`In Worcester, Massachusetts': Essays on Elizabeth Bishop. from the 1997 Elizabeth Bishop Conference at WPI

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`In Worcester, Massachusetts': Essays on Elizabeth Bishop. From the 1997 Elizabeth Bishop Conference at WPI. Ed. by Laura Jehn Menides and Angela G. Dorenkamp. (WPI Studies, 18) New York, Bern, and Frankfurt a.M.: Lang. 1999. xi + 361 pp. 22 [pounds sterling]; $35.95.

This collection of thirty-seven short papers from the conference at Elizabeth Bishop's birthplace addresses a variety of issues current in Bishop studies, including her connection to Worcester and the other places of her troubled early years which generated her anxiety-ridden re-imaginings of childhood, and her lifelong search for somewhere to call home. Thomas Travisano, in `Elizabeth Bishop and the Origin of Childhood Studies' (pp. 5-19), argues that Bishop's `ongoing four-way conversation' with fellow poets Randall Jarrell, Robert Lowell, and John Berryman, created a new aesthetic of childhood as cultural subject. Travisano reviews the events of Bishop's early childhood, especially the traumatic removal when she was five from her maternal grandparents in Great Village, Nova Scotia to her wealthier paternal grandparents in Worcester, an event that Bishop, as an adult, described as having almost killed her. He relates Bishop's sense of a lost paradise (the removal from Great Village being the earliest and most acute form) to a number of her poems, including the recently discovered comic poem, `Ballad of the Subway Train', written when she was sixteen. Other essays on childhood are Barbara Page's `Bishop as Poet of Childhood Recollected' (pp. 21-34), and Gail H. Dayton's critique of the autobiographical memoir in prose, `The Country Mouse' (pp. 35-41).

Another section focuses upon `Worcester and Elsewhere', primarily essays about Brazil, exile and migration, that fill in some interesting biographical detail on familiar topics. Carmen L. Oliveira's `Luminous Lota' (pp. 83-91) and George Monteiro's `Bishop's Brazil and ViceVersa' (pp. 93-98) have sympathetic perspectives on Lota de Macedo Soares with whom Bishop lived for thirteen years at Petropolis. Essays in this section also draw on the paradise theme, including Harriet Y. Cooper's `Elizabeth Bishop: Longing for Home--And Paradise' (pp. 119-28).

The section of five essays on translation has three essays on Bishop's own translations, and two on translating her work into Japanese. …