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Elizabeth Bishop and The New Yorker: The Complete Correspondence Hardcover – February 1, 2011

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition, First Printing edition (February 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374281386
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374281380
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.6 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #881,501 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This superbly edited collection traces the correspondence between poet Bishop and her editors at the New Yorker--Katharine S. White (wife of E.B. White) and Howard Moss--from 1934 to 1979. Many of Bishop's finest poems were first published in the New Yorker. These were the days of manual typewriters, carbon copies, and Varitype working proofs. The letters often capture the back and forth from editor and publisher to writer concentrating on the nitty-gritty of punctuation and word choice. "Punctuation is my Waterloo," Bishop bemoans. The "real world" rarely intrudes, for example, a fleeting reference to the 1960 presidential campaign. When White departs as poetry-and-fiction editor in 1956, taking her warm and chatty approach with her, Bishop's initial disappointment is clear. Over time she warms up to Howard Moss and vice versa, even to the point of his eventual purchase of her cherished clavichord. He pleads: "Please send some poems!" This is a fascinating, placid, and inevitably repetitious correspondence that ought to be assigned to all aspiring editors of poetry. (Illus. not seen) (Feb.)
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“One of the pleasures of Elizabeth Bishop and ‘The New Yorker’, a new collection of her correspondence with that magazine’s poetry editors, is snooping around in the excellent footnotes and front matter for the wicked comments she made behind the magazine’s back. She deplored its ‘“How nice to be nice!” atmosphere,’ its sense of ‘false refinement,” and declared that reading the magazine was ‘getting to be like reading a quilt—eating a quilt, I mean—full of starchy fillers and “enough water to properly prepare” etc.’ . . . there are those—and, full disclosure, I am among them—for whom this kind of shop talk from an adored poet and her serious editors is uncut catnip. This book presents a master class in all the effortlessly cordial ways The New Yorker had (and has) to say no to things it doesn’t want . . . At the same time these letters show how clearly valued a contributor Bishop was and how the magazine’s offices lighted up whenever one of her poems came in over the transom. The letters are full of high spirits too.” —Dwight Garner, The New York Times

“[Elizabeth Bishop and The New Yorker] offers a glimpse into Bishop’s life (she lived in Brazil for much of this period), writing process and relationship with her editors, as well as a look into the internal workings of that fabled publication in which so many of her poems were published … As with the best correspondence, it is like eavesdropping on a lively conversation already in progress.” —The Globe and Mail

Elizabeth Bishop and The New Yorker collects nearly forty years of letters between Bishop and the magazine, largely a correspondence with two of Bishop’s formidable editors, Katherine White and Howard Moss. It was more than a partnership. In letters to Moss and White over the years, her valedictions warmed from ‘Sincerely’ to ‘Affectionately’ to ‘Love’ … This collection is most interesting as a record of how Bishop and her editors mulled over questions of style, clarity, and accuracy—and as a keyhole through The New Yorker’s legendary doors. Sometimes Bishop’s submissions provoked charmingly cordial editorial notes. Her story ‘In the Village’ mentions a child’s fascination with ‘steaming cow flops’; as White put it, ‘the loving description of manure seems to go too far.’” —Jeremy Axelrod, Columbia Journalism Review

“True, you’re reading a lot of the nuts and bolts of Bishop’s relationship with her New Yorker editors [Katherine] White and then Howard Moss—the work accepted and rejected, checks sent, detailed changes. You’re also following a narrative line about Bishop the writer and the changing literary climate of the New Yorker. Fascinating.” —Jeff Simon, Buffalo News

Elizabeth Bishop and The New Yorker, ably introduced by the poet Joelle Biele, charts her relationship with the first publisher of most of her best poems … Although much of this correspondence is about punctuation … postal delays or illness … there is also regular disagreement about how “coarse she is allowed to be in [The New Yorker’s] genteel pages. She broke off contact with the magazine in 1961, stung perhaps by its rejection of poems such as her discreetly lesbian love poem The Shampoo, a rejection that has come to seem more significant because Bishop subsequently avoided publishing poems that dealt explicitly with sexuality. [The collection] shed[s] light on the arc of Bishop’s development as a poet, and implicitly grants us a sense of the limits that hemmed in gay writers in the middle of the last century.” —John McAuliffe, The Irish Times

“Bishop’s long and affectionate relationship with the magazine is thoroughly documented in Elizabeth Bishop and the New Yorker: The Complete Correspondence … Poets and NewYorker aficionados will find it irresistible … Reading this volume, noting the meticulous attention brought to each poem and story, one realizes how skillfully the editors helped focus and clarify every detail of the text … as these letters so copiously prove, the editors never tried to change the author’s intentions, even in the smallest matters, only to realize them. For a woman without a fixed home or even country, The New Yorker provided a sense of stability and continuity. It adopted her early and gave the consistent support that allowed her to develop her idiosyncratic talents into genius.” —Dana Gioia, The Wall Street Journal

“The letters of … Elizabeth Bishop, written to The New Yorker where she published a great deal of her work, offers an exhilarating glimpse into the poet’s thinking about her own work … and the background for much its creation, which views she shared with her editors.” —Michael Coffey, Publishers Weekly

“Joelle Biele’s meticulously researched and comprehensively annotated Elizabeth Bishop and ‘The New Yorker’  reproduces all the correspondence between Bishop and her editors . . . This new book offers a different instance of two closely corresponding institutions at mid-century . . . What [The New Yorker] recognized in Bishop’s verse, as well as the grounds on which they rejected some pieces and commissioned others . . . gives an acute angle on how poetry and fiction were consumed and valued by a particular liberal middle-class readership. Meanwhile the letters from Bishop’s side offer purchase on the sometimes exhausting development of a writing career—the slow effort, the wastage, and the sheer waiting that went into Bishop’s relatively small output of verse and prose . . . Biele is a scrupulous and painstaking editor of the correspondence, tracking drafts and letters through archives far beyond the New York Public Library . . . Elizabeth Bishop and ‘The New Yorker’ deserves a wide audience: from the quibbles about commas, the worrisome queries regarding matters of accuracy and propriety, the back and forth over delayed manuscripts and contractual obligations, emerges a fascinating new dimension to a poet’s encounters with the outside world.” —Fiona Green, Times Literary Supplement

“Given that Bishop, who was born in 1911 and died in 1979, had a poem accepted for the first time in 1939, there is no denying that the magazine played an important role in defining Elizabeth Bishop the poet for the American public . . . It’s impossible to say what her poems would have looked like if she hadn’t agreed to some of [her New Yorker editors’] requests—she was a master poet, after all. If nothing else, the New Yorker was, to paraphrase Joelle Biele, the book’s magisterial editor, that one constant in Bishop’s otherwise nomadic writing life and existence in general.” —Piotr Florczyk, World Literature in Review

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Deb Oestreicher on February 3, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This beautiful book offers a rare peek at the give-and-take between a great poet and her (also great) editors. I really got a feeling for these lives (mainly Elizabeth Bishop, Katherine White, and Howard Moss) as if through a side window. The letters also drove me straight back to Elizabeth Bishop's poems--which not only stand up to the test of time, but which seem even better than when I first read them (WRITE IT!) more than 25 years ago. They may yet send me back to Howard Moss and EB White as well. Inspiring.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By random-reviewer45 on April 8, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent book. It shows the reader how The New Yorker edited the poetry that was being submitted by Elizabeth Bishop. It also shows the warm and caring relationship Elizabeth Bishop had with the editors of that magazine and the gradual intimacy that was being established between Katherine White, Howard Moss and Bishop in the warm letters being sent back and forth. The introduction is good too because it sets the context of what The New Yorker was like in the middle twentieth century.
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By Amy Lowell on September 9, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Love anything about Elizabeth Bishop. This deals with her correspondence and involment with magazine. Rather try stuff, but as usual EB, can come across even in her business dealings. I would not recommend this as a causal read on Bishop. However if you are writing on her, this would be a must to look at.
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Much of Bishop's work over the years was published in the New Yorker, making this an essential part of any study of Bishop.
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Elizabeth Bishop and The New Yorker: The Complete Correspondence
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