An illuminating new biography of one of the greatest American poets of the 20th century, Elizabeth Bishop
Elizabeth Bishop’s friend James Merrill once observed that “Elizabeth had more talent for life – and for poetry – than anyone else I’ve known.” This new biography reveals just how she learned to marry her talent for life with her talent for writing in order to create a brilliant array of poems, prose, and letters – a remarkable body of work that would make her one of America’s most beloved and celebrated poets. In Love Unknown, Thomas Travisano, founding president of the Elizabeth Bishop Society, tells the story of the famous poet and traveler’s life.
Bishop moved through extraordinary mid-20th century worlds with relationships among an extensive international array of literati, visual artists, musicians, scholars, and politicians – along with a cosmopolitan gay underground that was then nearly invisible to the dominant culture. Drawing on fresh interviews and newly discovered manuscript materials, Travisano illuminates that the “art of losing” that Bishop celebrated with such poignant irony in her poem, “One Art”, perhaps her most famous, was linked in equal part to an “art of finding“, that Bishop’s art and life was devoted to the sort of encounters and epiphanies that so often appear in her work.
Cover photograph: courtesy of Elizabeth Bishop Papers, Archives and Special Collections Library, Vassar College