Lying doggo

Christopher Reid

Among her admirers, who tend to be wholehearted and fervent, the feeling is that Elizabeth Bishop has not yet received anything like her critical due. Things are improving – in the United States more rapidly than over here, where admission to the Pantheon seems as slow and grudging a process, and as prone to archaic shibboleths and mysterious blackballings, as election to a Pall Mall club. It is still possible to be told, by fairly intelligent readers, that her poems ‘lack form’, or that her diction is ‘flat’ and that her lines ‘don’t sing’, just as one still runs across the stubborn assertion that Matisse ‘can’t draw’. But this is getting less common.

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