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Tag Archives: Elizabeth Bishop

Writing the Dead

By now, I have been a teacher of creative writing much longer than I was a pool lifeguard. I have come to believe that one of the main jobs of literature is to see the present moment—whatever that moment may be, in the context of the text—with focus and clarity. Good writing doesn’t constantly look back or look ahead. Each word is a world, and a good writer puts that world in front of you when you read.

The Private Art? On Roland Barthes’s Mourning Diary

* Ann Marie Thornburg *

Reading Mourning Diary, I had the strange experience of feeling transported, through Barthes’s language, back across contours of my own mourning. I found myself unable to remember what it felt like be a few pages back, and I simply could not anticipate where I would be in several more. As Michael Wood notes in his review, “what is most striking in the end about this (hypothesis of a) book is its writtentracking of states of mind that writing itself can’t enter, only register.”

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Tracking Pants and Soul

* Kristie Kachler * I say I’ve lost so much and you imagine something awful, but I just mean the boring things, the standard things. The first that comes to mind: shortly after we moved to Berlin my love bought me a pair of hand-knit gloves at a market. On the ride home I fell off my bike and wore a hole straight through the gray and purple-striped palm; I mended them, but they soon fell out of my pocket. A friend in the know mailed a replacement pair, but these I left in the U-Bahn. I didn’t lose the precious incense holder, almost paper thin and perfectly celadon, that I had bought as a student in Strasbourg, but my cat broke it. When I moved abroad the cat moved in with a friend who fell out of touch.

Come A Little Bit Closer Now Baby: Elizabeth Bishop’s “Brazil: January 1, 1502”

by Gray Jacobik

Although our lives cannot occur except in an historical context, many contemporary lyrics are written as though only personal history matters. It’s a great joy to encounter a poem grounded in history as thoroughly as Elizabeth Bishop’s “Brazil: January 1, 1502”, particularly one that begins with a cymbal crash, the seeming non sequitur or unusual plural: “Januaries” –– followed by a pace that slows for the next 23 lines until we encounter that deeply-burdened word at the end of line 24 –– “Sin”.

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Come A Little Bit Closer Now Baby: Elizabeth Bishop's "Brazil: January 1, 1502"

by Gray Jacobik

Although our lives cannot occur except in an historical context, many contemporary lyrics are written as though only personal history matters. It’s a great joy to encounter a poem grounded in history as thoroughly as Elizabeth Bishop’s “Brazil: January 1, 1502”, particularly one that begins with a cymbal crash, the seeming non sequitur or unusual plural: “Januaries” –– followed by a pace that slows for the next 23 lines until we encounter that deeply-burdened word at the end of line 24 –– “Sin”.