Proposal Title

“Lasting As Long As This Phrase Lasts”: The Collision of Elizabeth Bishop, Octavio Paz, and Joseph Cornell in “Objects & Apparitions”

Primary Faculty Mentor’s Name

Dr. Richard Flynn

Proposal Track

Student

Session Format

Paper Presentation

Abstract

Readers of Elizabeth Bishop familiar with her fourth collection Geography III know of her translation of Octavio Paz’s poem “Objects & Apparitions,” which is the penultimate poem in the collection. Surrounded by Bishop’s original work, the Paz translation can seem out of place at first; however, the poem’s inclusion in this collection can be justified through research and close reading. Paz’s poem, originally written in Spanish, is dedicated to the collagist Joseph Cornell. By examining Bishop’s fascination with Cornell’s work and his influence on her, her affinity for and adeptness at translation, and her respect for and friendship with Paz, connections can be made to show the many ways “Object & Apparitions” fits into not only the collection Geography III but also into Bishop’s entire oeuvre.

Bishop’s work as a translator did not begin with Paz’s poem: in reading her personal correspondences preserved in books such as Robert Giroux’s One Art: Letters and Lloyd Schwartz and Giroux’s Poems, Prose, and Letters, one finds several references to Bishop’s affinity for translating. Although she was very good at it, she chose to translate Paz’s poem for another reason; his poem is dedicated to an artist Bishop greatly admired herself: Cornell. Critics such as Jonathan Ellis and Peggy Samuels have examined the influence of artists, including Cornell, on Bishop’s poetry. Thus, in reading Paz’s appraisal of the work of a man whom she admired, Bishop no doubt saw her own appreciation of Cornell realized in another poet’s verse and decided to render it into her own words and language.

The style of Bishop’s translation in itself merits a close reading. By comparing Paz’s original Spanish poem to the English revision presented in Geography III, one can see the poetic and artistic liberties Bishop took in making her translation the poem that Paz himself would come to regard as superior to his version. Her translation is anything but literal, yet through it she conveys Paz’s original meaning without sacrificing the lyrical resonance of the verse. Bishop sold the translation to The New Yorker in June of 1974, and it later found its way into her Geography III collection, published in December of 1976.

Due to the printing arrangement of Geography III, the fact that “Objects & Apparitions” is a translation and not a Bishop poem is not revealed to readers until they have finished reading the poem. Obviously, the poem carries Bishop’s tone despite the fact that it is not her original work. Paz’s poem contains a feeling of the uncanniness present in poems such as Bishop’s “In the Waiting Room.” The translation also preserves the s sound from the original that is reminiscent of “that particular / affirmative” present in Bishop’s “The Moose.” These are some of Bishop’s older works, but “Objects & Apparitions” also fits in with other poems in Geography III, such as “Crusoe in England” and “The End of March.” By examining “Objects & Apparitions” in its context, Bishop’s work takes on its own, stronger resonance.

Keywords

Elizabeth Bishop, Octavio Paz, Spanish translation, Poetry

Award Consideration

1

Location

Room 2905

Presentation Year

2014

Start Date

11-15-2014 8:30 AM

End Date

11-15-2014 9:30 AM

Publication Type and Release Option

Presentation (Open Access)

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Nov 15th, 8:30 AM Nov 15th, 9:30 AM

“Lasting As Long As This Phrase Lasts”: The Collision of Elizabeth Bishop, Octavio Paz, and Joseph Cornell in “Objects & Apparitions”

Room 2905

Readers of Elizabeth Bishop familiar with her fourth collection Geography III know of her translation of Octavio Paz’s poem “Objects & Apparitions,” which is the penultimate poem in the collection. Surrounded by Bishop’s original work, the Paz translation can seem out of place at first; however, the poem’s inclusion in this collection can be justified through research and close reading. Paz’s poem, originally written in Spanish, is dedicated to the collagist Joseph Cornell. By examining Bishop’s fascination with Cornell’s work and his influence on her, her affinity for and adeptness at translation, and her respect for and friendship with Paz, connections can be made to show the many ways “Object & Apparitions” fits into not only the collection Geography III but also into Bishop’s entire oeuvre.

Bishop’s work as a translator did not begin with Paz’s poem: in reading her personal correspondences preserved in books such as Robert Giroux’s One Art: Letters and Lloyd Schwartz and Giroux’s Poems, Prose, and Letters, one finds several references to Bishop’s affinity for translating. Although she was very good at it, she chose to translate Paz’s poem for another reason; his poem is dedicated to an artist Bishop greatly admired herself: Cornell. Critics such as Jonathan Ellis and Peggy Samuels have examined the influence of artists, including Cornell, on Bishop’s poetry. Thus, in reading Paz’s appraisal of the work of a man whom she admired, Bishop no doubt saw her own appreciation of Cornell realized in another poet’s verse and decided to render it into her own words and language.

The style of Bishop’s translation in itself merits a close reading. By comparing Paz’s original Spanish poem to the English revision presented in Geography III, one can see the poetic and artistic liberties Bishop took in making her translation the poem that Paz himself would come to regard as superior to his version. Her translation is anything but literal, yet through it she conveys Paz’s original meaning without sacrificing the lyrical resonance of the verse. Bishop sold the translation to The New Yorker in June of 1974, and it later found its way into her Geography III collection, published in December of 1976.

Due to the printing arrangement of Geography III, the fact that “Objects & Apparitions” is a translation and not a Bishop poem is not revealed to readers until they have finished reading the poem. Obviously, the poem carries Bishop’s tone despite the fact that it is not her original work. Paz’s poem contains a feeling of the uncanniness present in poems such as Bishop’s “In the Waiting Room.” The translation also preserves the s sound from the original that is reminiscent of “that particular / affirmative” present in Bishop’s “The Moose.” These are some of Bishop’s older works, but “Objects & Apparitions” also fits in with other poems in Geography III, such as “Crusoe in England” and “The End of March.” By examining “Objects & Apparitions” in its context, Bishop’s work takes on its own, stronger resonance.