National Poetry Month

Last April, I was surprised to find myself at a loss as to who my favorite poet was (is?). Over the past year, I believe, I've finally come to a conclusion. Although there are many poets who I adore fiercely (Anne Sexton, J. Allyn Rosser, Louise Erdrich, Sarah Lindsay, Sarah Hannah, Louise Glück, etcetera etcetera), the one I love above all is Elizabeth Bishop. I can't say exactly why. There are so many things about her life and her work and her person that I admire. But as a poet, she is vivid in her description and images, yet always a bit subdued in tone; simple, but a bit complicated beneath the skin; precise and not always beautiful. This last might be her finest poetic attribute, in my opinion, that she focuses on things that aren't necessarily pretty and she doesn't romanticize them until they become so (in the traditional sense of beauty, that is). A celebration of plainness. My two favorite poems of hers are actually very similar to each other: "The Fish" and "At the Fishhouses." For anyone interested in Elizabeth Bishop's life and person, I would ecstatically recommend the new book Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence Between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell. Read it on her lips, as it were.

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