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Thomas Travisano, Love Unknown: The Life and Worlds of Elizabeth Bishop

Thursday, April 23, 2020 - 6:30 PM | Online | open to the public | by donation | no registration required




Elizabeth Bishop's friend James Merrill once observed that "Elizabeth had more talent for life—and for poetry—than anyone else I've known." This new biography, described by different reviewer as “masterly,” “utterly captivating,” and “definitive," reveals just how she learned to marry her talent for life with her talent for writing in order to create a brilliant array of poems, prose, and letters—a remarkable body of work that would make her one of America's most beloved and celebrated poets. In Love Unknown, Thomas Travisano, founding president of the Elizabeth Bishop Society, tells the story of the famous poet and traveler's life.

Bishop moved through extraordinary mid-twentieth-century worlds with relationships among an extensive international array of literati, visual artists, musicians, scholars, and politicians—along with a cosmopolitan gay underground that was then nearly invisible to the dominant culture. Drawing on fresh interviews and newly discovered manuscript materials, Travisano creates a biography the Washington Post considers “as enjoyable as reading one of Bishop’s strange and marvelous poem.” This biography shows that the "art of losing" that Bishop celebrated with such poignant irony in her poem, "One Art”  was linked in equal part to an "art of finding” that allowed her to create the sort of encounters and understated epiphanies that appear so often in her work.

Thomas Travisano is the founding president of the Elizabeth Bishop Society and the author of Elizabeth Bishop: Her Artistic Development and Midcentury Quartet: Bishop, Lowell, Jarrell, Berryman. He is principal editor of the acclaimed Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence Between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell and served as co-editor of Elizabeth Bishop in the 21st Century and the three-volume New Anthology of American Poetry. Travisano’s work on Love Unknown was supported by a Guggenheim Fellowship and awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Philosophical Society. He is Emeritus Professor of English at Hartwick College. Headshot by Elsa Travisano.

This event is supported by the Lyn Chase Poetry Fund.