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Prose: The Centenary Edition Paperback – 17 Feb 2011

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"The virtues of the prose are the virtues of the poems: observation, wit, decorum, a sinuous intelligence adn above all what Randall Jarrell called her 'moral attractiveness'" (Michael Hoffman)

"Unhurried, methodical, human, she pronounces a true but merciful verdict on our precarious existence" (Craig Raine)

"[Bishop] was also a fine writer of prose...So hats off to the publishers for gathering all her writings in two separate volumes...her cosmopolitan life is reflected in the breadth of her writings, all suffused with curiosity and quiet intelligence" (Sunday Telegraph)

"Taken together [with the Poems: The Centenary Edition], these two volumes make a handsome tribute to a writer who is gradually, quietly being one of America's greatest" (London Review of Books)

Book Description

A centenary edition of the prose of Elizabeth Bishop, one of the finest American poets of the twentieth century.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Prose as lucid and entertaining as her poetry! 26 Feb. 2013
By cavedave - Published on
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I was recently introduced to the poetry of Bishop and then learned that she was equally as great as a prose writer. I wanted a companion edition to the Amazon book,Poetry,by Elizabeth Bishop and found this 500-page bargain edition at the Amazon website. This is a valuable adition to my library and is an important reference book for anyone who want to read great prose or who want to attempt to write great prose. You won't be disappointed!
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Final 22 May 2013
By gelica215 - Published on
"In the Waiting Room" takes place in a dentist office. For most people a dentist office is not a fun place to be, but for many people it is just a chore that needs to be done. As a kid a dentist office might be filled with screams and horrible memories , perhaps what Bishop is recalling is a childhood memory. A majority of Bishop's poems are written about her personal experiences. The reader knows this is probably a young girl, a young Bishop, because the character refers to adults as "grown up people"( 8). Normally adults do not refer to other adults by a name like that. Another hint that this poem is from a childhood memory is when the National Geographic magazine first appears Bishop writes "I could read" as if this is an accomplishment the reader should be astonished by. Of course to a child being able to read is a skill to be proud of and a child would note this in his or her writing.
As for "Visits to St. Elizabeths" the setting is a hospital. Once again hospitals are not a fun, cheerful place to be.A way this poem contrasts from the other is instead of a child character, this poem includes a grown man, a "tragic"(5) "old" (11) man. The phrase "wearing the watch/that tells the time" (18-19)is repeated throughout the poem. This phrase is significant because many people who are in hospitals are there for reasons that may take their life away. Bishop may be using this setting to create a moral: for people need to realize time is limited.
I found both these poems to be patricianly interesting because "In the Waiting room", even the title is hinting at time, is about a childhood memory and "Visiting St. Elizabeths'" is about a grown man. The poems have such a difference in age yet both include time. The girl from the dentist office has nothing but time to wait around for her aunt, and while she is waiting she finds something to occupy herself, let her imagination run free, something to make her happy. However this grown man is dreading time. He has lived his life and now is just aimlessly waiting for something, anything, lively to happen in this dull hospital.
Bishop is fantastic at creating layered writing; writing that builds anticipation. In the poem "In the Waiting Room" Bishop uses what i would call a wide lens to start her poem, then Bishop moves into a more smaller view, a view that is personal. For example the poem begins in a dentist office, then isolates to a magazine that is in the dentist's office, then Bishop describes each picture in the magazine in the dentist's office. The way Bishop describes the pictures is immaculate. My personal favorite is the way she paints the picture of a volcano:
"Black,full of ashes;/ then it was spilling over/ in rivulets of fire"(18-20). What is important here is the rest of the poem, except when Bishop describes the photographs, is in past tense. Words like "went"(2), "was"(6), and "said"(53) are used. However Bishop knows she creates an active image in the readers mind by using the present term "spilling"(19) as if the volcano eruption is happening right before the reader's very eyes.
The second poem,"Visiting St. Elizabeth", has the complete opposite style of "In the Waiting Room". "Visiting St. Elizabeth" starts off with a figurative zoomed in lens and gradually zooms out through each stanza. There are twelve stanzas in this poem; the first stanza is one line, the second stanza is two lines, the third stanza is three lines and so on. Bishop adds another line to each stanza which provides more detail which in a sense zooms the lens out into a larger picture.
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