Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Bishop's Fiddlesticks

And speaking of dead geniuses, what's the deal with all these new poems by Elizabeth Bishop? First there were three of them in the Jan 23 / 30th issue of the New Yorker. Then another one in the Mar 6 issue. And I just discovered two more in the NYRB. What's going on?[1]

Look, I have as much admiration for Bishop's work as anyone else (even though these new poems are, in my opinion, a far cry from her best work [2]). But the woman's been dead for over a quarter of a century now - isn't it time she stopped publishing her work in periodicals and gave some younger poets a chance? I mean it's supposed to be the undiscovered country from whose bourne no man returns. They're not supposed to have e-mail.

I think there should be a law that says after you've been dead, say, five to ten years, you have to stop sending your poems to magazines. It sounds harsh on dead people, I know, but trust me, it's for their own good.


[1] Okay, so the reason is apparently that there's a new book called 'Edgar Allan Poe & the Juke-Box: Uncollected poems, Drafts, and Fragments' coming out in March. Great. Now she's getting book deals too.

[2] Though I have to say some of them read very unlike the Bishop I remember. Consider this sample:

In a cheap hotel
in a cheap city
Love held his prisoners or my love
brought the pitcher of ice -
dropped the quarter in the spidery old electric fan -
Love the Night Clerk, the Negro bell-boy
I remember the horrible carpet
& its smell, & the dog-eared telephone book

with its ominous look,
full full of the names
of strangers close to my head,
my head with one name in it
or a nameless embarrassment -
the bed, the motor-court below us

Five yrs. ago still
Almost every night - frequently
he drags me
back to that bed.
The ice clinks, the fan whirs.
He chains me & berates me -
He chains me to that bed & he berates me.

- Elizabeth Bishop



Inkblot said...

True. who needs competition from dead people! (and let us know when your stuff gets published)

liked your cigarettes post.do you think she might go out and buy a few more?

the poem reminds me of a cheap hotel in a not so cheap city I was in a while ago. it was actually called an art gallery, not a hotel-black bedspreads to add to what you already described and a beautiful man with rastafarian locks....wish I was back there.

Heh Heh said...

its criminal to be up so early, you know.

ozymandiaz said...

I don't know if I like that rule as I figure I will not be published until I die. A dead man's crap is gold. That's when my words transform from contrived to imaginative. That's when my ideas cross over from ludicrous to genius. And if they don't what the hell do I care, I'm dead. Just so long as I believe that will happen while I'm still here.

Cheshire Cat said...

"... the undiscovered country from whose bourne no man returns."

I agree, that poem is weird. It almost sounds as if it were written by someone who was straight...

Falstaff said...

inkblot: I don't know about competition from dead people - I think my larger gripe is that if I wanted to read Bishop I would just read the Complete Poems sitting on my bookshelf. If I'm reading the New Yorker, it's in order to discover poets I don't already know.

heh: you're assuming I wasn't up so late.

Oz: Hmmm..the problem with being dead and famous is that you need to be dead first. That's not a deal I care for much.

Cat: True. It's more the rawness of it, though - I always think of Bishop as being so much more careful, so much more polished. "I remember the horrible carpet / & its smell" is so not her.

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