The first thing one notices about Elizabeth Bishop’s Collected Prose is that it is even slimmer than her remarkably slender Complete Poems, published last year. The second thing one notices is that this collection would never have qualified for Donald Hall’s “Poets on Poetry” series: it contains not a single book review or interview or poetic manifesto. What it does contain, rather, are seventeen pieces which are, to a surprising extent, prose equivalents of Bishop’s poetry. The style is, for the most part, exquisitely simple, the tone sensitive yet controlled, the form largely descriptive. Consider, for example, this passage from “Memories of Uncle Neddy” about one colorful consequence of living in Rio de Janeiro:

Except for the fact that they give me asthma, I am very fond of molds and mildews. I love the dry-looking, gray-green dust, like bloom on fruit,...

 
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