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The Complete Poems, 1927-1979 Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 29 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Complete Poems, 1927-1979.
This section contains 528 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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The Complete Poems, 1927-1979 Summary & Study Guide Description

The Complete Poems, 1927-1979 Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on The Complete Poems, 1927-1979 by Elizabeth Bishop.

Elizabeth Bishop: The Complete Poems 1927-1979 is a detailed sampling of the iconic poet's work throughout her life, in the United States and abroad. Bishop claims to have been deeply affected by the transition from the U.S. to Nova Scotia when her maternal grandparents assumed guardianship. There are tributes to living in Nova Scotia, references to her grandparents whom she obviously loved a great deal, and the sea, which seemed to hold an endless fascination for Bishop. Remarkably, there is no clear reference to Bishop's mother, who entered a mental institution was Bishop was a child; nor to her deceased father. The poet's references to her grandfather are charming and sweet. Bishop somehow manages to maintain a childlike admiration of the man and his lessons.

There is a great deal of reference to nature in the poetry. Bishop is obviously enamored of the water in its various forms, including such bodies as the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Nova Scotia and Florida, the Amazon and Tapajos Rivers, the Strait of Belle Isle, and The Seine. The ocean seems to hold the most interest for Bishop, a fact that may lead back to the poet's childhood in Canada. To Bishop, each body of water has a character, a history, and myriad mysteries just below the surface. The images painted when describing the ocean, the shore, and the surrounding rocks, caves and animals are incredibly vivid and the reader cannot help but see the location with one's own eyes.

There are some references to relationships, most of them platonic. The people mentioned range from a landlady to a tenant, friends, relatives and lovers. Although the poet does write about love in a few of the poems, she manages to convey thoughts, feelings and actions without showing a sense of melancholy or over-exuberance. There are clearly deep feelings present but Bishop chooses to be somewhat removed without spoiling the level of emotion involved.

A large portion of the book is dedicated to Bishop's travels, especially Key West and Brazil. The poet lived in both places for long periods of time and the familiarity with the individual cultures and landscapes shows Bishop's devotion to observation and memory preservation.

Bishop was well educated at Vassar and wrote with a flair for uncommon words, an effort made by many poets but achieved by few. Although Bishop was not rich by any means as she lived off of grants and fellowships for a large part of her life, the poet's mannerisms and poetry suggest a high level of refinement. This creates a strong juxtaposition with the culture of Brazil. Many of the places referred to by Bishop are slum-like and full of characters that are less than honest or enterprising. The poet speaks of poor conditions, sub-standard housing, thieves and squatters, yet Bishop chose to remain in Brazil for the better part of two decades.

The Complete Poems gives an intimate view of Bishop's life and thoughts on many subjects. Readers will feel the time stamp on the work in small ways but will find that the work remains as universal today as it did when it was written.

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