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Poems: North & south: A cold spring Hardcover – 1955


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 95 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin (1955)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0007E2J6C
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,171,310 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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The 1955 volume POEMS reissued Elizabeth Bishop's debut collection NORTH & SOUTH, but it also contained an entirely new collection titled A COLD SPRING. One of the best places to get this material is the Library of America volume that contains Bishop's complete poems and prose with a choice of letters, but I have found it interesting to slowly examine Bishop's collections on their own.

NORTH AND SOUTH was published in 1946, but 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."

And the best poems in NORTH AND SOUTH continue this style. "Roosters", acclaimed by Robert Lowell as the best work by an American female poet, goes from describing the dawn chorus around Bishop's home to meditations on tribal violence and religious salvation. "The Fish" recounts a victory during an angling trip, only to ultimately make a point about how insignificant such victories are.
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