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