BishopWhy Elizabeth Bishop was Considered to be Dickonsonian in Her Writing Style PoetElizabeth Bishop was as simple as she was complex. The lucid and uncomplicatedimages she created with her seemingly elementary style were anything but; infact, the complexity that resides within her characteristically simple prose,which demonstrate a purity and precision like no other, are known only to thosewho can see beyond their faзade. Attention to outer detail and anunquenchable desire to portray her inner pain, Bishop favored a more simplisticapproach to convey the immense pain and suffering she endured throughout herlife. Utilizing the concepts of surrealism and imagery, as well as incorporatinglandscape and geography, the troubled poet cleverly and quite appropriatelycaptured her audience with images of her own anguish. Only since her death hasElizabeth Bishop (1911-1979) been generally recognized as one of the four orfive finest American poets of this century. One reason it’s taken so long may beBishop’s low profile: she lived in Brazil for almost half her productive life,published a slim new book of poems only once a decade, disliked giving publicreadings, and participated in none of the “movements” of her time.
Bishop’s masterly descriptive powers were the energy she invested in an attemptto found a poetry not on what had happened to its author, but on what its authorsaw and felt and shared with others in the present, whether what was shared wasa set of friends, a series of real or imagined travels, books read, or sightsseen. Bishop, besides being an award winning poet, was a prolific letter writer.
Her friend and publisher, Robert Giroux, has assembled and edited over 500 ofthe letters Bishop wrote to her friends from around the world. Emily Dickonson’sclosest friends knew she wrote poetry, because she often included poems or linesfrom poems in her many letters. What they had no way of appreciating, however,was the magnitude of her solitary achievement. When she died at 56 her sisterLavinia found in a drawer over 1,700 poems — the result of a lifetime’sconcentrated work. And since the publication of a small selection of those poemsfour years after her death, Dickinson’s reputation has risen; today her placeamong the very best poets to have written in English is unchallenged. Dickinsonin her early 30’s made some tentative attempts to get published, but her workwas far ahead of its time and she did not meet with success. Only seven poemswere published in her lifetime, each changed by editors to suit the day’sstandards of rhyme, punctuation and meter. The many similarities between Bishopand Dickonson are clearly evident in their lives and their writing styles. Bothwomen were from the New England area; both never married; both wrote about theirpain, suffering and anguish; both were minimally published before their deaths;both used a simple. easy to read, writing style; and both wrote or incorporatednature into their themes. The only differences were Emily Dickonson’s religionand isolation, whereas Elizabeth Bishop was well travelled and considered to bean agnostic. Elizabeth Bishop nearly mirrored Emily Dickonson in every way, andthat is why she is considered to be “Dickonsonian.”