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The Complete Poems 1927-1979 by Elizabeth Bishop
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's review
Sep 01, 2009

it was ok
bookshelves: poetry
Read in August, 2009

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 inarguably great poems that are now awash in a sea of mediocrity, for example. (Granted, the completeness of the book, while impressive, doesn't help the cause -- the poems she published in her school's lterary magazine at sixteen? Seriously?)

I find Bishop's work largely inaccessible. The language she uses is devoid of striking images, wordplay, insight; I can never quite tell what she's trying to *say* in any one piece. Even the best of her work is not rewarding on first reading, or second, and quite possibly third. Alas.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Geraldine O'Donnell I agree entirely. I incapable of appreciating the bulk of this work

Elizabeth  Geraldine wrote: "I agree entirely. I incapable of appreciating the bulk of this work"

Eh, there are so many wonderful poets out there, I'm okay with missing out on this one.

Alan But Elizabeth, your own testimony grants Bishop greatness: How many great poems need one write to be "a great poet"? Your "half a dozen" is more than many have written--like Keats (maybe four or five?). We're talking poems that will be read in a century if people still read--in the 100 degree flooded Northern hemisphere.

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