Alice Quinn of the Poetry Society of America brilliantly organized the group reading Tuesday February 8th honoring the 100th anniversary of Elizabeth Bishop's birth. At Cooper Union's Great Hall, nineteen poets read a favorite Bishop poem. The reading of poems in chronological order of publication was interspersed with snippets of correspondence between Bishop and New Yorker editors Katharine White, William Maxwell, and Howard Moss -- with Maria Tucci as the voice of Elizabeth Bishop, Alice Quinn as that of Katharine White, and current New Yorker poetry editor Paul Muldoon speaking for Messrs. Maxwell and Moss. We learned that the magazine turned down the Bishop poem that John Ashbery had wished to read, "Over 2,000 Illustrations and a Complete Concordance." Longtime poetry editor Howard Moss in one of his letters to Elizabeth Bishop confided that he was up to his ears in poems.Two hundred had appeared in the last two days, "in addition to the usual million." What Moss could use, he added, was a grant to open a hamburger stand in New Jersey.
Richard Howard (L)and James Fenton (c)Lawrence Schwartwald
(Note, if you squint hard enough at the photo of Mark Strand, you can make out Vijay Seshadri, Kimiko Hahn, Elizabeth Alexander, David Lehman, and Jean Valentine in the background; we were seated at cafe tables on the stage. -- DL