Elizabeth Bishop: Poems

Elizabeth Bishop’s Personal Poetry

Elizabeth Bishop has often been linked to the poetical canon of the ‘confessional poets’ of the 1960’s and 70’s. Confessional poetry focused largely on the poet, exposing his/her insecurities and personal vulnerabilities. Bishop, however, was better known for her insistence on remaining outside of this movement. To be called a confessional poet “would have horrified the very proper and obsessively discreet author” (Gioia 19). She seemed to express the view that the tragedies within a poet’s mind should not be found on the page. As Bishop once famously said regarding confessional poets: “You wish they’d keep some of these things to themselves” (Costello 334). Despite her convictions, Bishop’s personal life was so wrought with tragedy and alienation that she sought a way to express her experiences through her work. Poetry, especially during this period of total lyrical exposure, became the perfect medium for her to work through her pain. Her peers had set the standard for audience reception of such personal poetry, and Bishop sought to utilize their idea of self-recovery in her own, much more subtle, way.

Importantly, we must recognize both the slight commonality and the distinct difference between Bishop and the confessional...

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