Elizabeth Bishop


Why Elizabeth Bishop was Considered to be Dickonsonian in Her Writing Style Poet Elizabeth Bishop was as simple as she was complex. The lucid and uncomplicated images she created with her seemingly elementary style were anything but; in fact, the complexity that resides within her characteristically simple prose, which demonstrate a purity and precision like no other, are known only to those who can see beyond their façade. Attention to outer detail and an unquenchable desire to portray her inner pain, Bishop favored a more simplistic approach to convey the immense pain and suffering she endured throughout her life. Utilizing the concepts of surrealism and imagery, as well as incorporating landscape and geography, the troubled poet cleverly and quite appropriately captured her audience with images of her own anguish. Only since her death has Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979) been generally recognized as one of the four or five finest American poets of this century. One reason it's taken so long may be Bishop's low profile: she lived in Brazil for almost half her productive life, published a slim new book of poems only once a decade, disliked giving public readings, and participated in none of the "movements" of her time. Bishop's masterly descriptive powers were the energy she invested in an attempt to found a poetry not on what had happened to its author, but on what its author saw and felt and shared with others in the present, whether what was shared was a set of friends, a series of real or imagined travels, books read, or sights seen. Bishop, besides being an award winning poet, was a prolific letter writer. Her friend and publisher, Robert Giroux, has assembled and edited over 500 of the letters Bishop wrote to her friends from around the world. Emily Dickonson's closest friends knew she wrote poetry, because she often included poems or lines from poems in her many letters. What they had no way of appreciating, however, was the magnitude of her solitary achievement. When she died at 56 her sister Lavinia found in a drawer over 1,700 poems --- the result of a lifetime's concentrated work. And since the publication of a small selection of those poems four years after her death, Dickinson's reputation has risen; today her place among the very best poets to have written in English is unchallenged. Dickinson in her early 30's made some tentative attempts to get published, but her work was far ahead of its time and she did not meet with success. Only seven poems were published in her lifetime, each changed by editors to suit the day's standards of rhyme, punctuation and meter. The many similarities between Bishop and Dickonson are clearly evident in their lives and their writing styles. Both women were from the New England area; both never married; both wrote about their pain, suffering and anguish; both were minimally published before their deaths; both used a simple. easy to read, writing style; and both wrote or incorporated nature into their themes. The only differences were Emily Dickonson's religion and isolation, whereas Elizabeth Bishop was well travelled and considered to be an agnostic. Elizabeth Bishop nearly mirrored Emily Dickonson in every way, and that is why she is considered to be "Dickonsonian."