Friday, April 20, 2012

“It isn’t creative at all!”

Elizabeth Bishop, from a letter to anthologist John Frederick Nims, written on the last day of her life, October 6, 1979:

You can see what a nasty teacher I must be — but I do think students get lazier and lazier & expect to have everything done for them. (I suggested buying a small paper-back and almost the whole class whines “Where can I find it?”) My best example of this sort of thing is what one rather bright Harvard honors student told me. She told her room-mate or a friend — who had obviously taken my verse-writing course — that she was doing her paper with me and the friend said “Oh don’t work with her! It’s awful! She wants you to look words up in the dictionary! It isn’t creative at all!” In other words, it is better not to know what you’re writing or reading.

From Elizabeth Bishop: Poems, Prose and Letters, ed. Robert Giroux and Lloyd Schwartz (New York: Library of America, 2008).

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Elizabeth Bishop at Vassar
Lines from Elizabeth Bishop

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