“I’d hate to see that evening sun go down…”

- W.C. Handy, “Saint Louis Blues”

Elizabeth Bishop used the above excerpt from a blues tune to teach her students iambic pentameter. How cool is that?

I learned this and a whole lot else at a symposium held in Halifax last weekend, It Must Be Nova Scotia: Negotiating Place in the Writings of Elizabeth Bishop. It was a whirlwind three days of papers delivered largely by academics on their shared obsessions with the work of Elizabeth Bishop. I’m no academic; much of what I heard whizzed over my head, but enough managed to filter through that my understanding of her work ought to reach a new level.

There were many highlights, one of which in particular stands out – the keynote talk given by Colm Toibin. That he was talking about the poetry of Thomas Gunn/Elizabeth Bishop was a bonus; had he read from the telephone book it would have been riveting, entertaining, poignant, and funny.

I met some lovely and fascinating people from around the world, as far away as Brazil, Japan, and the UK. It was great to be among people with a shared interest in Elizabeth Bishop. I even had my copy of Words in Air signed by Thomas Travisano. Later, I had the pleasure of chatting with Mr Travisano as we huddled for warmth aboard the Mar II on a tour of the Halifax Harbour. There had been much discussion during the conference about Bishop’s identity as a Canadian/American writer, of course I felt compelled to wonder aloud if she pronounced the letter “Z” aszed or zee. We had fun with that one – something to do with the theme song to “Zorro” – although I’m afraid it’s the extent of my contribution to the conference (I’m no academic, remember?).

And now to the happy task of revision, in the true sense of re-vision. With the help of a sensitive and knowledgeable editor friend, I’m working my way toward a new children’s story. Editor M has given me a brilliant idea to try out; I can’t wait to sink my teeth into it. Off I go, now; it’s time to write.

Categories: General.