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I know she does to me, but I’ve spent less time thinking of the ‘why’ of it. So I asked our smart faculty member and Bishopologist, John Brehm, for his take on why fiction writers should care about Bishop. He’s teaching Reading as a Writer: Elizabeth Bishop and the Art of Seeing starting later this month. It makes sense to me. What about you? Do you cross-train outside of your genre?
The question shouldn’t be why would a fiction writer, or any other writer for that matter, want to study the work of Elizabeth Bishop, but rather what possible reason could there be for not wanting to? Seriously, I have long believed that the best way to become a better writer is to immerse yourself in the work of the great writers you most admire. Bishop is one of our most distinctive, original, and universally acclaimed poets–beloved by poets as different as Robert Lowell and John Ashbery–and she has much to teach us about how to truly see the world around us. I sometimes worry that the physical world will simply vanish because no one really looks at it anymore. It’s just a blurry backdrop to our cellphone conversations and facebook updates and incessant self-referential thinking! So that would be another reason to take the course–to forestall the disappearance of physical reality. More immediately, studying Bishop will help any writer (Bishop was a gifted prose writer and watercolorist as well as a poet) bring greater clarity, depth, and precision to their descriptive passages.