Elizabeth Bishops unpublished erotic poems

Elizabeth Bishop’s unpublished poems with lively annotations


Edgar Allen Poe and the Juke-Box: Uncollected Poems, Drafts and Fragments
Edited and annotated by ALICE QUINN
Carcanet Press £16.95

My love, my saving grace,
your eyes are awfully blue.
I kiss your funny face,
your coffee-flavored mouth.
Last night I slept with you.
Today I love you so
how can I bear to go
(as soon I must, I know)
to bed with ugly death
in that cold, filthy place,
to sleep there without you,
without the easy breath
and nightlong, limblong warmth
I’ve grown accustomed to?
– Nobody wants to die;
tell me it is a lie!
But no, I know it’s true.
It’s just the common case;
there’s nothing one can do.
My love, my saving grace,
your eyes are awfully blue
early and instant blue.

Alice Quinn, the charismatic and sometimes controversial poetry editor of The New Yorker, now Executive Director of the Poetry Society of America as well, has proved herself an impeccable and courageous critic and scholar of modern poetry with the appearance of Edgar Allen Poe and the Juke-Box, her more than- annotated edition of the unpublished poems of Elizabeth Bishop.

Two (poignant, erotic) poems salvaged or rescued by the poet-critic Lloyd Schwartz were published in The New Yorker in 1991 in the context of his article ‘Annals of Poetry: Elizabeth Bishop and Brazil’. A dozen other previously unpublished Bishop poems appeared in The New Yorker in the course of the 1990s and early in this decade; others surfaced in American Poetry Review, The New York Review of Books and The London Review of Books, all, we now know, the fruit of Alice Quinn’s ongoing research, with the permission of Bishop’s literary executor, the life-partner of her last decade.

Readers quoted and copied them; clipped them out; pasted them in notebooks; wondered how they had arrived at the journals and what their eventual disposition might be. Either Elizabeth Bishop was alive in Nova Scotia sending poems to magazines (would that it were true) or there was a body of her work extant and under examination that was much larger than the published books revealed.

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