Sunday, April 18, 2010

Geography III by Elizabeth Bishop

As part of my Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence Between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell reading preparation, I wanted to read some Elizabeth Bishop. I hadn't read very much of her writing. I finished [book:Geography III: Poems|125219] very quickly. There were only ten poems in the whole book. It was 50 pages, but the print was huge.

All of these poems were new to me. I have only read "The Fish" before.

I liked her imagery, and it seemed to me like the poems were written slowly and quietly. None of the writing is intense, or action packed, but it is enjoyable to read in a calming sort of way. There was a lot packed into the poems. I still haven't read that much of Bishop's poetry, but it feels like I read more than ten poems.

My favorites in the book:

Objects & Apparitions (This is for Joseph Cornell. I read a quote saying all poets have a thing for Cornell, and I think he might be right.)

Night City

In the Waiting Room

Crusoe in England

Life Studies by Robert Lowell

I read Life Studies because I recently picked up Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence Between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell, and I wanted to read some of both writer's poetry before I read their correspondence. I also read a lot of biographies about writers like Dream Song: The Life of John Berryman and The Fading Smile: Poets in Boston from Robert Lowell to Sylvia Plath which mentioned a lot about Lowell, even if they weren't primarily about him. There is also Anne Sexton's poem about taking classes with Lowell as he was having a bout of mental illness. I felt like I already knew so much about him before reading one of his books.

It was really nice seeing where confessional got its start. My favorite poems were in parts 3 and 4 of the book, and I liked part 4 (the most confessional) best of all. The poems in the beginning were kind of cold, and the I felt like the other poems at the end invited me closer. I liked reading about Lowell's family, especially his grandparents and mother. Their portraits are vivid.

My favorite poems in this book:

For Sale (The "Words,Words,Words" at the top of this web page made me laugh)

Waking in the Blue

Skunk Hour (You can listen to the audio at this site)

To Delmore Schwartz

Monday, April 12, 2010

Homage to Mistress Bradstreet and Other Poems by John Berryman

John Berryman's The Dream Songs is one of my favorite books. I was excited to read Homage to Mistress Bradstreet and Other Poems because Berryman is mostly known for his Dream Songs, and I wanted to see what else he wrote.

The book was not as good as the Dream Songs. I liked the Mistress Bradstreet poem (especially living in Massachusetts now). I really enjoyed the writer's unconventional relationship with his subject. I was impressed with his description of childbirth. Berryman also included notes on the poem at the end, and some of those were just as entertaining as the poem.

I really didn't like the poems included in the "Early Poems" section of the book. I didn't like his strict rhyming in these poems, the form really sticks out in an awkward way. I think his later looser forms worked better. He was also pretty traditional with the subject matter in the early poems, and it was a relief to see his style heading toward the unusual. They are also lacking his twisted sense of humor, like Berryman is trying to be super serious.

I liked some of the other poems, but they were mostly the "Nervous Songs" which seemed like a prototype for the Dream Songs, without Henry or Mister Bones, unfortunately.

My favorite poems in the book:

Homage to Mistress Bradstreet (I can't believe Poetry's website includes the whole poem)

The Captain's Song

Young Woman's Song

Song of the Demented Priest

(I am reading extra slow lately because I am doing NaPoWriMo.)