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.. The Elizabeth Bishop Bulle/in. edited by Barbara Page.

is IIsemi-annual publication of the Elizabeth Bishop Society.
Advisory Board:
-Sandra Barry, Halifax, NovaScotia
·Nell Besner, U. of Winnipeg
-Gary Fountain, Secretary-Treasurer, Ithaca College
-Barbara Page, Vassar College
-Camllle Roman, Washington State University
·Thomas Travisano, president, Hartwick College
·J acqueline Vaught Brogan, Notre Dame tJ
<J acqueline.>
Twenty years after her death, Elizabeth Bishop, the
extraordinary poet who impersonated an ordina? woman, ~s
J ames Merrill pointed out, once more did sometlung extraordi-
nary: she brought together in Ouro Preto over 150 te.achers,
scholars, writers, poets, artists and students from 6 different
countries to discuss her achievements in The Art of Elizabeth
Bishop: An International Conference andCelebracao in Brazil,
From May 19to 21, the participants had numerous
opportunities to share and discuss their views on Bi~hop as ~n
artist and apersonali tyand to present theresults of their anal.ysls
of her poems, prose texts, translations, letters or manuscnpts,
by focusing on individual pieces or by investigating the rela-
tionship of her oeuvre within the historical and cul~ural con~exts
of the places where she lived. Among the many Issues raised,
the one that provoked most interest, debate and cOlltroversy-
Maria Clara Bonetti Paro
SiioPaulo, Brazil
Notes fromtheField
The Bishop Celebration
Ouro Preto, Brazil
May 1999
Casa Mariana, OUI'OPreto
This issue of the Bulletin features recollections of the
Elizabeth Bishop International Conference and Celebration in
Ouro Preto, Brazil, an extraordinary meeting last May of artists
and scholars from North and South, and other points of the
compass as distant as Taiwan and J apan. All who were able to
attend owe alarge debt of gratitude to the Universidade Federal
deMi nas Gerais, the Uni versidade Federal deOuro Preto and the
University of North Carolina for their sponsorship, and espe-
cially to the Brazilian and US organizers, for the tireless work
and impeccable planning that brought us together in Ouro Preto
to honor the poet whose achievement enriches our lives. As a
North American participant, Iwant to express my particular
gratitude to our Brazilian colleagues for uncountable acts of
hospitality, and for a generosity of spirit that remains bright in
Elsewhere in this issue, we report on an ALA panel,
also last May, on "Elizabeth Bishop and the Sister Arts,"
oroani zed by the Bishop Society, and we announce aconference
andcelebration, "J arrell, Bishop, Lowell, &Co.," ill April, 2000,
at Case Western Reserve University, which will be a highlight
of the millennial National Poet.ry Month. We call your attention
also to an exhibition at Hartwick College of paintings by poets,
including Bishop.
Finally, and not otherwise announced in this issue: a
gathering of academics and poets to celebrate Bishop, in
Newcastle, UK, 26-27 November of this year, organized by
chairofEnglish Linda Anderson and hercolleague J o Shapcott.
For further information, contact:
-Barbara Page, Editor
Brazil, and Elsewhere
''Allthe untidy actiuiq) continues ... " Summer 1999
Volume 8,Number 1
The Elizabeth BishopBulletin
Travelling to a place as imagined as Ouro Preto can
raise undue expectations. Ontheeveof theconference, some of
us were trying to identify thefountain described in 'Under the
Window: Ouro Prete' by the 'three green soapstone faces' out
of whose mouths 'The water used to run'. Mildly jet-lagged,
dazzled by thebaroque (and, perhaps, ready to brave unbottled
beverages in the name of scholarship), we had all somehow
forgotten that the poem had its soapstone faces, 'Patched up
with plaster', already in the museum. Should wehave visited
there in the first place? Or could we have been 110tentirely
wrong, looking for what we misrernembered?
My companions might have checked their copy of
Bishop's Complete Poems that very night. I did it the morning
after, flicking through thebook while Silviano Santiago del iv- .
ered his eloquent, if controversial, lecture. The debate that
followed was perhaps the most animated of the conference,
dismissing such favorites as 'Manuelzinho' and 'The Burglar
of Babylon ,, dividing uptheaudience intheancient struggle of
militancy vs. academia. Something exquisitely retro=sxs my
Italian ears, at least-was going on then, and I felt privileged
that I didnot have to take sides. But even those most baffled by
Santiago's ideological bias must have been fascinated by his
offhand suggestion that Bishop's significance for Brazilian
literature may befound not in her openly 'Brazilian' texts, but
inthe way her poetry of intimacy filled agap inthenecessarily
more politicized Brazilian poetry of the fifties and sixties.
Poems and letters interwove in most panels and lec-
tures, aswell as inMonique Fowler's witty andmoving perfor-
mance, 'Elizabeth Bishop in Brazil'. (Like Keats' or Byron's,
Bishop's correspondence may eventually be regarded as an
achievement almost equal tothat of her poetry and stories.) The
conference, though, climaxed in music, when endlessly ener-
getic Carmen Oliveira (whose 'historia' of LotaandElizabeth,
Flores raras e banalissimas, lists 'musicas citadas' in the
'Fontes'), played a sequence of sambas to conjure up the
'Brazilian Genius'. Her lecture-'performance' is again the
better word-was cut short-by itsall-time antagonist, thegenius
of baroque, waiting for us at 11.00 in Mariana Catedral da Se
with asublime Concerto de Orgao,
As none could have guessed, 'The Moose' was the
poem that most often came to mind in the days that followed,
while a bus drove us to Congonhas (the artist Aleijadinho's
prophets "almost spooky, they look so real at a distance"
[Bishop to Pearl Kazin, April 25, 1953)), Sao J oao del Rey,
graceful Tiradentes, Rio eventually, and Petropolis: 'beneath
the magnetic rock'. lost Samambaia opened to us. Now 'The
Armadillo' and' Song for theRainy Season' will hardly read the
same. Long hours onthebus were often excruciating, but there
is no denying the 'sweet sensation of joy' that ocasionally
overcame even themost grumbling participants. We all secretly
hoped that this was only aforetaste of Brazil... perhaps Eliza-
beth did remember 'it all wrong:: next time, just tomake sure,
we must get to Santarern.
Francesco Rognoni
Milan, Italy
ancl proved crucial for anyone who wanted to engage her work
critically-was thequest todetermine howmuch ofMr. Swan's
blindness, or colonial gaze, depicted in the poem "Santarem,"
was present both in Bishop's view of Brazil and in her texts
related to her experience there.
Besides theinspiring plenary sessions andpanels with
well-known intellectuals and leading Bishop scholars and the
rush through the corridors of Casa de Minas to attend most
paper sessions, the participants were offered anorgan concert,
avariety of performances andawarmwelcome by LindaNemer
at Casa Mariana, thethird of Bishop's "three loved houses," at
Rua Conselheiro Quintiliano 546.
The people inthestreets, moreover, were not indiffer-
ent to what was happening. The population of the "famous
baroque town" proved that their perspective is still a missing
link inBishop's already remarkable oral biography. Onhearing
about theconference inadrugstore, ayoung manwhohadnever
known Bishop was a poet, revealed that his grandfather had
been acquainted with her. Hehad told hisgrandson that shew~s
an American painter he enjoyed talking to and who, to hIS
regret, was looked upon with suspicion by the townspeople
because she wore trousers, an unusual habit in those day.s.
Although theconference was over onMay 21, for the
44 foreign participants who joined a post-conference tour,
activities continued in the historical towns of Mariana,
Congonhas, Sao J oao Del Rey, Tiradentes and in Rio de
J aneiro. They visited Flamengo Park, among many other places
and traveled to Petr6polis to be most kindly received at the
second of Bishop's loved houses by its present owner, Mrs.
Zuleika Borges Torrealba, who plans to turn the house into a
center for Bishop studies.
In their luggage, the participants of the conference
took home souvenirs, sights and sounds of Brazil, theexperi-
ence of the complexities of cultural encounters and cultural
clashes and new friendships. They left Brazil with many an-
swers but most important with many questions that will cer-
tainly lead to new perceptions of Bishop's art. To borrow a
phrase from Tom Burns's closing remarks, the"multiplicity of
cross-cultural perspectives" was certainly the most positive
aspect of the conference and the most enriching for everyone
who wants to avoid gaps in the apprehension of her poems.
We believe that as the sight of the two Amazonian
rivers flowing together caused Bishop to write one of her
greatest poems, theconflux of different cultural gazes prompted
bytheconference will certainly produce important futureworks
of scholarship on Bishop.
Summer 1999 Volume 8.Number J
The Elizabeth Bishop Bulletin
Is "perversity," the term used by Santiago,
the appropriate word to describe Bishop's
More than anything else, Ouro Preto was the celebra-
tion of confluence. not forjoining merely north and south, local
and foreign, but amuch morecomplex constellation of pilgrims
and ideas. Pilgrims, we gathered for hours of "unrelenting
oratory" and "golden" breaks when we then savored, among
other delights, "pao de queijo" and company. Pilgrims, we
strolled down the streets, churches, Casa Mariana. some even
risking a baptism of hands there "where there used to be a
fountain," there where "all the world still stops." The warm
reception offered by Linda Nemer at Casa Mariana allowed us
aunique moment of intimacy with relics and vistas that wewill
hardly forget. Wesurely havephotographs, but, more than that,
questions: How to reconcile theprivacy of that balcony and its
magnificent view with those three front windows so crudely
exposed to the street? Why, after roomy Samarnbaia, would
Bishop have chosen the smallest bedroom in the house?
As Laura Menides says, weareall still "sorting out the
events, including thecomments andquestions raised during the
conference and excursion." Laura has kindly allowed me to
quote some of these questions that she summarizes in a letter,
in fact, the source of inspiration for this note. She writes:
Maria Lucia Milleo Martins
Florianopolis, Brazil
dazzling fabric which, combined with Fowler's superb acting,
brought Bishop to life before us. Among the several other
performances, theonethat wasperhaps thebiggest treat was the
organ concert at the Catedral da Se in nearby Mariana. Itwas
"total immersion" in the baroque: baroque music played in a
baroque church on anorgan dating from 1701. I half-expected
thegilded angels toleavetheir perches andbegin flitting around
the church (Cathedral, rather).
When wevisited Casa Mariana, with its breathtaking
view of Ouro Preto, we felt like gilded angels ourselves,
hovering above those multi-faceted terra cotta roofs and white
baroque churches. A superb example of colonial residential
architecture, the house is much bigger than it looks inpictures
and has gardens that step down the hillside. Those of us who
endured thebus trip after theconference also got to seeanother
of Bishop's "three loved houses," Samarnbaia (after an "hour
badly spent" as the bus driver mastered the art of losing his
way}. ItWasworth thewait There were thepatio andglass walls
we'd seen pictures of and read about. There was the studio by
the waterfall. A spectacular view of mountains spread out in
front of the house, and behind loomed the (massive) cliff
against which the fire balloon splatters like an egg in "The
Armadillo." But it was "Santarem" which came to mind again,
because all of us "really wanted to go no farther."
The backdrop for theconference, intheauditorium of
theSchool of Mines, was agroup of paintings by the artist Eric
Karpeles, six canvas panels assembled intwo rows, alternating
between glowing yellow-greens and the same vivid reds asthe
local dirt we'd seen on the drive from the airport. One of the
more irritable conference participants was heard to utter the
equivalent of Mr. Swan's "What's that ugly thing?" at theend
of't'Santarem," but youwould have tobeblind not toappreciate
the intense yet serene luminosity of this work. Somewhat
reminiscent of Rothko (whom the artist mentioned inhis talk),
the panels could be read as landscapes, as abstractions, or,
perhaps, as flags of "the interior." Like good poetry. they
revealed themselves, their subtle layering and interrelation-
ships, slowly.
In front of these panels, the members of other panels
assembled to discuss, no less colorfully, Bishop's life and alt.
There were also dozens of paper sessions in the school's
charming classrooms. Doubtless, someone else will provide a
systematic account of these presentations. I noticed, ingeneral,
atendency toemphasize theletters, todelve into thebiographi-
cal, and to focus on the awful more than the cheerful in this
dredging process, bringing updripping jawfuIsof marl. Others
however, Helen Vendler among them, preferred to mine the
poems themselves for thescholarly equivalent of thegems that
were for sale all over Ouro Preto (royal topaz, emerald, tourma-
line, amethyst) ..Seamus Heaney. who in theend was unable to
attend theconference. was going to talk about "Santarem." Not
finding out what hewas going tosay about it wasamajor lesson
in the art of losing.
"Santarem" was also the poem Monique Fowler used
toframe her wonderful one-woman show "Elizabeth Bishop in
Brazil." The performance took place in the exquisite Teatro
Municipal, which dates from 1769. Fowler, who has acted on
and off Broadway as well as on television and in movies.
created the script herself by weaving together passages from
Bishop's poems, letters, and interviews. The result was a
Jeffrey Harrison
Andover, Massachusetts
Summer1999 Volume 8, Number 1 The Elizabeth Bishop Bulletin
I'd like to express my thanks to all the organizers of
the Bishop conference in Ouro Preto. Almost a month later
already, theconference isstill resonating with livemeanings on
so much weshared there. I feel this is because the conference
inOuro Preto wasorganized with meticulous care andsimpatia
(theuntranslatable Brazilian word for warm, affectionate atten-
tion andcare), which, added to thecharming place, all contrib-
uted totheatmosphere that enchanted us. Infact, I think it's safe
to say that the conference continues in what I believe Bishop
knew could never be "too many waterfalls."
The Bishop in Brazil ecircle ( is
just one of those waterfalls. Started by Crystal Bacon, it is a
09 J une 1999
A Bishop E-Circle
(My thanks for information to Neil Besner, Carmen Oliveira, and
=-Barbara Page
With sadness, we announce the
sudden death of Emanuel Brasil,
of aheart attack.on 14J uly 1999,
at his residence intheBarra daTijuca, Rio. Hewas 59years old.
Those of us who attended the Bishop celebration inOuro Preto
this May will recall with poignancy the lively recollections he
presented of hisfriendship with Elizabeth Bishop, andweshall
treasure the memory of his ebullient presence and the cordial
welcome heextended to many of us.
A Carioca first and last, he lived for an interval of20
years inthe United States, where hewas an editor of Vanguard
Press and of Pocket Books. He is best known to many Ameri-
cans asco-editor withElizabeth Bishop of the 1972Anthology
of Twentieth-Century Brazilian Poetry. InBrazil, hewas until
recently theeditor of Poesia Sempre, published by theNational
Library of Brazil, and was currently the editor of lnterl'oesia:
Revista de Cultura, his own magazine of the arts.
Well known asanovel ist, poet andeditor, aficionados
of dance may also recall that Emanuel performed for tenyears
with the Meree Cunningham dance company.
He is survived by a brother, Luis Carlos Brasil, of
Teresopolis, Brazil.
In Memoriam
Emanuel Brasil
Inakind of dialogue with thequestions above, this inventory of
things seen along the "road" reminded me of Bishop's own
"Questions of Travel," her attraction for objects and scenes
apparently banal but extraordinarily rich in codes of culture.
Whenever Ithink of these codes inBishop's poetry, Iremember
Marianne Moore's 'J elly-fish"-all that "visible, invisible ...
fluctuating charm," slippery to the intent of touch-and all
jelly-fishes so relative to their waters.
Relativity is also inherent in Bishop's own relation
with Brazil. Laura acknowledges that when she asks: "At what
point does one stop being aguest?" When one starts living ina
country? But if Bishop "never really lived inBrazil," asGeorge
Lensing remarked, would it have been perhaps with Brazil?
This seems to be the question left in the air after Carmen
Oliveira's presentation, her delicate bricolage of Brazilian
culture, based 011 Bishop's notes for alecture about Brazil at
Bristol Community College in 1977: Those who bet on this
hypothesis of living with acountry know all theimplications of
affection and disaffection (variables included) in this kind of
relation. These are people who, for also knowing the relativity
of jelly-fishes, would not risk absolute answers.
And then I'm trying to remember exactly
what theChurch of Pilar looked like, and the
streets of Ouro Preto, the Last Supper of
Aleijadinho, the fountain of Tiradentes, the
saint with the arrow through his head in the
Mariana 'museum, the view from Casa
Mariana's balcony, thestudio in Petr6polis,
the Tijuca forest.
And she concludes with her inventory-of travel:
attitude towards Brazil? Does "Pink Dog"
reveal what Lorrie Goldensohn finds-over-
whelming rage? What IStheproper response
when one is aguest inaforeign country and
encounters asocial situation that one disap-
proves of? At what point does one stop being
a guest? Is George Lensing right when he
says, after seeing Samambaia, that Bishop
never really lived in Brazil?
S!lmmerl999 Volume 8, Number J
The Elizabeth Bishop Bulletin
. The English Department and the Baker-Nord Hu-
manities Center of CaseWestern ReserveUniversity, witha
national committeeof scholarsandcritics,requestproposalsfor
papersandpanelsconsideringthepoetryandprose?f R.andall
J arrell, ElizabethBishop,andRobert Lowell.Asahighlightof
themillennial National PoetryMonth, theeventwill reconsider
theimpactof thethreefriendsandrivalsonsubsequentgenera-
tionsof poets, critics, andteachers. Somethemesandissuesto
beaddressedmight include:
gender andsexuality
thepublic roleof theintellectual's religion
theSister Arts, influencesonandbythepoets.
Other topics, and especially interdisciplinary proposals, are
welcome. (Onesessionwill beheldat theClevelandMuseum
of Art specifically to encouragepapersoninterartsissues.)
Proposals for lO-minutepapersshouldbe250words
inlength, andsubmittedbyNovember 30, 1999.Panel propos~
als sho.uldinclude.abrief abstract of the .paneltopic~plus no
morethanthreepaper proposals. PI~se submitabstractsbye-
mail whenpossible, or bymail or fax. .
For further informationor guidelines, pleasecontact
Suzanne C. Ferguson, Professor andChair, English Depart-
ment,CaseWesternReserveUuiversity, 10900EuclidAvenue,
Cleveland, OH 44106-71]7. Phone: (216) 368-2217. Fax:
(216) 368-2216. E-mail for the conference: TheconferenceWebsite, undercon-
struction, is at:
Featuredspeakersto include:
Dana Gioia Brad Leithauser
Kathleen Spivack Edward Hirsch
J .D. McClatchy
andspecial guests:
J ohn Hollander, J ane Shore, Mary J arrell &Robert Giroux.
"A goodpoet is someonewhomanages, inalifetime
of standingout inthunderstorms,tobestruckbylightningfive
or six times." (Randall J arrell, 1951)
J arrell, Bishop, Lowell, &Co. A Poetry
Conference and a Celebration
CaseWestern ReserveUniversity, Cleveland,Ohio
April 13-16, 2000
Identities and Representations (Brazil: MariaAlice
Carvalho,; US: Dain Borges,
Gender, Family, and Demography (Brazil: MariaBeatriz
Silva,; US: Elizabeth Kuznesof,
Political Processes (Brazil: DavidFleischer,
fleischer@uoJ;US: WayneSelcher,; Europe: G. Banck,
Cultural and Literary Comparative Studies (Brazil: Luiz
RobertoCairo,; US: SusanQuinlan,; Europe: IdeletteMuzart,
imuzart@msh-parisJ r)
Economy and Society (Brazil: DouglasLibby,; US: Marshall Eakin,
Teaching Brazilian Studies (US: DonaldRamos,
Political and Social Movements (Brazil: AugustoCaccia-
Bava,; US: Kathryn
Teaching Portuguese (US: TomStephens,
A conferenceorganizedby theBrazilianStudies
AssociationandUniversidadeFederal dePernambucowill
beheldinRecifeinJ une, 2000. Theconferenceorganizers
invitepanelsof four, representingdifferent universities, to
submitabstractsof papers, by 31J uly 2000, tothecoordina-
tor of oneof thetopical groupslistedbelow:
Brazilian Studies Association Conference
Ellana A vila
web-site, inherwords, "designedfor usebyconferencepartici-
pants to share ideas, papers, and discussion about Bishop,
Brazil,theconference,andrelatedinformation." TheBishopin
Brazil ecircleisasiteto-and heregoesanotherBrazilianword,
thistimeoftenusedasinformallyassiang-curtiI' theconfer-
ence. (Thiswordcanbetranslatedas'to havefun " theopposite
of worrying about time, results, etc. But theconcept is best
insideabarrel of oak, sothat all theelementsinit cansink in
andbuildflavor. AndcUl'tirjunlo-together-means toshare
andnourishthatprocess.) Ihopetobecurtindo theCirclewith
all ofyou,sharing papersandpictures-dialogues withBishop's
texts, and, whoknows, alsoperhapspoetry, whichiswhatthis
isall about!
SummerJ999 Volume 8, Number J The Elizabeth Bishop Bulletin.
Hours for The Yager Museum are Sunday, 1-4 p.m. and
Tuesday-Saturday, 11a.m. to 4 p.m. The museum is closed 011
Monday. For mare information call 607-431-4480.
The exhibition is curated by poet Carol Frost, writer-in-
residence at Hartwick. andJ ohn Wineland, curator of fine arts
for The Yager Museum's Foreman Gallery.
The show includes Bishop's paintings of still-lifes, interiors,
and people, onloan fromVassar College andBishop's executor
Alice Methfesel; J ustice's watercolors and acrylics of peop.le
and places; Walcott's oil and watercolor landscapes depicting
his worldwide travels; and Strand's seascape prints.
opened on 15 J uly 1999 at the Elting Gallery in The Yager
Museum at Hartwick College and will runthrough October 15.
On Wednesday, September 15,5-7 p.m., there will be arecep-
tion and poetry reading by J ustice, Strand and Walcott.
Elizabeth Bishop
Donald J ustice
Mark Strand
Derek Walcott
Poems without Words, an exhibition of the visual art of four
Paintings by Poets
AnExhibitionat HartwickCollege
Oneonta, NewYork
'" tJ : ,.
1:', 10tH.:
PoenlS ~:::>-l;..4:-
The Elizabeth Bishop Society sponsored a session
titled " Elizabeth Bishop and the Sister Arts" at this year's
American Literature Association Convention in Baltimore.
Organized by Gary Fountain and chaired by J acqueline
Vaught Brogan, this panel was especially exciting as the
panelists provided slides andrecordings tosupport their papers.
(We still wanted to be in Brazil with the rest of the Bishop
people... )
In " 'Retreating, always retreating': Art and Music in
Bishop's " Brazil, J anuary 1, 1502," Barbara Comins argued
that artistic andmusical allusions underscore Bishop's consid-
erations of memory and imagination as she contemplates the
role of both in the creat.ion of art and in the construction of
history. After discussing various ways inwhich Kenneth Clark's
Landscape into Art influenced the composition of " Brazil,
J anuary 1, 1502," Comins went on to argue that the musical
structure, leaps in vocal range, and lyrics of "L' homme arme"
resonate throughout th.epoem, finding correspondences in the
poem's tripartite structure, dramatic leaps between close-up
and extended visual and historical ranges, and antimilitarist
In " Elizabeth Bishop and the Art of Translation,"
Sylvia Henneberg called attention to a striking resemblance
between Bishop's and theFrench cubist poet Max J acob's lives
and works. Focusing on the affinities between Bishop's " Bra-
zil, J anuary 1, 1502" and J acob's 1922 poem " Etablissement
d'une communaute au Bresil (" Foundation of a Religious
Community in Brazil" ), Henneberg suggested that because
Bishop's poem seems to represent afree translation ofJ acob' s,
it is time to admit him, and perhaps other writers Bishop
translated, into the arena of Bishop studies. At the same time,
the impression that Bishop was categorically opposed to free
translation must be re-examined.
J ane Shore's presentation, " -Or so it looked: The
Dazzling Dialectic in Elizabeth Bishop's Paintings," related
several of Bishop's paintings to her poetry, arguing that the
paintings enhance the poems, " acting inconcert with themas a
kind of visual duet." Concentrating" Cabin with
a Porthole" and identifying verbal correspondences in such
poems as " Santarem," " Filling Station," " One Art," " The
Gentleman of Shalott," and " In the Waiting Room," Shore
concluded that the double vision and paradoxes so typical of
Bishop's writing are closely paralleled in her visual world of
" competing but equal opposites."
Bishop and the Sister Arts
ALA inBaltimore
by Sylvia Henneberg, Morehead State University
Summer1999 Volume 8, Number J The Elizabeth Bishop Bullerin