Harvard Book Store welcomes author, professor, and eminent Elizabeth Bishop scholar THOMAS TRAVISANO for a discussion of his latest book, Love Unknown: The Life and Worlds of Elizabeth Bishop.
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 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 illuminates that the “art of losing” that Bishop celebrated with such poignant irony in her poem, “One Art,” perhaps her most famous, was linked in equal part to an “art of finding,” that Bishop’s art and life was devoted to the sort of encounters and epiphanies that so often appear in her work.
“This is the biography we’ve been waiting for. Alternately heartbreaking and joyous, it contains many fascinating discoveries, all orchestrated by an insightful, sympathetic narrator.” —Steven Axelrod, President of the Robert Lowell Society and author of Robert Lowell: Life and Art
“You are confident, reading Travisano’s Love Unknown, that his biography comes as close to communicating an understanding and appreciation of the elusive and complicated Bishop as can be achieved.” —Scott Donaldson, author of Hemingway vs. Fitzgerald and The Paris Husband
“Elizabeth Bishop’s great poetry has been considered an art of loss, as in her celebrated ironic line, ‘the art of losing isn’t hard to master.’ In Thomas Travisano’s new, wide-ranging biography, she emerges instead as a poet of gain upon gain, maker of an art grown from all she had lost in childhood. He gives us a writer alive to adventure, ever seeking, discovering, and burning with the fire to transmute ordinary things she encounters into gold.” —Grace Schulman, winner of the Frost Medal of Distinguished Lifetime Achievement in American Poetry
Certain books were “banned in Boston” at least as far back as 1651, when one William Pynchon wrote a book criticizing Puritanism.