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This article is taken from PN Review 208, Volume 39 Number 2, November - December 2012.

A Presiding Spirit: Elizabeth Bishop's Poetic Afterlives Edward Allen
When Elizabeth Bishop's drafts and fragments appeared in 2006, the spectre of a vexed and mutable vocalist was raised. 'Though it may not radically change our sense of Bishop's voice,' Marit J. Macarthur mused, flicking her way through the 'startling' contents of Edgar Allan Poe & the Juke-Box, 'it will certainly complicate it' (69). One of the richer instances of complication, as it turns out, is to be found in the volume's appendix. Smartly presented in facsimile, with nothing more than a prefatory note to guide it safely into our hands, Bishop's 'One Art' resides at the end of Edgar Allan Poe & the Juke-Box like an all-important postscript; not in the polished version that greeted New Yorker readers in April 1976, and which today remains the standard text, but in a form akin to one of those time-lapse photographic sequences, taking shape over the course of sixteen extant drafts. Here, as Alice Quinn claims with some feeling for the frisson of close textual study, is 'a unique opportunity to study a Bishop poem from inception to fulfilment' (xi).

Among the numerous returns of witnessing 'One Art' piecing itself together is the opportunity to track its author going about her business. To move from one draft to another, as from one annotated margin to the next, is to see Bishop making the leaps of attention and adjustments of execution that might be thought to characterise the clandestine back story of a lyric. Here is a chance, in Frank O'Hara's ...


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