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This article is taken from PN Review 19, Volume 7 Number 5, May - June 1981.

Elizabeth Bishop: A Tribute Elaine Feinstein

Elizabeth Bishop's voice had the natural grace of spare, clean lines and precise language which is rare on either side of the Atlantic. I hope it will not be thought presumptuous on my part to say that she wrote a poetry whose cadences were often those i have looked for.


Land lies on water; it is shadowed green.
Shadows, or are they shallows, at its edges
showing the line of the long sea-weeded ledges
where weeds hang to the simple blue from green.


This opening stanza from Elizabeth Bishop's first book gives some idea of what I most admire: the lucidity and resonance of her propositions and her effortless music of assonance, changes of pace, and pause.

At her death, in November 1979, she was regarded in the United States as unquestionably among the finest American poets of this century. But she was born nearly twenty-five years after her friend Marianne Moore, and she died without reaching either Miss Moore's great age nor her international reputation. In England, her books are hard to come by; and she did not even figure in the Bumper Issue of Obituaries when The Times resumed publication after her death. No doubt this is because she was in no sense part, in the same way as Marianne Moore, of the International Modernist tradition.

This did not stop her enjoying her friend's idiosyncratic flamboyance, and occasionally playing with it herself, ...


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