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This superbly edited collection traces the correspondence between poet Bishop and her editors at the New Yorker-Katharine S. White (wife of E.B. White) and Howard Moss-from 1934 to 1979. Many of Bishop's finest poems were first published in the New Yorker. These were the days of manual typewriters, carbon copies, and Varitype working proofs. The letters often capture the back and forth from editor and publisher to writer concentrating on the nitty-gritty of punctuation and word choice. "Punctuation is my Waterloo," Bishop bemoans. The "real world" rarely intrudes, for example, a fleeting reference to the 1960 presidential campaign. When White departs as poetry-and-fiction editor in 1956, taking her warm and chatty approach with her, Bishop's initial disappointment is clear. Over time she warms up to Howard Moss and vice versa, even to the point of his eventual purchase of her cherished clavichord. He pleads: "Please send some poems!" This is a fascinating, placid, and inevitably repetitious correspondence that ought to be assigned to all aspiring editors of poetry. (Illus. not seen) (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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Bishop (1911-79) was the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize (1969) and the National Book Award for poetry (1970). The New Yorker championed her poetry from the outset of her career, and this correspondence, spanning 1934 to 1979, is between Bishop and her editors Charles Pearce (1939-44), Katherine Angell (1945-61), and Howard Moss (1962-79). The New Yorker editors were as knights to their Bishop. They nurtured her talent, afforded her the protection of steady financial support, and safeguarded her interests during her residence in Brazil. The letters, at once polite and solicitous, are also earnest commentaries and dissections of her work. The editors parsed stanzas and sentences, questioned Bishop's punctuation, and suggested textual changes that Bishop accepted as often as she rejected. The letters are a revelation in how solitary, private creation is made public through the editorial process. Biele (White Summer) is a poet and Bishop scholar whose introduction and annotations are indispensable in elaborating the evolution of this process. VERDICT For enthusiasts of Bishop's work and devotees of The New Yorker.-Lonnie Weatherby, McGill Univ. Lib., Montreal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
A major voice in 20th-century poetry, Bishop published many of her most significant works in The New Yorker. This meticulously edited volume brings together some 40 years of correspondence--businesslike, largely cordial, and sometimes pedantic--between the writer and her New Yorker editors. Bishop appears to have developed the most open and amicable relationship with Katharine White, who edited work in all genres, though poetry editor Howard Moss perhaps understood more acutely Bishop's poetic technique. Few striking personal revelations emerge from this volume, though Bishop's recurrent illnesses and alcoholism often caused her to extend expected deadlines and sometimes fail to meet them. The magazine remained a welcome source of income for her, and the letters chart the often-tortuous path of poems from their original inspiration, to initial and subsequent drafts, to final form. Although one might wish for more attention to Bishop's fiction and occasional nonfiction prose, Biele's thoroughly documented and informative introduction offers a look behind the scenes into these meaningful author-editorial exchanges. In sum, a worthy addition to the expanding list of primary works on Bishop's career and on the inner workings of The New Yorker. Summing Up: Recommended Upper-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers. K. P. Ljungquist Worcester Polytechnic Institute