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Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence Between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell [Paperback]

by Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell, Thomas Travisano, Saskia Hamilton
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 16, 2010 0374531897 978-0374531898 First Edition
Robert Lowell once remarked in a letter to Elizabeth Bishop that “you ha[ve] always been my favorite poet and favorite friend.” The feeling was mutual. Bishop said that conversation with Lowell left her feeling “picked up again to the proper table-land of poetry,” and she once begged him, “Please never stop writing me letters—they always manage to make me feel like my higher self (I’ve been re-reading Emerson) for several days.” Neither ever stopped writing letters, from their first meeting in 1947 when both were young, newly launched poets until Lowell’s death in 1977. The substantial, revealing—and often very funny—interchange that they produced stands as a remarkable collective achievement, notable for its sustained conversational brilliance of style, its wealth of literary history, its incisive snapshots and portraits of people and places, and its delicious literary gossip, as well as for the window it opens into the unfolding human and artistic drama of two of America’s most beloved and influential poets.

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Editorial Reviews

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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine

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.
Copyright 2008 Bookmarks Publishing LLC --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 928 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (March 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374531897
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374531898
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #59,147 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love of Poetry November 1, 2008
This correspondence is one long (nearly a thousand pages) love letter between two of the best poets of their generation. Both Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell were personally tortured by their demons (her was alcohol, his was manic-depression) and failed relationships. Though never lovers, their's was a marriage of the minds via the mail for thirty years. It is helpful, though not vital, that the reader be acquainted with their poetry -- the letters have more meaning and one can understand the fuss they had with their written creations. This definiative collection of their letters is a biography of their adult lives.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars bedtime reading March 4, 2009
This has been my bedtime reading for a month now and what a lovely way to end the day.

They lived apart, continents apart, but close in spirit. Their letters are gossipy, smart, unguarded, critical of each others' work, supportive through triumphs and awful trials. They say things to each other that they never would have voiced aloud. (Sometimes they get catty, and mostly they are right.)

As their careers progress, you follow a poem by poem progression. The letters made me aware of the extent to which their poems were written in response to the work of the other, and the importance of their prose and translation to the poems for which they are now famous.

It's a nice book too, a good design, and a fine thing in hand. My only complaint is that the footnotes (which are fascinating) are printed in a tiny font that's almost too small for my tired eyes.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars words in air December 28, 2008
I may be regarded as prejudiced but I have long followed the life and poetry of Elizabeth Bishop. This book not only solidified by love of her work but extended it.
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