Monday, October 3, 2011

Monday Muse: Elizabeth Bishop Exhibit at Vassar

If you're in the Hudson Valley between now and the end of the year, take time for a visit to the Vassar College campus in Poughkeepsie, New York.

Vassar is the fortunate recipient and steward of the papers of poet Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979), Class of 1934, and this fall, as part of a year-long celebration of the sesquicentennial of the college's founding and recognition of the centennial of Bishop's birth, Vassar is presenting an exhibit that draws on the archived collection. Bishop's papers, acquired in 1981, comprise more than 3,500 pages of draft poems and prose, correspondence (including more than 200 letters from Bishop's friend, poet Marianne Moore, and a similarly extensive cache of exchanges with poet Robert Lowell), notebooks, diaries, working papers, and memorabilia. Housed in the Virginia B. Smith Memorial Manuscripts Collections at Vassar, the collection has been augmented over the years through donations, bequests, and purchases; among more recent acquisitions are Bishop's baby book, two watercolors (see image below), and an annotated copy of the 1962 book Brazil, which Bishop edited.

Elizabeth Bishop, Lamp
Archives & Special Collections, Vassar College Libraries

The exhibit, From the Archive: Discovering Elizabeth Bishop, on view through December 15 in the college's Thompson Memorial Library, includes items selected by a group of Bishop scholars and editors, who were asked by curator Ronald D. Patkus to choose items that were important to their own critical research and writings about the poet. For example, Brett Millier, who wrote Elizabeth Bishop: Life and the Memory of It (University of California Press, 1995), selected a composition book from 1934 in which Bishop wrote about island life. Scholar Alice Quinn, who edited Edgar Allan Poe & the Juke-Box: Uncollected Poems, Drafts, and Fragments (2006), chose two drafts of an unfinished story, "Homesickness". Camille Roman, author of Elizabeth Bishop's World War II - Cold War View (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004; available through re-sellers), elected to spotlight an early draft of the prose poem "12 O'Clock News".

A catalogue by the curator accompanies the exhibit.

The weekend of September 24, Vassar held a symposium that included a moderated panel, "On Editing Bishop" (in attendance were four of the Bishop scholars involved in the exhibition, Alice Quinn, Lloyd Schwartz, Saskia Hamilton, and Joelle Biele); a discussion "On Teaching Bishop", which included panelists Elizabeth Spires, Lorrie Goldensohn, and Jane Shore; and a keynote address and lecture by former national Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, "Elizabeth Bishop: The Bee's Knees". The other scholars participating in the exhibit or symposium were Bethany Hicok and Thomas Travisano.

Also see:

Essay "Elizabeth Bishop: A Growing Legacy" by Barbara Page, Helen D. Lockwood Professor of English, Vassar College

Peter Bronski, "Celebrating Elizabeth Bishop", Vassar Today, Alumnae/i Quarterly, Winter 2011

William Benton, "Elizabeth Bishop's Other Art", The New York Review of Books, March 9, 2011

Guide to the Elizabeth Bishop Papers, 1911-1993, Vassar College

Image of Manuscript of Poem "Arrival at Santos", Draft 3


Louise Gallagher said...

Oh wouldn't that be fun to be there!

Hannah Stephenson said...

Wow! I would so love to see this....I am such a fan of Bishop. And I love how there is so much effort around Bishop-paraphernalia (letters/art/etc.)...wonderful.

nance marie said...

thanks for the share.
good post.

we are teetering on the edge of a possible harvest...hoping that the grapes get to a decent place before the rains get too frequent.

the sad red earth said...

It is striking how Bishop's much deserved, ever growing recognition and acclaim is a complete reversal of positions in where she stood forty years ago in relation to her friend Lowell.

charlotte gordon said...

I did not know this was happening. I am glad you took the time to tell us about it.