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The Complete Poems 1927-1979

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  11,706 ratings  ·  276 reviews
Elizabeth Bishop was vehement about her art--a perfectionist who didn't want to be seen as a "woman poet." In 1977, two years before her death she wrote, "art is art and to separate writings, paintings, musical compositions, etc., into two sexes is to emphasize values in them that are not art." She also deeply distrusted the dominant mode of modern poetry, one practiced wi ...more
Paperback, 287 pages
Published 1984 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1980)
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Alan
May 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-lit
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
Michael
Jul 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, 2017, recs
Oblique, bizarre, and brilliantly crafted, Bishop's poems offer slanted perspectives on a wide scope of subjects: nature, national history, endurance, travel, injustice, loss. The poet's work increases in complexity and ambition with each collection, though it defies easy categorization from the start. Bishop wrote in a distinctive style so unlike that of the most famous poets of her generation. Her poems care neither for emotional revelation nor experiments in syntax; instead, they quietly reve ...more
Roxanne
Jul 24, 2007 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
next
...more
Fergus
Feb 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The carefully-wrought imagery of an American Master, brimming with controlled emotion:

IMAGINARY ICEBERGS

We'd rather have the iceberg than the ship,
although it meant the end of travel.
Although it stood stock-still like cloudy rock
and all the sea were moving marble.
***
Icebergs behoove the soul
(both being self-made from elements least visible)
to see them so: fleshed, fair, erected indivisible.
Ahmad Sharabiani
The Complete Poems 1927-1979, Elizabeth Bishop
Elizabeth Bishop was vehement about her art--a perfectionist who didn't want to be seen as a "woman poet." In 1977, two years before her death she wrote, "art is art and to separate writings, paintings, musical compositions, etc., into two sexes is to emphasize values in them that are not art." She also deeply distrusted the dominant mode of modern poetry, one practiced with such detached passion by her friend Robert Lowell, the confessional.
Bishop w
...more
Jenna
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:


"Insomnia"

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
Xantha Page
Aug 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Rating could go up. Strongly influenced by Marianne Moore. They both have a similar way of throwing really slanted eyes on objects, animals, and people, bringing out details from oblique and obliquely illuminating perspectives. They have a similar sense of rhythm as well.

This is an old "Complete Poems," since superceded, that was published before the poet's death and lacks later work like the famous "One Art" which a number of reviews refer to. That's what you get with used bookstores (not the f
...more
David M
Jun 06, 2015 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
the
...more
♛Tash
Jun 26, 2015 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
Jonfaith
Jun 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetshere
Think of the long trip home.
Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?


That very thought has occurred to me on occasion. This collection was a slow start. The images were dense, looped and anchored in rocky soil. There was a trace of fear upon entry: a hesitation. Perhaps there was a benefit; I know nothing about Bishop’s biography, though I’m guessing there were extensive travels to Brazil. It was Teju Cole who pointed the way. He has proved a reliable curator.
Bryant
Apr 20, 2009 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
Sasha
Jul 12, 2012 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
...more
Juliana
Nov 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favourites, poetry
4,5 stars. I wrote about this book here: Questions of displacement - http://wp.me/p79SOn-BT #readwomen ...more
Sherry Chandler
Feb 02, 2014 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.
Lee
Oct 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Better with every reading.
Ffiamma
May 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: americana, donne, poesia
"i lost two cities, lovely ones. and, vaster,
some realms i owned, two rivers, a continent.
i miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.
- 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"
Neira
Mar 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: masters
To be fair I've only read a handful of poems but I've really enjoyed them, Bishop is exquisitely evocative and poetic without being puzzling.
Greg Fanoe
Oct 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
This is my favorite poetry I've read in a long time. Somewhere in contention for my actual favorite, though I guess "The Waste Land" feels pretty unshakeable at the top slot there. "One Art" is her most famous and it is pretty lovely but totally unrepresentative of her work as a whole. It's not like I loved each and every poem here but there were enough great ones for this to get 5 stars for sure.

I mean look I'm a pretty easy grader on Goodreads but s0metimes I've been tempted to go back and res
...more
kenneth
Dec 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
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"
...more
Ali
Apr 27, 2020 rated it liked it
3.5

it's grown on me but I still wish I liked it more. Bishop's poems are beautiful but personally not telling me much.
Michael Arnold
Mar 29, 2016 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
...more
Peter Landau
Aug 31, 2014 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
David
Feb 16, 2011 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
Paul
Jan 11, 2008 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"
Andrew
May 20, 2009 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.
Heirloom Books
May 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I would tattoo Sestina to my forehead if I was drunk enough. Spectacular.
Illiterate
Nov 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Bishop describes scenes in well-crafted verse. When she reaches beyond description, she is mainly witty, although her most moving poems are melancholic.
Jonathan
Dec 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
an outstanding collection from a brilliant 20th century poet.

a personal favorite of mine comes from the fourth section of her poem "Songs for a Colored Singer":

What's that shining in the leaves,
the shadowy leaves,
like tears when somebody grieves,
shining, shining in the leaves?

Is it dew or is it tears,
dew or tears,
hanging there for years and years
like a heavy dew of tears?

Then that dew begins to fall,
roll down and fall,
Maybe it's not tears at all.
See it, see it roll and fall.

Hear it f
...more
Richard
Apr 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When so much poetry today is lousy with ‘voice,’ thick with poets too eager to make themselves the spotlight to hide their quaking knees as they fear obscurity, Bishop’s work is so refreshing—full of persona, but not busting us over the head with it. Notable exceptions remain, of course, but I love how she contains her emotive moments for maximum impact. Take the classics “One Art” and “The Armadillo,” for example, poems that use their form to show us the eventual, panicked breakage of their for ...more
Lisa Brintlinger
May 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
I have not looked at these poems in years and it was a pleasure to revisit them. My life experiences have surely accumulated and allow me to feel and see her work in a new light! Bishop writes of so many things in so many forms, ever observant and thoughtful! I love One Art on losing things, I love Visits to St. Elizabeths that accumulates along the way, I love her short and long poems that you really have to stick with to the end. A lovely revisit!
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Poetry: Elizabeth Bishop 4 9 Jan 07, 2013 01:49AM  

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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”
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“Time to plant tears, says the almanac.
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