Saturday, 17 November 2012

The reticence of Elizabeth Bishop

The American poet Elizabeth Bishop was notoriously possessive of her work refusing to give up poems even when solicited by editors. Katherine White wrote to her in 1955 "As usual this letter is a plea to let us see some of the Elizabeth Bishop manuscripts that I feel certain are all on your desk, all finished if only you could bring yourself to part with them."

Bishop is a rule unto herself. And you can find the unpublished work in the Carcanet book Edgar Allan Poe and the Juke-box (out of print) and judge whether she was right or wrong.

Yet the store of riches when a poem is all complete and ready to go is to all of us almost a drug: that feeling of the work in progress or something good about to come. But sometimes a visit to an editor for poems even if rejected with no comment loosens up something unexpected. And the poem gets richer and better as a result.

A poem is never finished only abandoned Paul Valéry

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