Alone With Elizabeth Bishop

Gabrielle Belot writes: ‘“When you write my epitaph,” Elizabeth Bishop famously told the poet Robert Lowell in 1974, “you must say I was the loneliest person who ever lived.” The sentiment was hardly new for her. She had written, between 1935 and 1936, in an untitled poem she never published, that her life to come should be associated with a heavy, pelagic solitude: “The future / sinks through water / fast as a stone, / alone alone.” Yet, for all the sea-weight of her sadness, she sought to protect and preserve her solitude, as aloneness, she clarified in a brief essay in 1929, was a special state—distinct from loneliness—that we should cherish. “Why is it,” she asked, “that so many of us seem to dread being alone?”’

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