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New England

Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence Between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell

Thomas Travisano & Saskia Hamilton, eds.
Publisher FSG  
Format paperback
Product Dimensions 9.25 x 6.1 x 1.5 inches
ISBN 9780374531898
Pages/Publication Date 875/2008
Daedalus Item Code 31981
This item is not available.
When she met Robert Lowell in 1947 Elizabeth Bishop wrote that she "loved him at first sight." The candid, affectionate, complex, and loving friendship of the two American poets is recorded in letters written over three decades and collected in their entirety here for the first time. Beginning after publication of their first books and ending only with Lowell's death in 1977, their letters include discussions of books, articles, and the literary scene; their agreements and disagreements about T.S. Eliot, Marianne Moore, Ezra Pound, Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, William Carlos Williams, Mary McCarthy, Randall Jarrell, and other writers; and their arguments about each other's work. Their observations about Brazilian and American political life are set alongside Bishop's descriptions of her years with her lover Lota de Macedo Soares on a mountainside near Rio; Bishop's wit and keen attention turn equally to soldiers and politicians, architectural projects, and toucans in rainstorms, while Lowell's sketches of his family life in New York, London, Maine, and Boston have an "eye for physical detail and feel for emotional valence [that] seem directly wired into his prose" (Publishers Weekly). The letters also record the complications of their lives—Lowell's mental illness, Bishop's struggles with alcohol, their mutually complex and sometimes tragic love affairs. In their now-celebrated correspondence, they performed best for one another as the drama of their public and private lies unfolded.

"Helplessly lyrical till death did them part, Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell wrote so many wonderful letters and postcards to each other from 1947 through 1977 that it's amazing they ever found the time to publish their poetry."—Harper's

"Their surviving 459 letters … give us the closest view of these wounded creatures—his muscular, bull-in-a-china-shop intellect; her pained shyness and abject modesty, and a gaze like the gleam off a knife … The pleasures of this remarkable correspondence lie in the untiring way these poets entertained each other with the comic inadequacies of the world."—New York Times

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