How convenient that Vassar purchased the entire archives of Elizabeth Bishop, a well-loved American poet. Because of this lovely coincidence, I am having a private 'parents' weekend' with Simone and holing up in the Special Collections room in Vassar's awesome 19th century library. I've had a private tour of Simone's favorite spots on campus and then scouring the archives and reading until my eyes protest. I'm a kid in a candy store. Included in the archive of 3,000+ pages are published and unpublished works, journals, photographs, correspondence and memorabilia. I'm finding unexpected consolation in the files that read: "Rejected by the New Yorker."
Reading Bishop's chicken scrawl handwriting inspired this haiku:
Famous Poet's pen but she's
entombed, while I, wait."
My father was fond of saying that I would 'never get anywhere' with bad handwriting, but lo and behold, Bishop got a Pulitzer, and more. I came to the archives in search of an angle for an article for Caesura, and possibly Bookwoman, but there are so many 'angles' I'll have a difficult time honing in. Bishop was a brilliant poet, a traveller and adventurer, a great translator, an articulate and astute critic and a tireless poetry advocate. Her themes include spirituality, family, loss, the ecstasy of creating, shamanism, magic. And she was on a mission to wean people away from their 'favorite' American poets (including Pound, Dickinson, the Beats) and wrote powerfully on Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens and Robert Lowell. So much to think about! But what a complete and total joy. In three days, I highly doubt that I will scratch the surface but in the meantime, I am blissfully immersed in the poets' mind and logic. Oh, and the school lore here is that she once tried to jump out of a dorm window but this particular rumor at least remains unconfirmed. I think she saved her real despair for her later years.