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Happy Birthday, Elizabeth Bishop!

MTV / Giphy

On the 105th anniversary of Bishop’s birth, read about her time in Brazil with Elizabeth Hardwick:

Strange things happened in her presence, emanations, a sudden efflorescence that might have come from the rubbing of a tamp. Once we were in a museum in Rio where there were many Indian artifacts. Elizabeth suddenly stopped and said, “Look.” We turned around and there was a group of naked Indians looking at Indian artifacts.

When she lived in Brazil, Bishop had a tortured, love-hate friendship with the fiction writer Clarice Lispector:

Bishop wrote to Robert Lowell of the experience: “I not only like her stories very much but like her, too.” She also wrote in other exchanges to him that Lispector was “provincial,” “bad,” and “hopeless, really.” She confided, “I suppose we are going to be ‘friends,’ but she’s the most non-literary writer I’ve ever known, and ‘never cracks a book.’” 

Read also Robert Lowell’s love letter to Bishop, in which he considers the life they could have had together:

You can’t cross a street, light a cigarette, drop saccharine in your coffee without really doing it. … I’ve never thought there was any choice for me about writing poetry. No doubt if I used my head better, ordered my life better, worked harder etc., the poetry would have improved. … But asking you is the might have been for me, the one towering change, the other life that might have been had.