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North and South

4.36 of 5 stars 4.36  ·  rating details  ·  129 ratings  ·  16 reviews
54 pages
Published 1946 by Houghton Mifflin
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The 1955 volume POEMS reissued Elizabeth Bishop's debut collection North and South, but it also contained an entirely new collection titled A Cold Spring. One of the best places to get this material is the Library of America volume (ISBN 1598530178) that contains Bishop's complete poems and prose with a choice of letters, but I have found it interesting to slowly examine Bishop's collections on their own.

North and South was published in 1946, but of the poems predate the war (or at least America
There's a reason Bishop is a modern classic. Her writing is so obscure and precise and full of wonderful images that resonate and linger. To me, this is what I want from poetry.

Granted, yes, some of her rhyme schemes feel a bit dated--if not outright forced--so those can make for some awkward reads. Overall, though, I love Bishop's language and will most definitely be reading more of her work down the road.
I love her work. I love form and well-done rhyme. She's insightful, playful and witty. Wordsmith - page and ink as metal and fire.
My favorite poem in this collection is "The Man-Moth," which combines Bishop's characteristic exactness of perception with a floridly imaginative surrealism that is rather unusual for her.
Courtney Johnston
I fell for Elizabeth Bishop on the first page of this double-collection.

The Map

Land lies in water; it is shadowed green.
Shadows, or are they shallows, at its edges
showing the line of long sea-weeded ledges
where weeds hang to the simple blue from green.
Or does the land lean down to lift the sea from under,
drawing it unperturbed around itself?
Along the fine tan sandy shelf
is the land tugging at the sea from under?

The shadow of Newfoundland lies flat and still.
Labrador's yellow, where the moony Es
I can't speak/write cogently on Bishop's poetry per se, so some thoughts.

Last week i listened to recordings of her readings. Yesterday, yet again, i noticed that my reading mind has different favorite bits than my listening mind's. Rhyme is more apparent when reading, as if it were visual. I experience rhythm and meter better while listening, though

While reading poetry these last couple weeks i also noticed that choice images or words send me wandering through memories more so than novels and n
North and South was the first collection by the American poet Elizabeth Bishop. Though published in 1946, all the material predates the war (or at least American involvement in it) and reflect Bishop's development as a poet through the 1930s and very early 1940s. Of course, the best place to get this material is in the Library of America that contains Bishop's complete poems and prose with a choice of letters, but it's interesting to examine this collection on its own.

From the very first poem, "
I had no desire to read Elizabeth Bishop before, I think because, while "One Art" is obviously a tight poem, I was never bowled over by it. (I've never typed out "bowled over" before. It doesn't look right.) Then I read an article on The Millions about her and it quoted some irresistibly good poetry. So I took this book out of the library. Not only does it have a kick-ass cover design (this is the original printing), but the poems are so good. Not just well-written, but filled with goodness. May ...more
Annette Boehm
Bishop's first collection, published in 1946, contains many interesting poems. The pages swarm with birds, fish, reptiles; there is even a man-moth. The poems are varied enough in theme and style to keep a reader interested through the volume, and it's nice and short, too. As poetry volumes often are. :) My favorite poems in this one are "The Monument", "The Fish", "The Gentleman of Shalott", and "The Man-Moth". Bishop likes to play with language, her images are captivating, acute observations. ...more
Cooper Renner
I have not been a particular fan of Bishop (though long ago I often used "The Fish," which I rather liked, with high school classes), but decided to pick this volume up when I found it at Booked Up in Archer City, Texas. It was not impressing me until about halfway through, when I hit "Sleeping on the Ceiling," a very clever poem which compares Paris (perhaps before World War Two?) to a neglected room, and suddenly either the poems got better or my outlook and Bishop's began to overlap. I found ...more
Justin Evans
About half of these were really good; about half were eye-rolling. Honestly, you can only use the word 'marl' so many times before it becomes precious. I think it might be once, too. Basically, when something actually happens and she feels free to comment on that happening, the poems are great; when nothing happens and she's just describing it's sleep inducing. For me anyway; I'm pretty uninterested in poetic descriptions of nature. I guess people fall madly in love with her travel poems, so may ...more
This is simply for A COLD SPRING, as I've already read / reviewed NORTH & SOUTH.

Once again, Bishop is wonderful. Honestly, I didn't connect with these poems as much as I did with N&S, but her imagery... holy crap, her imagery... is some of the best around. Her poems are lovely, a wonderful batch of words to swish and roll across your tongue, head, and heart.

For folks like me that are still dabbling in the poetry realm, I think Bishop is one of the best possible introductions a person cou
From "Songs for a Colored Singer:"

"Fruit or flower? It is a face.
Yes, a face.
In that dark and dreary place
each seed grows into a face."
Rating for A Cold Spring (though North and South got the same rating). I feel like A Cold Spring is slightly better than North and South - though only just. Half a star difference in rating. Brilliant poetry in both collections, but A Cold Spring seems more mature and consise than does North and South.
Elizabeth Bishop sculpts language into lean, elegant images, images that speak to the spirit. I read these poems while vacationing by the sea during a full moon week. Cold Spring is hauntingly beautiful . . . enough said!
With respect to Ms. Bishop, I get why critics see her as somewhat minor. The ideas are narrower in scope and the form is banal, but the execution is often lovely. Imagistic, descriptive.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Elizabeth Bishop was an American poet and writer from Worcester, Massachusetts. She was the Poet Laureate of the United States from 1949 to 1950, a Pulitzer Prize winner in 1956. and a National Book Award Winner for Poetry in 1970. She is considered one of the most importa
More about Elizabeth Bishop...
The Complete Poems, 1927-1979 Geography III One Art Elizabeth Bishop: Poems, Prose, and Letters The Collected Prose

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“I have seen it over and over, the same sea, the same,
slightly, indifferently swinging above the stones,
icily free above the stones,
above the stones and then the world.
If you should dip your hand in,
your wrist would ache immediately,
your bones would begin to ache and your hand would burn
as if the water were a transmutation of fire
that feeds on stones and burns with a dark gray flame.
If you tasted it, it would first taste bitter,
then briny, then surely burn your tongue.
It is like what we imagine knowledge to be:
dark, salt, clear, moving, utterly free,
drawn form the cold hard mouth
of the world, derived from the rocky breasts
forever, flowing and drawn, and since
our knowledge is historical, flowing, and flown.”
“Cape Breton

Out on the high "bird islands," Ciboux and Hertford,
the razorbill auks and the silly-looking puffins all stand
with their backs to the mainland
in solemn, uneven lines along the cliff's brown grass-frayed edge,
while the few sheep pastured there go "Baaa, baaa."
(Sometimes, frightened by aeroplanes, they stampede
and fall over into the sea or onto the rocks.)
The silken water is weaving and weaving,
disappearing under the mist equally in all directions,
lifted and penetrated now and then
by one shag's dripping serpent-neck,
and somewhere the mist incorporates the pulse,
rapid but unurgent, of a motor boat.

The same mist hangs in thin layers
among the valleys and gorges of the mainland
like rotting snow-ice sucked away
almost to spirit; the ghosts of glaciers drift
among those folds and folds of fir: spruce and hackmatack--
dull, dead, deep pea-cock colors,
each riser distinguished from the next
by an irregular nervous saw-tooth edge,
alike, but certain as a stereoscopic view.

The wild road clambers along the brink of the coast.
On it stand occasional small yellow bulldozers,
but without their drivers, because today is Sunday.
The little white churches have been dropped into the matted hills
like lost quartz arrowheads.
The road appears to have been abandoned.
Whatever the landscape had of meaning appears to have been abandoned,
unless the road is holding it back, in the interior,
where we cannot see,
where deep lakes are reputed to be,
and disused trails and mountains of rock
and miles of burnt forests, standing in gray scratches
like the admirable scriptures made on stones by stones--
and these regions now have little to say for themselves
except in thousands of light song-sparrow songs floating upward
freely, dispassionately, through the mist, and meshing
in brown-wet, fine torn fish-nets.

A small bus comes along, in up-and-down rushes,
packed with people, even to its step.
(On weekdays with groceries, spare automobile parts, and pump parts,
but today only two preachers extra, one carrying his frock coat on a
It passes the closed roadside stand, the closed schoolhouse,
where today no flag is flying
from the rough-adzed pole topped with a white china doorknob.
It stops, and a man carrying a bay gets off,
climbs over a stile, and goes down through a small steep meadow,
which establishes its poverty in a snowfall of daisies,
to his invisible house beside the water.

The birds keep on singing, a calf bawls, the bus starts.
The thin mist follows
the white mutations of its dream;
an ancient chill is rippling the dark brooks.”
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