This Thursday, November 29th, at 7:30 in Rome 771 your favorite English faculty members will be performing Joelle Biele’s one-act play These Fine Mornings!
These Fine Mornings was adapted from Biele’s book Elizabeth Bishop and The New Yorker: The Complete Correspondence. Biele explained that These Fine Mornings was created “pretty organically… I thought my friends and I would just read some of the best letters and mix in a few poems here and there.”
Two of our own faculty, Thomas Mallon and Jane Shore, have personal experience with Elizabeth Bishop and her work.
Professor Mallon shared, “I remember that, when I was a graduate
student at Harvard way back in the 1970s, Bishop taught a course called ‘Subject Matter in American Poetry.’ I tried to get in and couldn’t get a place, but I do remember attending the first class and what it was like to listen to Miss Bishop’s (I assure you that’s what we called her) very soft voice. We students all assumed, I think, that ‘subject matter’ would mean big themes: freedom, violence, etc. But Bishop said: ‘During the first weeks we’re going to read poems about animals. After that poems about trees.’ Those weren’t the exact words, but something like that. What a demonstration, I thought, of her colleague William Carlos Williams’ dictum that there are ‘no ideas but in things’!”
To Professor Shore, Elizabeth Bishop was a mentor, colleague, and friend. She says, “During the time I knew Elizabeth Bishop, I saw many of her poems in the pages of The New Yorker. What Joelle’s book and play does is show us the backstory of these now famous poems, the nuts and bolts of the poet’s craft, precision, and the wrangling over punctuation that crisscrossed continents until both the editor and Bishop could agree in the final finished poem that would appear in The New Yorker. What astonished me most of all was seeing how many of Bishop’s great, truly great poems, The New Yorker rejected!”
As attested, Bishop’s works are beautiful and touching. When it comes to Bishop’s work and the inspiration she drew from it Biele said, “One of the most appealing things to me about her poetry is the combination of her later, conversational style, the clarity of thought, and simplicity of form. To say something so complicated so simply is quite a feat. The other thing I admire is her modesty.”
We asked Biele what she wants her viewers to take away from her compiled play. After all, Bishop was a woman who lost both of her parents early in life, maintained a sense of humor, and published beautiful works while always remaining wary of the spotlight. She was a woman of many facets. Biele responded, “One thing I hope viewers will see is that while writing is a solitary act, that it is also one of collaboration, of intellectual jousting, affection, and mutual respect. That they were all so passionately devoted to language is something I find quite powerful.”
Wise words of advice for any aspiring or established author.
Come join us Thursday in Rome 771 at 7:30 to watch These Fine Mornings because you will not want to miss this performance.