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Lying doggo

Christopher Reid, 14 June 1990

Becoming a poet 
by David Kalstone, edited by Robert Hemenway.
Hogarth, 299 pp., £20, May 1990, 0 7012 0900 3
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... her life are known only scantly. In the absence of any comprehensive account of Bishop’s life, David Kalstone seems to have opted for an approach to the poet that might be termed semi-biographical. There are frustrations that attend even his scrupulous and sympathetic discussion of Bishop and her friendships with Marianne Moore and Robert Lowell. The ...

On Douglas Crase

Matthew Bevis, 25 November 2019

... debut and Harold Bloom hailed the arrival of a great original. ‘I think I speak for many,’ David Kalstone wrote, ‘in saying it appeared with that sense of completeness of utterance and identity that must have come with the first books of Wallace Stevens (Harmonium) and Elizabeth Bishop (North and South).’ The book they were talking about was ...

Kohl-Rimmed

Laura Quinney: James Merrill, 4 April 2002

Collected Poems 
by James Merrill, edited by J.D. McClatchy and Stephen Yenser.
Knopf, 736 pp., £35.75, February 2001, 0 375 41139 9
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... self appears in ‘Farewell Performance’, where he describes scattering the ashes of his friend David Kalstone: Now, in the furnace parched to ten or twelve light handfuls, a mortal gravel sifted through fingers, coarse yet greyly glimmering sublimate of palace days, Strauss, Sidney, the lover’s plaintive ‘Can’t we be just be friends?’ which ...

The Numinous Moose

Helen Vendler, 11 March 1993

Elizabeth Bishop: Life and the Memory of It 
by Brett Millier.
California, 602 pp., £18.50, April 1993, 0 520 07978 7
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... thoughts against thoughts in groans grind. For too long, Bishop had lived these moral choices of life/death, right/wrong, male/female: but at last, the early happy years with Lota had made them seem irrelevant, and Bishop, longing for Paradise since her blighted childhood, felt she had found it at Santarém: That golden evening I really wanted to go no farther; more than anything else I wanted to stay awhile in that conflux of two great rivers ...
Selected Poems 
by James Merrill.
Carcanet, 152 pp., £9.95, April 1996, 1 85754 228 2
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... and builds them into masterful, all-embracing compositions. As his friend and admirer, the critic David Kalstone, once put it, Frivolity is always a form of invocation for JM, a preparation like the dancer’s at the barre. I have glimpsed him through the half-open study door, after a morning of work, playing a game of patience, waiting for it all to ...

Awful but Cheerful

Gillian White: The Tentativeness of Elizabeth Bishop, 25 May 2006

Edgar Allan Poe & the Juke-Box: Uncollected Poems, Drafts and Fragments 
by Elizabeth Bishop, edited by Alice Quinn.
Farrar, Straus, 367 pp., £22.50, March 2006, 0 374 14645 4
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... involves the contrast between the work published in her lifetime – which seems so aware, as David Kalstone put it, ‘of the smallness and dignity of human observation and contrivance’ – and the pain and disorder of her often very messy life. Born in 1911, Bishop was effectively orphaned as a small child: her father died before she was one; in ...

Follow-the-Leader

Colm Tóibín: Bishop v. Lowell, 14 May 2009

Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell 
edited by Thomas Travisano and Saskia Hamilton.
Faber, 875 pp., £40, November 2008, 978 0 571 24308 2
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... and the final natural but charged image that gives the poem its conclusion and title.’ As David Kalstone pointed out in Becoming a Poet: Elizabeth Bishop with Marianne Moore and Robert Lowell, however, the poem was not simply a homage to Bishop and her work, but a way of using her tone and then moving away from it, a way of separating himself ...

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