"I am 3/4ths Canadian, and one 4th New Englander - I had ancestors on both sides in the Revolutionary war." - Elizabeth Bishop

Monday, February 8, 2016

Happy 105th Birthday!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

RIP Linda Nemer

Linda Nemer and Elizabeth Bishop
It is with great sadness that we report the death on January 19, 2016, of Dona Linda Nemer, for many years the owner of Casa Mariana, Elizabeth Bishop's home in Ouro Preto. Dona Linda will long be remembered by many in the Bishop community for her generous hospitality and innumerable kindnesses. Further pictures may be found at: https://www.facebook.com/InstitutoLotta/photos/pcb.1037985709581309/1037973982915815/?type=3&theater

Friday, December 4, 2015

Elizabeth Bishop House has been sold

As of today, 4 December 2015, the ownership of the Elizabeth Bishop House in Great Village, Nova Scotia, had changed. Eleven years ago, I and a group of Nova Scotians and Americans bought the house. During that time we welcomed countless Bishop pilgrims, hosted dozens of events and provided a place of respite for many artists. It was a great privilege to take care of Elizabeth Bishop’s childhood home and to share its magic with so many amazing people from around the world. It has been difficult to let go, but I truly believe that the spirits of the house and the good will of the wonderful residents of Great Village will work their magic on the new owner.
As Bishop wrote in “The Imaginary Iceberg”: “Good-bye, we say, good-bye, the ship steers off / where waves give in to one another’s waves / and clouds run in a warm sky.” It is good-bye, but only for us. The fact is, the house isn’t going anywhere. It has been “docked,” at its home port, for over 150 years, and doesn’t show any signs of wanting to travel. I wish the new owner as many joys and delights as I have known in this dear old house.
(The pantry, my favourite room, June 2015)
I am honoured to have had stewardship of such an important site of pilgrimage, a home I tended to the best of my ability for over a decade. It is my intention to write about my personal experiences at the house, and I will share those reminiscences here at some point during the winter.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Elizabeth Bishop Fridge Magnet

The Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia presents a delightful new souvenir: The Elizabeth Bishop Fridge Magnet. Just in time for Christmas! Heartfelt thanks to artist Natalia Povalyaeva for giving her charming, uplifting image to the EBSNS for this fund-raising project. You can order your magnet (perhaps, order several for your friends) by going to the EBSNS website (PayPal): http://elizabethbishopns.org/eb-gifts/ -- or you can send a cheque to P.O. Box 138, Great Village, Nova Scotia, B0M 1L0, Canada.
Note: The magnet is 4"x4" -- it is just the image itself, not all the information attached to this notice. Go to the website to find out more.

Friday, November 13, 2015

First Encounter XLI: "The Elizabeth Bishop House" by Sarah Emsley

Recently, Halifax writer and scholar Sarah Emsley visited the Elizabeth Bishop House, more or less for the first time. She has written a wonderful essay, complete with lovely photographs, on her popular blog which focuses on Jane Austen and Lucy Maud Montgomery. It seemed like a perfect first encounter to me, so do have a look at Sarah's "The Elizabeth Bishop House."
One of Sarah's delightful photos

Sunday, November 8, 2015

First Encounter XL: "On the Ice" by Thomas R. Moore

I grew up in the 1940s and my father ran a construction company in Worcester. When I was eleven and twelve I played Peewee hockey at Webster Square Arena, just down the street from where the original Bishop house stood. One team sponsor, and one of my father’s competitors, was the contractor J.W. Bishop, so the Bishop name was familiar early on if still unconnected in my eleven-year-old self to the poet.

When I started teaching at Wachusett Regional High School outside Worcester, I always included two Bishop poems in my sophomore honors syllabus: “The Fish” and “In the Waiting Room.” I would ask each sophomore to memorize at least one poem. Jill Lepore, now a history professor at Harvard, told me she still can recite Stanley Kunitz’s “The Layers.” And I remember how Mathew McCabe quivered when he flawlessly recited Sylvia Plath’s “Daddy” at fifteen. One student, whose name I cannot recall, chose “The Fish.” The “brown skin in strips/like ancient wallpaper” and “rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!” have been indelibly embedded in my memory since that moment.

I have worn eyeglasses since I was five. To have my eyes tested my mother would drive me to Worcester to Dr. Whitney’s office in the Slater Building on Main Street. Of course there were National Geographics in the waiting room. After my first reading of “In the Waiting Room” I have always associated my five-year-old self with seven-year-old Elizabeth waiting for her Aunt Consuelo. I can still hear the clicks the lenses made in the wooden box as Dr. Whitney raised and lowered his arm asking “Is this better or worse?” And I remember the cold slushy streets leading to the Slater Building past J.C. Freeman the optician on the corner, Ware Pratt the clothing store, and Barnard, Summer, and Putnam across the street.

I went on to earn graduate degrees in American Literature and taught English for forty years, but I have always prized those early connections to Bishop on the ice at the Webster Square Arena and at the eye doctor’s in Worcester in 1946. When my wife and I spent a week at the Great Village house in April 2014, I felt a unique intimacy with her from my Worcester childhood.

Thomas R. Moore
Belfast, Maine
November 5, 2015


After Tom’s visit to the Elizabeth Bishop House, he wrote the poem below, which was published in The Dalhousie Review, Autumn 2014 issue.


The house was oxen-rolled downtown
before its present fame, before Miss Bishop

led Nelly past the brook. Tin-roofed,
it sits on the corner across from

the village church. Starlings knock
the cornice trim askew. A crow hops

through blue scilla disturbing April
snow. Rhubarb nubs show.

High tides and spring rivers can
urge Cobequid Bay beyond the berm,

but today the meadows unfold
to the aboiteau. Logging rigs rev,

downshifting for the turn, and upstairs
the scream echoes in the papered room.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

First Encounter XXXIX: My first encounter with Elizabeth Bishop by Natalia Povalyaeva

My first encounter with Elizabeth Bishop took place in the beginning of July, 2015. Actually I have the exact date (thanks to Facebook) – it was the fifth of July. I don’t remember why or how I came across this movie – “Reaching for the Moon”, but it was the fifth of July when I watched it for the first time.

I’d never heard about Elizabeth Bishop before that day, and I didn’t know who she was or what position she occupied in American poetry. And on my first watching the movie I wasn’t impressed by the Elizabeth Bishop character at all – mostly because Lota as performed by Gloria Pires sort of filled all the space with her powerful personality (later I did understand how wonderful Miranda Otto and her performance were). But the poems from the movie struck me at once. So I started – quite predictably – with “One Art”. And I knew at once that that was “my” type of poetry. I liked the poem’s deceptive simplicity which covered deep reflection on love and loss and all those things. I liked this “ordinary” tone of speaking, definitely ironical, mixed with true tension. I liked the precise use of every word. And – most important of all, since this is my almost instinctive reaction to any text I like – I felt the desire to draw an illustration to this poem, which I did the next day.

Then it was the “Close, Close…” poem. Again, I was impressed by how Elizabeth Bishop managed to do it: simple and deep at once. It’s a love poem with the image of two lovers in bed – and paradoxically it is not an erotic poem at all. It is about the metaphysics of love, about something eternal and unchangeable in love. And this quality somehow emerges not from the words, but from their background. It was amazing – and of course, I did an illustration

And then it was “In The Waiting Room” – that was a sort of final proof. It was the third poem in a row by the same author I liked so much, and I understood that “this was the beginning of a beautiful friendship”, so to speak. I liked Elizabeth Bishop’s interest in ordinary things, the small details in this poem, and its “prosy”, narrative structure and tone. I was impressed with how wonderfully Elizabeth Bishop reflected a specific child’s perception of the world – in the image of “different pairs of hands lying under the lamps”. The little girl was too shy to look at adult strangers’ faces, so she looked at their hands and saw them as if they were removed from their bodies or as if they were hollow gloves. I noticed that Elizabeth Bishop’s poems had a lot in common with poems by the  Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska, and later I wrote an essay on the poetics of loss in their poetry. And of course, I made an illustration.
 Natalia's illustration of "Manners."

Since that time, I have started reading Elizabeth Bishop every day and  have produced an illustration or two every day. I have read Elizabeth Bishop’s biography, her letters, and some academic materials about her. Somehow, very fast and in very natural way, Elizabeth Bishop became an important part of my life. And what was very important for me is that I’ve had encouragement and support from some people in Elizabeth Bishop’s world – Jonathan Ellis, Sandra Barry, and John Barnstead.

I’ve learned that there were a lot of dark moments in Elizabeth Bishop’s life, but what was amazing about her personality was her ability to meet everything in life with wit and irony. In her letters she had endless funny stories and anecdotes about this and that. And in her poems – even in the most serious and dramatic ones – she sort of smiles or even laughs discreetly, just for herself. She really was “awful but cheerful”, just as her life was. She was interested in everything – in people, in places, in things, in life in general. This interest was the driving force of her writing, and her writing made her a winner

While reading “Remembering Elizabeth Bishop: An Oral Biography” I came across following words by John Bernard Myers: “I heard her reading at the YMHA. <…> She didn’t have either a Canadian accent or a New York accent; it was just a very pure way of speaking” [157]. I’d say that Elizabeth Bishop had no accent not only in reading her works, but more importantly in writing her works. She’s speaking not as a woman, nor as an American or Canadian – she’s speaking as a human being addressing another human being, and that is, I suppose, the most precious quality of her work.

Natalia Povalyaeva (b. 1971) is a writer, graphic artist/book illustrator, and a professor of English Literature in BSU (Belarusian State University, Minsk, Belarus). She is teaches modern and contemporary English Literature. She has authored numerous publications on twentieth-century English women’s prose; among them are Polyphonic prose of Virginia Woolf (2003) and Jeanette Winterson, or Rebirth of Lying (2006). She also translated the novel Lighthousekeeping (2006) and several short stories by Jeanette Winterson into Russian. Currently she has completed a book on Victorian Music Hall as a setting and a personage in Neo-Victorian fiction (published in 2014).

Natalia has been drawing since the age of two. She studied at an art studio under the Belorussian artist Vasily Sumarev and has taken courses in sculpture and art history. Her pictures have been sold in many countries around the world, including the USA, France, Germany, Norway, Finland, and Italy. She is doing a lot of book illustrations and book cover designs (mostly for Russian publishing houses) and graphic art in mixed media. Among her works are illustrations to three-part bestseller “Porebrik iz bordurnogo kamnya” (“Pavement border made of curb stone” – a comic book on Moscow – Saint-Petersburg cultural differences by Russian writer Olga Lucas).