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Richard Wilbur: 1993
A Reading in Tribute to Elizabeth Bishop

03/04/2009  by Arlo Haskell  2 Comments
 
Collaged image of Elizabeth Bishop and Richard Wilbur, Key West Literary Seminar

Bishop photo by Rollie McKenna; Wilbur photo by Stathis Orphanos

The 1993 Key West Literary Seminar was devoted entirely to Elizabeth Bishop. A series of readings-in-tribute offered her fellow poets the opportunity to discuss Bishop and her influence.

In this recording from the event, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Wilbur reads Bishop’s “Little Exercise.” Originally published in her debut 1946 collection North and South, the poem ostensibly describes a thunderstorm “roaming the sky” over the mangrove islands, palm-lined boulevard, herons, and sleeping indigents characteristic of Key West, a place each poet called home. Wilbur also reads his translation of “Song,” by Vinícius de Moraes, the Brazilian poet and Bossa Nova pioneer who co-wrote many of João Gilberto’s hits. Bishop herself translated de Moraes, and included his work in her landmark Anthology of Twentieth-Century Brazilian Poetry, along with poems by Carlos Drummond de Andrade, Manuel Bandeira and others in translations by North American poets including Wilbur, Paul Blackburn and Mark Strand. Wilbur discusses he and Bishop’s shared affinity for Edgar Allan Poe and their fascination with “stages and half-stages of the mind,” and concludes by reading a selection of his own poems which he says were inspired, influenced, or enjoyed by Bishop, including “A Baroque Wall-Fountain in the Villa Sciarra” and “Love Calls Us to the Things of This World” from his 1956 collection Things of This World; and “In Limbo,” from his 1976 The Mind-Reader.

Wilbur returns to KWLS in 2010 as our guest of honor for Clearing the Sill of the World.

From KWLS 1993: The Poetry of Elizabeth Bishop

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This recording is available for noncommercial and educational use only. All rights belong to the author. © 2009 Richard Wilbur. Used with permission from Richard Wilbur.

2 Responses

  1. I was sorry to see the Elizabeth Bishop house in Key West in such run-down condition.

    • Arlo Haskell says:

      Something tells me Elizabeth would have liked it this way, tucked away and anonymous, as simple as the day she left it…

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