© 2019

Elizabeth Bishop and the Music of Literature

  • Angus Cleghorn


  • Brings together leading Bishop scholars

  • Explores a central yet understudied aspect of Bishop’s poetry

  • Contributes to discourse on the links between music and poetry


Part of the Palgrave Studies in Music and Literature book series (PASTMULI)

About this book


Elizabeth Bishop and the Music of Literature brings together the latest understandings of how central music was to Bishop’s writing. This collection considers Bishop’s reworking of metrical and rhythmic forms of poetry; the increasing presence of prosaic utterances into speech-soundscapes; how musical poetry intones new modes of thinking through aural vision; how Bishop transforms traditionally distasteful tones of violence, banality, and commerce into innovative poetry; how her diverse, lifelong musical education (North American, European, Brazilian) affects her work; and also how her diverse musical settings have inspired global contemporary composers. The essays flesh out the missing elements of music, sound, and voice in previous research that are crucial to understanding how Bishop’s writing continues to dazzle readers and inspire artists in surprising ways.


poetry meter and rhythm in poetry North American music European music Brazilian music popular music musical poetry Elizabeth Bishop

Editors and affiliations

  • Angus Cleghorn
    • 1
  1. 1.Seneca CollegeTorontoCanada

About the editors

Angus Cleghorn is Professor of English and Liberal Studies at Seneca College, Canada. He has co-edited The Cambridge Companion to Elizabeth Bishop (2014), Elizabeth Bishop in the 21st-Century: Reading the New Editions (2012), authored Wallace Stevens’ Poetics: The Neglected Rhetoric (2000), and published numerous essays on Stevens and Bishop.

Bibliographic information


“‘I am in need of music,’ Elizabeth Bishop declared in an early sonnet. Unable to major in music as she had initially planned, Bishop nevertheless kept the musical side of her nature alive throughout her life, literally in the handmade clavichord she carried from home to home, acoustically in the rhythms and shifts of her poems that drew inspiration from an incredible range of composers, musical styles and settings from classical to samba, Bach to Billie Holiday. Here, at last, is a collection of essays that tells this compelling story, demonstrating not just the influence of music on Bishop's poems but also the continuing influence of her writing on contemporary composers and singers.” (Jonathan Ellis, Reader in American Literature, University of Sheffield, UK)