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The Library of America has just released a new volume on Elizabeth Bishop. I have several others from the LOA series and find the quaintness of these publications comforting–the smaller size, the simple glossy black cover, the onionskin-thin paper, the bookmark cord supplied for you to employ immediately at your favorite spot. Having this carefully selected compilation of her poems, prose and letters all in one simple and elegant volume feels like a miniature universe.

Robert Pinsky wrote a review recently and praised the editorial choices made by Robert Giroux and Lloyd Schwartz. Here’s an excerpt:

Certain great art establishes only gradually the kind of wide, deep appeal known as “classic.” Such art may be perceived at first as merely popular, like the work of William Shakespeare and Duke Ellington, and eventually acquire critical esteem. Other works may at first appear peculiar and arcane, like those of Vincent van Gogh or Emily Dickinson, and then for later generations come to seem universally, immediately appealing.

Elizabeth Bishop’s poems have taken a middle course, quietly attracting a diverse following that has grown steadily…Bishop’s “One Art” may be the most quoted and most memorized poem in many generations. And it, too, is sometimes reproduced without legal permission, in blogs or albums. Bishop’s poetry has been set to music by distinguished composers like Elliott Carter, and it has been incorporated into trashy pop songs. Academic critics and high school students, feminists and curmudgeons, fellow poets as different as Frank O’Hara and James Merrill – all have embraced this sharp-edged, slyly elegant work, with its way of interlacing the domestic and the volcanic…

Bishop’s great characteristic subject: the pulsing, rock-melting heat and pressure inside a person, under the thin, still crust of custom. Even her love poems are about isolation, tentatively or temporarily overcome…

Fascinated by a dull, normal, genteel world she could imitate but never really join, Bishop wrote in a super-refined, transformed version of that world’s speech. Thanks to the meticulous editing of Robert Giroux and Lloyd Schwartz, her range and peculiarity are demonstrated in this volume that puts Bishop’s poetry into the context of her essays, stories, and personal correspondence.

The book supplies a satisfying sense of knowing the poet and an equally satisfying sense of inexhaustible, mysterious genius, flashing by before it can be entirely defined.

(You can read the full review on Slate.)