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The Complete Poems, 1927-1979

4.19  ·  Rating Details ·  9,447 Ratings  ·  218 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, 287 pages
Published April 1st 1984 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published January 1st 1980)
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The Complete Poems by Emily DickinsonLeaves of Grass by Walt WhitmanShakespeare's Sonnets by William ShakespeareThe Waste Land and Other Poems by T.S. EliotAriel by Sylvia Plath
Best Poetry Books
39th out of 1,742 books — 1,891 voters
The Complete Stories and Poems by Edgar Allan PoeThe Poetry of Robert Frost by Robert FrostThe Complete Poems by Emily DickinsonThe Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke by Rainer Maria RilkeThe Complete Poems by John Keats
Best Poets
52nd out of 274 books — 322 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jul 24, 2007 Roxanne rated it it was ok
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
May 30, 2013 Alan rated it it was amazing
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
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
David M
Jul 08, 2016 David M rated it it was amazing
The brown enormous odor he lived by
was too close, with its breathing and thick hair,
for him to judge. The floor was rotten; the sty
was plastered halfway up with glass-smooth dung.
Light-lashed, self-righteous, above moving snouts,
the pigs' eyes followed him, a cheerful stare--
even to the sow that always ate her young--
till, sickening, he leaned to scratch her head.
But sometimes mornings after drinking bouts
(he hid the pints behind the two-by-fours),
the sunrise glazed the barnyard mud with red
Feb 24, 2016 Juliana rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorite, 2016
4,5 stars. I wrote about this book here: Questions of displacement - #readwomen
Nov 16, 2009 Bryant rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 18, 2012 Sasha rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

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
Jun 26, 2015 ♛Tash marked it as to-read
Shelves: poetry
into that world inverted
where left is always right,
where the shadows are really the body,
where we stay awake all night,
where the heavens are shallow as the sea
is now deep, and you love me.

- Insomnia

From my favorite poem
Aug 07, 2015 kenneth rated it it was amazing
Nearly all of these poems are remarkable in some way. Bishop deftly handles fixed forms, such as the sonnet and the sestina, and her villanelle "One Art" has been lingering in my mind for awhile. Her verses in open form are well chiseled sculptures. She can shift her creative focus from the quotidian to the marvelous and leave the reader the better for it.
Some more favorites include "The Hanging of the Mouse" and "Roosters".
Also notable are her translations of other poets, including "The Table"
May 29, 2009 Andrew rated it really liked it
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.
Michael Arnold
May 28, 2016 Michael Arnold rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
I love Elizabeth Bishop. I think she is fantastic.

This is an excellent book, and one I'm going to read again. In the first appendix to this has all of Bishop's manuscripts and unpublished poems, and like T.S. Eliot's unfinished poems in his Complete Poems put out by Faber and Faber, I must admit I find them interesting as a writer - seeing what better writers and poets have written and then rejected. It is an insight into how their mind worked during the creative process. And seeing the actual
Jan 11, 2008 Paul rated it it was amazing
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"
Sherry Chandler
Feb 02, 2014 Sherry Chandler rated it it was amazing
Shelves: thepoets
Bishop forces me to slow down and savor -- I don't always want to do that but when I do the rewards are great.
Feb 13, 2013 Stanleychin rated it it was amazing
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
Roger Pettit
Mar 10, 2012 Roger Pettit rated it really liked it
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
Ally Atherton
Aug 25, 2011 Ally Atherton rated it it was ok
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
Sep 01, 2009 Elizabeth rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry
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
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
An absolutely stunning collection! Elizabeth Bishop & Sylvia Plath are, in my opinion, the greatest American female poets of the 20th Century. Their work is timeless. Their poetry consisted of a depth & brilliance that is absent from poetry today.

*4.25/5 stars*
Rebecca Lorenzo
--Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Elizabeth Bishop may not always be my cup of tea, but "One Art" gets me every time.
EGSC  Library
Nov 20, 2015 EGSC Library rated it it was amazing
Books We're Thankful For: "I am thankful for Elizabeth Bishop because she taught me that I could, indeed, love poetry." This book is available at the EGSC Library.
ɑƨħŵɑɡ ♥Team Magnus Damora FOREVER♥
Since I read One Art for my English Major in English Literature more than 4 years ago the only thing I wanted was to read for Elizabeth Bishop, among other poets and novelists like Sylvia Plath and Elizabeth Gaskell.

One Art is still my #1 favorite even after reading this one. However, I found some other poems that had captured my interest like Argument, Conversation, In the Waiting Room, February 1918, Insomnia, Letter to N.Y., Manners, Sonnet (1979)

I find Bishop's contemplative poems beautiful.
Nov 19, 2015 Dan rated it liked it
I've liked very much some of the poems of Bishop's that I've seen elsewhere, such as The Map and Fishes. This collection had many vivid pictures, but sometimes the poems failed to transport me from image to insight.

Her work seems overall very imagist to me, which is both a strength and a weakness. On the back cover John Ashbery praises her for poetry that "because it remains rooted in everyday particulars, never sounds 'grand', but is as quietly convincing as honest speech." That was the best wo
Katie Herring
Apr 30, 2015 Katie Herring rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: verse
I've read about 10 poems for my contemporary class and I've loved them. I just wrote a paper on "Questions of Travel."

I'll slowly make my way through the rest of the anthology.


I've read through the whole thing, absolutely wonderful. Not all of the poems I connected with, but the ones I did I loved. So many of the lines are still resonating in my mind.
Peter Landau
Sep 05, 2014 Peter Landau rated it really liked it
There’s no denying Elizabeth Bishop’s artistry. Her poems are polished to a blinding shine, which may be my problem with them. I had to turn away. Maybe it’s her perfectionism. I’m more attracted to failure, or at least to rough edges. They give me a foothold. It wasn’t until I was trying to wake up my five-year-old daughter earlier this week, and I happened to have this book in my hand, that I found an entry point. Or a weapon. I told my daughter I was going to read her poetry until she got out ...more
Feb 21, 2008 Dawn rated it liked it
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.
Jul 05, 2016 Karen marked it as to-read
* 25 Books to Read Before You Die
* 40 Books to Read Before Turning 40

Elizabeth Bishop’s poetry is dearly loved amongst her fans but perhaps not as well-known as it should be; for one of America’s towering talents of the 20th century, she is not read nearly as much as Eliot or Whitman, or even cummings. That may be in part because of her relatively slim output — this volume of all her poetic works clocks in at only 368 pages. But the care she took with her poetry is evident; every word is perfect
Chelsea Rectanus
I would tattoo Sestina to my forehead if I was drunk enough. Spectacular.
Sidik Fofana
Sep 29, 2014 Sidik Fofana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
SIX WORD REVIEW: Twisted descriptions of nature and lichen.
Harsha Gurnani
Aug 26, 2016 Harsha Gurnani rated it liked it
I could not connect with endless descriptions of animals, trees, farms, streets and clouds without discussions on (probably) human emotions like loneliness, discontentment, disillusionment, existential dilemma, injustice, oppression, and some happy thoughts on life, the universe and so on. I just lost patience maybe.

There are exceptions of course. Like others, I did find this one touching:

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss
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Poetry: Elizabeth Bishop 4 9 Jan 07, 2013 01:49AM  
  • Complete Poems
  • The Wild Iris
  • Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror
  • Collected Poems
  • Above the River: The Complete Poems
  • The Dream Songs
  • The Collected Poems
  • My Alexandria
  • Hinge & Sign: Poems, 1968-1993
  • The Collected Poems
  • Song
  • Collected Poems
  • Collected Poems, 1948-1984
  • The Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara
  • Trilogy: The Walls Do Not Fall / Tribute to the Angels / The Flowering of the Rod
  • Neon Vernacular: New and Selected Poems
  • The Fact of a Doorframe: Poems Selected and New, 1950-1984
  • The Country Between Us
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
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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…