“Lowell’s and Bishop’s best poems grow out of the ordinariness of suffering, not out of its extraordinariness.”


Turning Pain Into Art: How the poets Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell became each other’s tragic muses – Meghan O’Rourke – The Atlantic – 5/17

“In the decades since the poets died, Lowell’s star has fallen while Bishop’s has risen. You might think that this is odd—that in an era of social media and seemingly endless self-disclosure, Lowell’s bold confessions would feel more modern than Bishop’s almost prim restraint. But Bishop is the more original poet, and nearly 60 years after Life Studies, her challenging irony, her plainspoken tone, and her resigned clarity sound as fresh as ever. By contrast, Lowell’s poems can seem overworked, antiquated in their metaphor making. ‘I liked your New Yorker fish poem,’ Lowell told Bishop in a revealing early exchange. ‘I am a fisherman myself, but all my fish become symbols, alas!’ This tendency to inflate would haunt his work to the end.”


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