Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Elizabeth Bishop Interviewed in the Paris Review

If you have not read this interview with Elizabeth Bishop in the Paris Review, you must.

She comes across funny, smart, and well, adorable.


Here's a few favorite parts--


In your letter to me, you sounded rather wary of interviewers. Do you feel you’ve been misrepresented in interviews? For example, that your refusal to appear in all-women poetry anthologies has been misunderstood as a kind of disapproval of the feminist movement.

BISHOP
I’ve always considered myself a strong feminist. Recently I was interviewed by a reporter from the Chicago Tribune. After I talked to the girl for a few minutes, I realized that she wanted to play me off as an “old fashioned” against Erica Jong, and Adrienne [Rich], whom I like, and other violently feminist people. Which isn’t true at all. I finally asked her if she’d ever read any of my poems. Well, it seemed she’d read one poem. I didn’t see how she could interview me if she didn’t know anything about me at all, and I told her so. She was nice enough to print a separate piece in the Chicago Tribune apart from the longer article on the others. I had said that I didn’t believe in propaganda in poetry. That it rarely worked. What she had me saying was “Miss Bishop does not believe that poetry should convey the poet’s personal philosophy.” Which made me sound like a complete dumbbell! Where she got that, I don’t know. This is why one gets nervous about interviews.


~

  So I kept a notebook of my dreams and thought if you ate a lot of awful cheese at bedtime you’d have interesting dreams. I went to Vassar with a pot about this big—it did have a cover!—of Roquefort cheese that I kept in the bottom of my bookcase . . . I think everyone’s given to eccentricities at that age. I’ve heard that at Oxford Auden slept with a revolver under his pillow.


______________


I must say, I've always liked Elizabeth Bishop, but after reading this, I find I adore her.  There are so many more quotable parts in this in interview.  Enjoy it.  It's wonderful to hear her voice so close to her 100 year birthday (last week).  


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1 comment:

Maureen said...

That's a great interview.

I didn't know the story about the cheese pot at Vassar. And Roquefort no less!

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