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The complete poems, 1927–1979 (1983)

by Elizabeth Bishop

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1,857217,294 (4.34)31
This book gathers the work of three decades of one Americans's leading poets. It includes a group of translations of two contemporary Brazilian poets, Carlos Drummond de Andrade and Joao Cabral de Melo Neto.
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Elizabeth Bishop waited until she was thirty-five to publish her first book of poetry, North & South. It contains thirty poems, which open this volume of her complete poems. The first poem, “Maps”, immediately drew me in. It is a naive, almost child-like look at something familiar through strange eyes. The following poem, “Imaginary Iceberg”, presents the conundrum of preferring the iceberg to the ship. Do we prize approaching danger to a safe conveyance? I took it more generally: What we see in front of us interests us more than where we stand. Yet the title refers to an imaginary iceberg, which is related to the soul in the last stanza.
Taken together, these two poems suggested to me, in different ways, the task of the poet: to look at the familiar with fresh eyes and to question the relation of representation to that which it ostensibly represents.
There are more standout poems in this first collection, “Roosters” and “Seascape”, for example. There are recurrent themes, such as the sea and the coast, and Bible references abound. Bishop evokes the places in which her poems are set with precision. The settings vary from the New England coast to Paris to Key West.
Nine years later, Bishop presented A Cold Spring, which contains nineteen poems. She revisits familiar places (“Cape Breton”), but there are poems set in Greenwich Village and Washington, D. C., where she was poetry consultant to the Library of Congress.
Both collections garnered Pulitzer Prizes, and Bishop relocated to Brazil, where more than half the poems of her following collection, Questions of Travel (1965), are set. These poems reflect the lush vegetation in which she found herself and the precarious hold the poor have on life.
Bishop published only one more collection in her lifetime, Geography III (1977). In addition to these four collections, this edition includes four new poems and several unpublished pieces, including several written in her youth. Although these don’t yet reflect her mature voice, she was already an accomplished poet; these can’t be dismissed as juvenilia. Rounding out the anthology are her translations from Portuguese, Spanish, and French.
Bishop’s poems reflect the detailed observation and precise expression that mark great poetry. She enabled me to see places I’ve never been and to share in the emotions her experience of those places evoked. I enjoyed reading this collection. ( )
1 vote HenrySt123 | Feb 1, 2022 |
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  GiGiGo | Feb 5, 2021 |
NA
  pszolovits | Feb 3, 2021 |
I felt that these poems left me uninspired and were lacking in the things that make poetry, for me, great. There was no great imagery, admirable passages, and sentient contemplation. Therefore, it was hard for me to enjoy the poems and I felt that this was more of a chore to read than something of fulfillment and enjoyment. For this reason, I give it a low ranking.

2 stars. ( )
  DanielSTJ | Aug 5, 2019 |
Maybe the best American poet of the 20th century. I'm trying to memorize these. ( )
  Eoin | Jun 3, 2019 |
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"The Complete Poems, 1927–1979" is not the same as the 1969 volume "The Complete Poems". Please do not combine the two.
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This book gathers the work of three decades of one Americans's leading poets. It includes a group of translations of two contemporary Brazilian poets, Carlos Drummond de Andrade and Joao Cabral de Melo Neto.

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