The Complete Poems, 1927-1979
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The Complete Poems, 1927-1979

4.2 of 5 stars 4.20  ·  rating details  ·  7,265 ratings  ·  179 reviews
Highly regarded throughout her prestigious literary career, and today seen as an undeniable master of her art, Elizabeth Bishop remains one of America's most influential and widely acclaimed poets. This is the definitive collection of her work. The Complete Poems includes the books North & South, A Cold Spring, Questions of Travel, and Geography III, as well as previou...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published April 1st 1984 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1969)
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I really wanted to like this collection. I did enjoy One Art:

One Art

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
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...more

Elizabeth, I liked some of your poems, found some of them beautiful, or touching or delicately structured. Not especially profound, but you don't strike me as having invested much in the profound, rather the fleeting, the unintended and the suddenly honest. You also did not speak often of love, except perhaps in your manuscript poems, which you hid and which did not escape until after your death. So much for the love poems. They were some or your best, by the way-- if only you had been bolder a...more
In the May 14, 2009 issue of The London Review of Books, Colm Tóibín writes that in the poems of Elizabeth Bishop, "Description was a desperate way of avoiding self-description; looking at the world was a way of looking out from the self." He goes on to say that "The fact that the world was there was both enough and far too little for Bishop. Its history or her own history were beside the point." Given that the lyric mode† has become the dominant mode of contemporary poetry (as opposed to epic o...more
Very few Bishop poems touch overtly on the subject of romantic love. The following poem does, and it tugs on one's heartstrings as deftly as any Lucinda Williams country song:


The moon in the bureau mirror
looks out a million miles
(and perhaps with pride, at herself,
but she never, never smiles)
far and away beyond sleep, or
perhaps she's a daytime sleeper.

By the Universe deserted,
SHE'd tell it to go to hell,
and she'd find a body of water,
or a mirror, on which to dwell.
So wrap up care in a...more
Elizabeth Bishop is one of the top five poets writing in English of the 20th C. She writes poems of such simplicity and beauty, about her hard childhood in Nova Scotia, and her time in Brazil with her girlfriend, which ended in suicide and heartbreak. The emotion in the poems is always controlled by perfect language and images that retain their freshness.
Some of my favorite poems are "First Death in Nova Scotia", "At the Fish-houses", "Cape Breton", "One Art", and "Manuelzinho"
This book should really just be on my "currently-reading" list and remain there permanently. I have never fallen for a poet so quickly and fully. I love her choice of words, her diversity in subject matter, her voice comes through so clearly to me. I have had a harder time with some of the poems that are centered around people or places in Brazil. In general, I like that her poems are not overly cryptic; its pretty easy to know what she's talking about.
Erik Simon
She writes the cleanest lines in the history of American poetry. I rarely say things like this, but this book really should be on the shelf of anyone who loves reading, even if you don't love reading poetry.
It seems absurd to write a review of a book like this, but the one-star "I had to read this in class and I don't like poetry" reviews made me so sad that I had to put something here.

Bishop's poems are tender, funny, prickly, utterly observant, deeply wise. And if you learn nothing about her personal life from her poems (compared with, say Robert Lowell or Sylvia Plath) yet she is undeniably herself alone in her poems: "you are an I,/you are an Elizabeth,/you are one of them." She demands to be...more
Roger Pettit
Elizabeth Bishop's childhood was typical of that experienced by many great artists: it was suffused with tragedy. Her father died before she had her first birthday. Her mother was mentally ill. As a result, Elizabeth spent her formative years living with various relatives, some of whom were not kind or friendly to her. This may account for the cool, impersonal style of much of her poetry, most of which is collected in this very good book.

Elizabeth Bishop's poetry demonstrates her great percepti...more
Ally Atherton
Book 39 Complete Poems - Elizabeth Bishop

I must say that I have a love hate relationship with poetry, I like some poetry but I hate a lot of it ! For me it is the snobbery that surrounds the world of poetry that I don't like. Personally I love to be able to read a poem without having to have a degree in the history and workings of poetry, if a poem doesn't make sense then I don't like it. And I don't want to know about iambics or any of that stuff to be able to appreciate a piece of writing. I h...more
This was a high school assignment I was not fond of at the time; picked it up again this week in the hope that I had merely been prejudiced at the time. It was a mostly-vain hope.

I do not understand why one of the blurbs on the back claims that Bishop is a great poet. There are maybe half a dozen pieces in here which could possibly justify that claim, and while that is half a dozen more than many people ever write, I would like to think that true greatness demands a little more than that. Like i...more
Feb 16, 2011 David added it
Elizabeth Bishop - One Art

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The a...more
Sherry Chandler
Bishop forces me to slow down and savor -- I don't always want to do that but when I do the rewards are great.
Gabriel Oak
I've come to love Elizabeth Bishop more and more upon multiple re-readings. She is in my mind the most accomplished lyric poet of postwar America. Her poems are characterized by incredible precision--I often get the sense reading them that the poem grew up around specific words rather than words being found to fit the poem. For example, the following lines from "Poem" (in Geography III), in which the poet meditates on an old postcard: "Life and the memory of it cramped, / on a piece of Bristol b...more
Ok. I know I should like it. Jimmy and Paul and Misty do, this Bishop with her fists, and drawn on the window in front of the sea like that, traveling, and I know there's a vernacular quality that feels easy but isn't. But I'll be damned, woman, you just can't turn me on.
Chelsea Rectanus
I would tattoo Sestina to my forehead if I was drunk enough. Spectacular.
Diann Blakely
What would Elizabeth Bishop have thought about National Poetry month? An early advocate for the art's democratization, the late poet William Matthews, reminded practitioners that “the work of the body becomes a body of work.” Nothing of poets lives on except their lines, and I think Bishop would be have been in accord with both his work in the community and his words.

Even if I'm wrong, memorable lines are bewilderingly ubiquitous in FSG’s centennial birthday gift of Bishop’s POEMS. Enough has be...more
I had never read Elizabeth Bishop. In my mind, I realize, I subconsciously lumped her together with Marianne Moore and Emily Dickinson, but recently her name came up in a book about the artist Enrique Martinez Celaya, which mentioned her along with poets including Paul Celan, Tomas Transtormer, Rilke and Miguel Hernandez, I went to my bookcase where I'd had this book for years and gave her another try.

I can see why I hadn't warmed to her whenever it was I'd purchased this book to begin with. She...more

a big thing on the poetry scene was the publication of 120 unpublished poems from elizabeth bishop's notebooks, including one she crossed out. helen vendler, our most divine critic, denounced it as a complete betrayal of bishop's triumphantly sparse enterprise (89 poems), while the ny times critic said that since bishop is a 20th century figure on a par with shakespeare and hendrix, these cullings are of inestimable interest and usefulness, so that makes it ok.

it's fine to publish them. she is e...more
EB is my "remarkable poet," a past mind that understands me without ever having known me. She belongs to the school of Confessionalism (touted by the likes of the famous Robert Lowell), and I believe she to be the most illustrious, gifted, of all of them. Even for those not into poetry, Bishop's exploration of travel and natural motifs, in relation to her own internal struggle, are worth reading.
An example:
"Think of the long trip home.
Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?
Where shou...more
Kirsten Kinnell

one of my favorites:


This celestial seascape, with white herons got up as angels,
flying high as they want and as far as they want sidewise
in tiers and tiers of immaculate reflections;
the whole region, from the highest heron
down to the weightless mangrove island
with bright green leaves edged neatly with bird-droppings
like illumination in silver,
and down to the suggestively Gothic arches of the mangrove roots
and the beautiful pea-green back-pasture
where occasionally a fish jumps...more
It's becoming more and more difficult for me to "rate" books of poetry, particularly collected and selected volumes. I really liked all of Elizabeth Bishop's work, at least all of it that I'd read here and there before tackling this book, and I don't like it any less now that I've read all of it. But I'm vastly more fond of her later work, particularly the "Elsewhere" half of Questions of Travel and the masterpiece that is Geography III. The earlier stuff doesn't grab me, for the most part, alth...more
Elizabeth Bishop changed my view of poetry. I knew I liked the stuff, but I had never read anyone who made the writing of such complicated verses seem so easy. Her poems are facile on some levels, and yet the form she employs don't seem to constrain her--a feat which is impossible for all but a few. I read much of this anthology in my senior seminar as an English major in college, along with Emily Dickenson and Marianne Moore. Elizabeth was by far my favorite. She's a modern woman poet, with a l...more
the poetry of elizabeth bishop is as good as anything written in any language. she is a true master of the art of saying things. i could not be more impressed by a writer. she is the gold standard of clever.

her poems are heartbreaking and sublime. the language is utterly gorgeous and hypnotic. her honesty as a human being is staggering. her poems are both surprisingly simple and unmistakeably complicated.

superlatives in book reviews are rarely credible, but with elizabeth bishop, one is not wel...more
Sep 10, 2007 Trina rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People who are dead inside and don't mind it.
Shelves: poetry
I was prepared not to like Elizabeth Bishop. Nature, traditional form, rhyme all that stuff I'm not terribly fond of in poetry are in evidence. But once I got past that prejudice (Why do I even have that prejudice? I love Wordsworth and Blake, so why can't I abide formalism in contemporary writing?), I found that I really enjoyed the content, much of which forms the locus of my own obsessions: travel, outsiderhood, a sort of gestalt-style vision, ekphrasis, etc. Her verse is distant and observat...more
Jeremy Ra
Praised by Robert Lowell as being able to “make the casual perfect,” Bishop not only established herself as one of the most accessible and talented poets but also defined the major trend in modern poetry.

In fact, her characteristic unassuming voice (a la faux naïveté) became what many poets strive for today. Her poems such as “One Art” or “The Fish” are ubiquitous due to being greatly anthologized, and they remain as paragons of how an artist was able to completely assimilate the traditional for...more
Alexandra Cohen
Elizabeth Bishop is one of the greatest American Poets of all time and possibly the best American poet of the 20th century. Her ability to craft incredible poetry while staying true to artistic fixed-verse form is uncanny. For example, in SESTINA, she carefully follows the 39-line poetic form of the sestina, using the words that end the first line of each stanza as line endings in the following stanzas. House, grandmother, child, stove, almanac, tears: these choices weave a sad and beautiful sto...more
Nov 02, 2007 Aeisele rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Theologians
"I dreamed that dead, and meditating,/ I lay upon a grave, or bed,/ (at least, some cold and close-built bower)." These opening lines from "The Weed" exemplify the brilliance of Bishop: the ability to bring together, better than any metaphysical poet, the high and the low, the profound and the mundane, the effervescent and the instrumental. What a vision! Besides (with Louise Bogan) being the greatest technical poet of the 20th century, she also has this way of painting any scene, or giving you...more
Bishop's clarity and imagination shine through in every poem she wrote. And here they are, all of them, in one total set. Most impressive are her works on geography and place; Bishop delightfully draws you into her sights, and by describing them deftly and surprisingly, she unlocks the hidden meaning behind the everyday and reveals time to be a lie that nature constructs in front of our faces.

Most intriguing to me were her translations at the back of the book. You can learn the most about an aut...more
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Poetry: Elizabeth Bishop 4 9 Jan 07, 2013 01:49AM  
  • Complete Poems
  • The Collected Poems
  • The Collected Poems
  • Above the River: The Complete Poems
  • Collected Poems
  • The Dream Songs: Poems
  • The Fact of a Doorframe: Poems Selected and New, 1950-1984
  • The Complete Poems
  • The Country Between Us
  • Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror
  • The Wild Iris
  • My Alexandria
  • Trilogy: The Walls Do Not Fall / Tribute to the Angels / The Flowering of the Rod
  • The Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara
  • Song
  • Neon Vernacular: New and Selected Poems
  • Elegy
  • The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems, 1974-1994
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
More about Elizabeth Bishop...
Geography III One Art The Collected Prose Bishop: Poems, Prose, and Letters Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence Between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell

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“The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seemed filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster”
“Time to plant tears, says the almanac.
The grandmother sings to the marvelous stove
and the child draws another inscrutable house.”
More quotes…