In Search of Elizabeth Bishop

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I  REMEMBER it vividly. On October 7, 1979, having walked from a poetry workshop in Harvard Square to Sanders Theater for a reading by Elizabeth Bishop—a benefit for the journal Ploughshares—I found a seat and craned my neck to catch a glimpse of the poet. Instead, the Plough-shares editor took the microphone BISHOPand called for our attention. Did he say directly, “Elizabeth Bishop has died,” or did we infer it from the empty stage? In those days, before the Internet, most people would only learn from the next morning’s Boston Globe that the poet had succumbed to a cerebral aneurysm the night before, in her apartment on Lewis Wharf, where her partner, Alice Methfessel, had found her. Bishop was 68.

Several writers who were close friends of the poet walked to the chairs set out onstage, each with favorite poems of hers to read, and sat down. But first, poet Rosanna Warren introduced Irish writer Mary Lavin, who had also been on the program. 

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Rosemary Booth is a writer and photographer living in Cambridge, Mass.

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