This is Vassar: The newsletter for Vassar College Alumnae/i and Families

Elizabeth Bishop. Photo © Vassar College Archives and Special Collections.

Elizabeth Bishop Exhibition and Symposium

At the time of her death, distinguished poet Elizabeth Bishop ’34 left behind hundreds of letters and more than 3,500 pages of manuscripts. Today they serve as the foundation of the college’s Elizabeth Bishop Papers, an invaluable research collection maintained at Vassar.

Those works—and the woman behind them—will be recognized this fall, when Vassar hosts an exhibit and symposium reflecting on the work her poetry inspired. The events will run in conjunction with Vassar’s Sesquicentennial and the centenary of Bishop’s birth.

A Pulitzer-prize winner and the U.S. Poet Laureate from 1949 to 1950, Bishop enrolled at Vassar in 1930, where she befriended fellow literati Mary McCarthy '33 and Eleanor Clark '34. While in Poughkeepsie, the writers formed a short-term publication, Con Spirito, to protest the Vassar Review for rejecting their pieces. The Review relented shortly thereafter. During her senior year, Bishop was introduced to poet Marianne Moore, who became a lifelong friend and mentor to Bishop during her rise to literary fame.

The Thompson Memorial Library’s new exhibit, From the Archive: Discovering Elizabeth Bishop, premiered on August 30 and will continue through the fall semester until December 15. From the Archive draws from the library’s extensive Bishop collection, which includes hundreds of correspondences with Moore and poet Robert Lowell, as well as letters from the time of her partner Lota’s [de Macedo Soares] death.

Keynote Robert Pinsky

The symposium on September 24 will further discuss the holdings, beginning with two panel discussions—“On Editing Bishop” and “On Teaching Bishop”—featuring writers and scholars whose work has benefited from the collection. “On Teaching Bishop” will be moderated by Barbara Page, professor emeritus of English at Vassar, who has published several essays using research from the library’s papers. The day will conclude with a keynote address by Robert Pinsky, a former three-term U.S. Poet Laureate whose Favorite Poems Project resulted in the popular Americans’ Favorite Poems anthology. Pinsky will read “Elizabeth Bishop: The Bee’s Knees,” an original poem commissioned by Vassar for the occasion.

All events are free and open to the public. For more information, including specific dates and locations, see the press release. –Seth Warner ’14

Keynote speaker Robert Pinsky. Photo © Emma Dodge Hanson.

Michael Joyce, professor of English, reads and responds to Bishop's "A Miracle for Breakfast."

September 2011

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