Elizabeth Bishop: Poems, Prose, and Letters is the Library of America's compilation of the works of twentieth century poet and author Elizabeth Bishop - including all her published poetic translations, an extensive selection of her unpublished poems and drafts of poems, several not previously collected, and of course, all the poetry published in her lifetime. Non-poetry writings range from her stories and reminiscences to travel writings, literary essays, and statements, even a number of pieces published for the first time. The absolute definitive compilation of Elizabeth Bishop's works, highly recommended especially for public and college library collections.
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Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979) wasn't just a major 20th-century American poet, she also wrote short stories, reviewed other authors for magazines, carried on years of intense correspondence with other major figures, and had a fascinating personal life full of ups and downs. This Library of America volume offers us a very nearly complete poetic output along with an ample sampling of her other writings. There's a chronology of her 68 years on earth too, walking us through a fascinating life that spanned the whole Eastern Seaboard, Paris, South America, and other exotic travels.

We get here the 4 major collections of poetry that Bishop published, along with some uncollected poems. NORTH AND SOUTH was published in 1946, but most of the poems predate the war (or at least American involvement in it) and reflect Bishop's development as a poet through the 1930s and very early 1940s. From the very first poem, "The Map", we find Bishop's distinctive concern with describing specific scenes in detail, that then give way to some kind of universal, transcendental experience. After various musings on the printers' layout of the eponymous map, the poem ends: "Mapped waters are more quiet than the land is, / lending the land their waves' own conformation: / and Norway's hare runs south in agitation, / profiles investigate the sea, where land is. / Are they assigned, or can the countries pick their colors? / -- What suits the characters or the native waters best. / Topography displays no favorites; North's as near as West. / More delicate than the historians' are the map-makers' colors."

The second collection, A COLD SPRING, consists of poems written in the 1940s and early 1950s.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By lonedog TOP 1000 REVIEWER on December 25, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For Elizabeth Bishop fans as well as those who don't know much about her, this book is attractive and comprehensive, containing poetry, essays, short fiction, correspondence, travel pieces, etc. She was a complex woman with enormous talent as well as her share of frailties, all of which is reflected in this collection.
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