By Cheryl Walker (auth.)
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Extra resources for God and Elizabeth Bishop: Meditations on Religion and Poetry
But 34 G od and Eliz abeth B ishop no sooner had she gone than Lota found herself miserable and lonely. In September, while still emotionally fragile, she insisted upon coming to New York for a visit. After a pleasant and relatively unproblematic day at Elizabeth’s apartment, she took an overdose of pills in the middle of the night and collapsed. She was rushed to St. Vincent’s Hospital, where, for a few days, there seemed to be some hope. But after a week, Anny Baumann brought the news that Lota had died, surely reconfirming in Bishop’s mind the deep connection in her life between love and death.
We must go through the finite, the limited, the definite, omitting none of it lest we omit some of the potencies of being-in-the-flesh” (23). ” Like Bishop’s “Imaginary Iceberg,” the poem—“fleshed, fair, erected indivisible”—offers us a symbolic language with which to reconsider the conditions of our humanity. And as Lynch suggests: “Our hope must be to discover such symbols as can make the imagination rise indeed, and yet keep all the tang and density of that actuality into which the imagination descends” (33).
Both had had other women lovers; in fact, Mary Morse (called Morsey), whom Lota had taken up at an earlier point, also lived on her property and did not seem to mind the new arrangement. Both Lota and Elizabeth were cosmopolitan intellectuals and religious skeptics, though Lota argued with those among her friends who had become “churchy,” whereas Elizabeth tended to stay out of such arguments. She was more likely to be fascinated by “true believers,” probably because they touched something in her she could never quite grasp.