Books June 2017
A review of Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast by Megan Marshall.
The title is misleading. “A Miracle for Breakfast” is indeed one of Elizabeth Bishop’s poems, though not one of her best. The only distinction it has, so far as I know, is that John Ashbery read it at the memorial for Bishop in Agassiz House, Radcliffe Yard, on October 21, 1979. He chose it because it was the first poem by Bishop to which he had paid attention. Ms. Marshall did not attend the memorial: she found a recording of it on the Internet. In fact, she did not know Bishop at all well. She saw her for the first time in one of Robert Lowell’s poetry classes at Harvard—“a small older woman with short, stiff white hair, clad in an elegant light-wool suit”—where she came as a visitor and read “Poem,” handing out copies of it to the students. Ms. Marshall gives a simple paraphrase of the poem, but does not indicate how it was received in class: did...
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