"Murray is the best kind of literary biographer" – The Financial Times.
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Winner of the 2015 Basil Bunting Award for poetry

Monday, 11 April 2011

Elizabeth Bishop: On Not Saying Too Much

I recently reported a comment from Bruce Chatwin's letters about writers needing to write only what there is a compelling urgency to write (an echo of Kafka's famous apothegm about a book needing to be an axe for the frozen sea within us).  In the penultimate issue of the New York Review of Books [March 24-April 6 LVIII (5)] there's an excellent piece by April Bernard about two new editions of Elizabeth Bishop's poetry and prose.  Bernard worries that too much of Bishop's ephemera, including drafts not intended for publication and stuff she herself did not allow into print for good reason, has been made available and turned into part of the Bishop canon.  She quotes Bishop, after a meeting with her mentor, the poet Marianne Moore, saying that she never left the latter's house: "without feeling happier: uplifted, even inspired, determined to be good, to work harder, not to worry about what other people thought, never to try to publish anything until I thought I'd done my best with it, no matter how many years it took – or never to publish at all."

Or never to publish at all! 

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