Highly regarded throughout her prestigious literary career, and today seen as an undeniable master of her art, Elizabeth Bishop remains one of America's most influential and widely acclaimed poets. This is the definitive collection of her work. The Complete Poems includes the books North & South, A Cold Spring, Questions of Travel, and Geography III, as well as previously uncollected poems, translations, and juvenilia.
Elizabeth Bishop was vehement about her art--a perfectionist who didn't want to be seen as a "woman poet." In 1977, two years before her death she wrote, "art is art and to separate writings, paintings, musical compositions, etc., into two sexes is to emphasize values in them that are not
art." She also deeply distrusted the dominant mode of modern poetry, one practiced with such detached passion by her friend Robert Lowell, the confessional.
Bishop was unforgiving of fashion and limited ways of seeing and feeling, but cast an even more trenchant eye on her own work. One wishes this volume were thicker, though the perfections within mark the rightness of her approach. The poems are sublimely controlled, fraught with word play, fierce moral vision (see her caustic ballad on Ezra Pound, "Visits to St. Elizabeths"), and reticence. From the surreal sorrow of the early "Man-Moth" (leaping off from a typo she had come across for "mammoth"), about a lonely monster who rarely emerges from "the pale subways of cement he calls his home," to the beauty of her villanelle "One Art" (with its repeated "the art of losing isn't hard to master"), the poet wittily explores distance and desolation, separation and sorrow.