From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Bishop and Lowell were two of the major poets of postwar America. From the time they met in 1947 at a party thrown by their mutual friend and poet, Randall Jarrell, through the end of Lowell's life in 1977, the pair—who saw each other rarely but considered themselves intimate friends—maintained a steady correspondence about literature and their turbulent lives and their own complicated, at times flirtatious friendship. Lowell was manic-depressive and embroiled in two volatile marriages, while Bishop also suffered depression and more than her share of loss, including the suicide of her longtime lover. Many of their now famous letters, previously available in separate volumes, appear here in one volume, their exchanges preserved in the order they were sent and received. Throughout this momentous volume, transcendence comes to these two often troubled writers through the shared experience of art that brought them together and sustained them: If only one could see everything that way all the time!, writes Bishop in 1957, that rare feeling of control, illumination—life is
all right, for the time being. 13 b&w photos. (Oct.)
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How much one enjoys this volume—300 of the letters here have never before been published—depends on how much one embraces the poetry and lives of Lowell and Bishop. The critics themselves were quite pleased, often strutting out prose with a faintly purple hue in honor of these two postwar poetry giants. Of course, there's a great deal of wit to go around—the usual savaging of colleagues and the mockery of modern society; Bishop takes the road less traveled and even flings some mud at old Robert Frost. A few critics called for stricter editing, given the inclusion of letters detailing dental appointments and job applications. But the unrequited love between Bishop and Lowell redeems any hint of banality; instead, Words in Air
is an inspiring lifelong conversation between two great poets.
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