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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 15 November 2006
For many, Bishop is the quintessential American poet of the twentieth century. Subtle, crafted and frequently surreal, her poems tend to centre on loss, travel and the way we understand ourselves through the physical world around us. Her exquisite acts of describing islands, animals, ports and quietly untidy human habitations on the fringes show a thinking, exhiliratingly alert mind in action. This is oblique and layered poetry which reveals more on each re-reading. Her sestinas and villanelle 'One Art' are also the best in the business. This edition contains all her best known poems including 'The Bight', 'Crusoe in England', 'The Armadillo', 'Sandpiper', 'The Map' and 'The Fish'. Give it a try: these beautiful poems will stay with you long afterwards.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 27 January 2002
Elizabeth Bishop's accute observations provide a fascinating insight into the mysteries that surround her. The poet's confusion over identity and belonging are artfully moulded in a series of fine poems, some semi-autobiographical, which explore the nature of travel and self.
The first poem in the collection, 'The Map', explores the importance of place, whilst 'Questions of Travel' marks a shift in her ideology. Bishop questions: "Is it right to be watching strangers in a play/ in this strangest of theatres?" and wonders whether we should "have stayed at home,/ wherever that may be?"
Bishop's detailed observations are perhaps most extraordinary in her contemplation of animals. Her animal poems, including 'The Moose', 'The Fish' and 'Roosters' are curious and insightful in their exploration of the animal kingdom and the effects animals have on humans.
In addition the wonders of childhood are developed in many of her poems, with 'Sestina' and 'First Death in Nova Scotia' being especially poignant in their pathos.
Bishop's accessible style makes the reading of her 'Complete Poems' a treat. You cannot help but become enthralled by the mysterious poet.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 21 February 2011
I bought this when I was at university several years ago. I enjoyed reading it then and still enjoy it now. I think that's a good measure of a poet. Bishop's poems have a timeless quality to them, thanks to her precise, almost obsessive, way of looking at her subjects (such as the venerable old fish in 'The Fish', for instance, which is speckled and has 'barnacles,/fine rosettes of lime,/and infested/with tiny white sea-lice'). Poems like 'Roosters', 'At the Fishhouses' and 'In the Waiting Room' show this quite well. If you're after a definitive collection from one of the defining American poets of the twentieth century, buy this.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 4 May 2011
I bought this book as I had previously heard one of the poems 'One Art' read on the film 'In Her Shoes' starring Toni Collette and Cameron Diaz. I really loved the poem so decided that I would buy the book so that I could see other poems by the same author.
I was worried that it was going to be like when you hear a good song on the radio and so you go out and buy that album and it turns out that the actual album is rubbish, but that was not the case with this book. I love it.
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on 14 June 2013
I cannot be objective: Bishop was a friend since HS, throughout the Vassar College years and beyond, of my mentor and patron Rhoda Sheehan; in fact, Bishop rented Rhoda's "Hurricane House" that floated over Westport Harbor in the '38 hurricane. That's where I met her once, individually, and asked her about prosody. I never realized until I read a Bishop biography, maybe Remembering Elizabeth Bishop, how much effort Rhoda must have put into getting Bishop to talk to me. She dreaded students, even when she was fairly remunerated out at U WA when she took over a year or two for Roethke.
Fairly remunerated she was not by my humble Bristol Community College (MA), where she gave readings three years in a row in the late 70s, when she'd come back from Brazil--and when her longtime Brazilian friend committed suicide. One of those "readings" she played and discussed sambas--how everyone in Brazil wrote them, the janitor, the poet laureate. She played a few on an old 78 phonograph, to an audience of perhaps 25, while our community college students on break from class were in the next "room" (divided by a supposed wall, movable) playing rock on 6' speakers by their pool table. I recall thinking at the time: One major trouble with modern life is that the wrong people (and interests) have the best megaphones and speakers.
Since Rhoda was her friend, Bishop came to talk for a Department outlay of $100, too low for administrators to care about the event. A decade earlier we had had Ginsberg and even WH Auden (then priced at $3500) to read. By the late 80s, no adminstrator knew the distinguished history of our poetry readings, and when they came up with $1500 inflated dollars to tinvite a Pawtucket poet (with some name, yes), they bragged about "our first prominent poetry reading." We had also, in the 80s, had Marge Piercy from the Cape, and I would invite several including Alan Dugan.
I think Bishop is the Dickinson of my lifetime: low, under the radar of fame and celebration until quite late in her life, though always known to the best editors and people like Roethke. Bishop tinkered with her great vilanelle "One Art" for years at Rhoda Sheehan's Hurricane House--perhaps the central achievement of Westport in verse, though we have housed in summers distinguished profs and critics galore, including from the New Yorker and the NYT.
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on 28 August 2012
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This is poetry at its best: creative, clever, moving and ALWAYS comprehensible. The copy I received although far from new, was in fine condition.
Ms Bishop's beautifully couched observations on life and on the human condition will, I'm sure, help me see all in a new light for many years to come.
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on 18 October 2013
Did not know about this woman until BBC's R4 Poetry Please. Ordered the book after hearing that and have enoyed very much what I have read so far. An American with her heart in the rural life she saw, expressing herself in a new way for me.
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on 28 September 2014
Elizabeth Bishop is often described as the best woman poet of the twentieth century. Well that is a huge, but entirely believable claim, this really is good poetry. It is a joy to read it.
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on 30 August 2013
This book was as good as new. It has been hard to get hold of
but I would highly recommend it to others as Elizabeth Bishop
is a wonderful poet.
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9 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 19 October 2009
Is it me or is it Elizabeth Bishop? - following recommendations I do find her work a disappointment. There is, I suppose, an over florid verbosity which I usually associate with American "creative writing" ... too many lovingly inserted adjectives which somehow entangle rather than elucidate, and here, strangely, choices of wording which somehow mis-directed me towards interpretations different from those intended. My fault, or hers? - I find the analysis difficult, but the truth is that I was left cold and untouched.
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