Daily Archives: February 9, 2011

Elizabeth Bishop and Nova Scotia

Great Village school, circa 1910

From an article in The Telegraph:

Nova Scotia is where Bishop discovered her preoccupation with pattern, process and form. Even then she was weighing up aesthetics and arrangements: “The summer before school began was the summer of numbers, chiefly number eight … Four and five were hard enough but I think I was in love with eight.” When she got stuck on “g” she decided with characteristic independence of judgment that “My alphabet made a satisfying short song, and I didn’t want to spoil it.”

The plain and forthright music of her poems comes from another childhood influence: “My Nova Scotian grandmother was a great hymn singer. I grew up with those sounds, and, in fact, still have hundreds of them floating around in my head.”

The hard brightness of the light in Nova Scotia concentrates its colours. The iridescent firs, blazing red barns and luminous bare fields explain why Bishop writes so often of this landscape as if it were painted: “You know about the Bay of Fundy and its tides, I imagine, that go out for a hundred miles or so and then come in with a rise of 80 feet. The soil is all dark terracotta color, and the bay, when it’s in, on a bright day, is a real pink; then the fields are very pale lime greens and yellows and in back of them the fir trees start, dark blue-green. It is the richest, saddest, simplest landscape in the world … ”

You can visit the Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia’s centenary blog here .

Palin, Frye and Blood Libel


Palin blames “pundints” [sic] for “manufacturing a blood libel” against her

Roy Peter Clark cites Frye on metaphor to make some sense of Palin’s claim to be the victim of “blood libel” after the Tuscon shootings.

A sample:

Frye provides a cautionary lesson about metaphorical language: that the differences between the compared elements are as important as the similarities. If I present myself as a “light to the world,” I am asking my audience to see my divine qualities and will not blame them for observing the dissimilarities.

To describe oneself as a victim of blood libel carries with it a certain responsibility for proportionality, that the seriousness of the metaphor must equate in some measure with the experience being described. While the football game between the Steelers and the Ravens has already been compared to a war – and the players to gladiators – we recognize that as traditional and hyperbolic. But I would not call a failed athletic performance an “abortion” or a blowout of one team by another as a “holocaust” or “a virtual Hiroshima.”

Amy Lowell


Amy Lowell’s “Meeting-House Hill”

Today is Amy Lowell‘s birthday (1874-1925).

From The Well-Tempered Critic:

The free verse imagists of the 1920s issued manifestos saying that poetry should be objective, visual, concentrated, precise, hard, clear, and rendering particulars exactly.  As with a good deal of poetry written to a theory, the theory was a compensation for the practice: what imagism mainly produced was precisely the opposite, an associative hypnotic chant based on various devices of repetition. (CW 21, 364)