Bishop’s reticence

In the latest issue of the New York Review of Books, Charles Simic says the controversial new collection of Elizabeth Bishop’s unpublished works — “106 flawed and at times marvelous poems” — only enhances his admiration for the poet’s craft.

What these … works lay bare for me is how much emotion there was in Bishop’s poems to start with, which her endless tinkering tended to obscure in the end. It has made me read her published work differently, discovering intimate elegies and love poems where previously I heard only an anonymous voice. “The enormous power of reticence — that is the great lesson of the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop,” Octavio Paz said of her. He was right. As the old saying goes, less is more.

(Via Moorish Girl, where Laila highlights Christopher de Bellaigue’s essay on “Iran & the Bomb.”) And John sends word that the print issue includes a Samuel Beckett appreciation from Colm Tóibín. Something to pick up at the newsstand tonight.

Also possibly of interest to Bishop fans: her (non-)response to Robert Lowell’s declaration of love.


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