"I am 3/4ths Canadian, and one 4th New Englander - I had ancestors on both sides in the Revolutionary war." - Elizabeth Bishop
____________________________________________

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

“Echoes of Elizabeth Bishop” Gallery: Profile of Artist Andrew Meredith

Andrew Meredith finds inspiration for his vivid paintings, prints and cards in his east coast roots and current western home. Raised in Nova Scotia where he began his career, Andrew now lives in Saskatchewan. An artist of many mediums, Andrew’s subjects range from the realistic to the fantastical, and are expressed with a vibrantly colourful palette. Andrew has had solo arts shows in western Canada, including the Moose Jaw Cultural Centre, and in group exhibitions, including the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the Shurniak Art Gallery in Saskatchewan. His works can be found in homes, offices, gift shops and galleries across Canada. In 2015 his drawing “Winter Fun” was a finalist in a design contest for the Royal Canadian Mint. Andrew has joined the colouring book renaissance and created one to honour Great Village, which was launched in the village a couple of years ago. He is launching a Nova Scotia colouring book in Great Village in May 2017. Andrew spends part of his summer in the village, so the EBSNS definitely regards him as a Colchester County artist.
You can see some of Andrew’s art on his website: http://andrewmeredithart.blogspot.ca/

******
Quick update: I am excited to report that the EB exhibit/gallery committee has begun the installation of the works for the inaugural gallery exhibition. We are making good progress and are on track for the big opening at our Annual General Meeting on 17 June. Stay tuned for more updates.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Ebb and Flow: A Response to Seán Street’s Estuary

The EB100 project I am proudest of is Suzie LeBlanc’s CD of settings of Bishop poems by Canadian composers, “I am in need of music.” Bringing poetry and music together is something of which I deeply approve, though it does not happen as often as it could and should. But a new CD launched in Liverpool, England, on 18 May, Estuary, is a stirring merge of poetry, music, reading and singing. I wrote a post about Seán Street and this exciting project in late April: http://elizabethbishopcentenary.blogspot.ca/2017/04/sean-street-and-neil-campbell-estuary.html . Now that I have listened to the CD several times, I want to write a response. I am not a musician and know little about the compositional aspects of music. I respond to it emotionally, but I won’t let that stop me.
 (Seán Street reading at the launch. Photo by Adrian Wharton.)
Estuary: a place where realms meet and merge — salt and fresh water, land and air, light and night; a place where there is changing weather because of the convergence of so many elements. A poem is an estuary. So, this title is provocative and right.

The more I listened to the ebb and flow, the surfacings and submergings between the poems and the music, the words spoken and the words sung, the deeper I fell into this haunting, haunted world, an inter-space both clearly itself and utterly mysterious. As the first poem, “Change,” says, “Sound shows us.” Here that sound is first the clear, cadenced voice of the poet, then the liquid rhythms of the guitar, then the warm texture of the singer’s voice.

Many of the tracks have Seán reading his highly tangible, sensory poems, an unfolding that often happens with the pulse of music surrounding (above, below, from within) the words. How did I respond to these dialogues? I felt always calm and clear-headed, pulled by a quiet surety, a knowing of place and time.

Another track, “Shipping Forecast,” as well as several others, carry a punctuation of the kinds of marine weather radio reports that I remember hearing on CBC Radio when I was a child. These are no more. The through-line of these highly specific and elemental collections of practical yet poetic words, a hypnotic repetitiveness built in, is both deeply unsettling and  profoundly comforting. Perhaps the definition of a good poem.

Seán collaborates with musician and composer Neil Campbell, whose guitar opens the first track, and jazz singer Perri Alleyne-Hughes. Perri’s voice is first heard in “Fog Redux,” a distant chanting of a single word: “island,” cutting through a percussive through-line and a repeating sigh that must be a human voice — or is it? — as another forecast surfaces out of the soundscape. The complexity is so beautifully handled, seamlessly flowing, it feels utterly of a piece.

Words and weather. Words as weather. Words are weather.

I could write about each track because there are pleasures and hauntings in each one. I will close with two late tracks: “Sestina” and “Sestina (Part 2).” I choose “Sestina” because it is a poem inspired by Sable Island and Halifax, N.S., and the 1917 Halifax Explosion. It is one of the longest poems and has a tight, formal structure, with six end words repeating. It is filled with questions asked and not asked, the tensions are palpable, the compassion present. The reading is followed by a marvellous setting of the six end words of the poem, only the end words. Each word has its own note, each one sung softly, distinctly at first, then slowly the words, the notes form an ever-changing, Gregorian-chant-like song that is meditative and hypnotizing, intensifying, like watching a river flowing into the ocean: the same and never the same.
(Neil Campbell and Perri Alleyne-Hughes performing
at the launch. Photo by Adrian Wharton.)
Each time a track faded to its own echoes, then into silence, I felt at peace. As “Pier Head” offers, “Departing lights shape darkness,” even as they disappear into the fog. The mind holds all sensation in memory.

This elegant collaboration has added something materially and spiritually good to this troubled world.

On Thursday, 18 May, Seán and his colleagues launched Estuary with a multi-media performance in Liverpool. I wish I could have been there! Seán kindly sent me a few photos from what looks like a memorable event, which he has kindly said I can share. The photographs were taken by Adrian Wharton.
(Rachel Sweeney performing at the launch,
with video projection. Photograph by Adrian Wharton.)


Friday, May 19, 2017

“Echoes of Elizabeth Bishop” Gallery: Artist Profiles

Below is the profile for Christene Sandeson, one of the artists participating in the inaugural exhibiton of the "Echoes of Elizabeth Bishop" Gallery.

Christene Sandeson

Of her art and artistic practice, Christene Sandeson writes: “In my journey through life, the emotion of various life challenges and events has inspired me. In my small circle, discussing those experiences over a cup of tea makes for closer friendships. The practise of sharing life journeys is our evidence that we are not alone.

Having painted in acrylic and carved in small-scale stone over 40 years, my subject matter has always reflected the emotions that are relevant and valuable to me. My images now contain fragments of land and animal imagery connected in a surreal way with the major design elements in an attempt to suggest an interconnectedness of our experiences.”

You  can see some of Christene’s art on her website: www.christenesandesonart.ca.

Currently, Christene has several works display at the Marigold Centre in Truro, N.S. In July 2017, she will have a solo exhibition at the Fraser Cultural Centre in Tatamagouche, N.S.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

“Echoes of Elizabeth Bishop” Gallery: Artist Profiles

The next several posts will profile the artists who are part of the inaugural exhibition in the "Echoes of Elizabeth Bishop" art gallery connected to the permanent Elizabeth Bishop exhibit in St. James Church in Great Village, N.S. Elizabeth Bishop wrote: “Something needn’t be large to be good.” While the space for the gallery is relatively small, we are tremendously excited about the opportunity to show the work of some of Nova Scotia’s amazing visual artists, all of whom have a lively and expressive vision.

As mentioned in previous posts, the inaugural exhibition focuses on artists from Colchester County. Perhaps the best known of these artists is Joy Laking, whose studio in Portaupique, N.S., (just up the road from Great Village), is a destination for many locals and vistors from all over the world. Joy was involved with the EBSNS for a number of years, in particular, she was a driving force behind the society’s EB100 Arts Festival in August 2011 and she initiated the banner project.
********************
 Joy Laking

Joy Snihur Wyatt Laking was born in Owen Sound, Ontario, in 1950.  The daughter of an artist, she graduated from the University of Guelph with a major in Fine Art in 1972. Since that time, she has lived and painted professionally in Nova Scotia.  She has exhibited provincially, nationally and internationally including a solo exhibition at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, which was subsequently toured for a year. She is an elected member of the Society of Canadian Artists, a founding member of PLANS (Professional Living Artists of Nova Scotia) and she has served two terms on the Board of Governors for the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. In 2009, Joy received the Halifax Progress Club Woman of Excellence Award and in 2012, she received the Queens Diamond Jubilee Metal. She was the 2016 recipient of the Port Bickerton artist residency.

Joy has an extensive and colourful website: http://www.joylakinggallery.com/

Sunday, May 14, 2017

"Elizabeth Bishop's Beginnings" exhibit -- exciting update

On Saturday, 13 May 2017, the EBSNS permanent exhibit committee and a few board members met in St. James Church in Great Village, N.S., to begin the installation of the "Elizabeth Bishop's Beginnings" exhibit. This post is to share a few photos of the main event of this session: the arrival of the beautiful display cabinets hand-crafted by Great Village resident Garry Shears. Garry's work is second-to-none. Our Elizabeth Bishop treasures could have no more elegant containers. Thank you Garry for all your hard work.
(Setting up the main cabinet)
We also want to thank Cameron and Duncan Gunn who carefully carried in the cabinets. The main one came in two sections. This piece is made out of beautiful wood, with glass on three sides, so each part is quite heavy. They are secured with locks.
(The finishing touches.)
Elizabeth Bishop wrote, "no detail too small." And Garry is of this school too. Here he is securing the two pieces together for stability. He also made a horizontal cabinet for us and the two pieces together for the centre of the exhibit.

(The two cabinets in place.)
We also installed the photographs and many of the treasures in the cabinets, but I will hold off sharing those photos until all this work is done and we are closer to the unveiling at the AGM. Artworks for the "Echoes of Elizabeth Bishop" gallery are coming in and will be installed later this month. We are pleased with our progress and will continue updates over the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned.
 (Linda and Garry Shears putting the finishing touches to the cabinet installation.)

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

“Echoes of Elizabeth Bishop” Art Gallery: Background

Visual art was everywhere in Bishop’s Great Village childhood. In the parlour of her grandparents’ home hung family portraits, chromographs of the British royal family, and seascapes painted by George W. Hutchinson, Bishop’s great-uncle (her grandmother’s brother). George Hutchinson was trained at the Royal Academy in London and worked for many years as an illustrator (he was the first professional illustrator to depict the meeting between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in Arthur Conan Doyle’s first Holmes’ mystery A Study in Scarlett). Bishop grew up hearing stories about George’s and his younger brothers’ travels around the world. Two of her most famous ekphrastic poems were inspired by Hutchinson paintings: “Large Bad Picture” and “Poem.”
(The “Large Bad Picture” painting. It is owned by
a Bulmer descendant who lives in the US.)

(The "Poem" painting. It was sold in 2011 
to one of Bishop's acquaintances.)
In the next generation, Bishop’s Aunt Maude also became a painter. In the 1901 Nova Scotia Census, Maude declared herself a professional artist. She took lessons with her uncle and his colleague Bertram Knight Eaton in 1898, when they set up a studio and spent a year teaching. Maude won prizes at local exhibitions for her large landscapes.
(Painting class, Great Village. They are seated on the bank of the
Great Village River. Bertram Knight Easton on far right.
Maude is seated on the far left.)
Maude Bulmer Shepherdson was the aunt who raised Bishop in the late 1910s and through the 1920s, in her home in Revere, Massachusetts. Bishop had vivid memories of going to the art galleries in nearby Boston with her aunt, who painted right to the end of her life.

While not a professional visual artist, Bishop enjoyed painting. She painted enough images for there to have been several posthumous exhibits of her work, including one in 1997 in Worcester, MA, coinciding with a Bishop conference. Exhibits have happened in Key West, Florida, and North Haven, Maine. A major exhibit took place at the Tybor de Nagy Gallery in New York City late in 2011.
(This appears to be Bishop’s only painting of Nova Scotia. 
It is owned by Frani Blough Muser.)
Today, Bishop’s life and work have inspired visual artists around the world, not least of whom are a number of Nova Scotians. Over the years, the EBSNS has worked with the children of the Great Village School to create and exhibit artwork inspired by Bishop’s poems. One of the Elizabeth Bishop Centenary legacy projects was a competition among young people in the Great Village area to create an image for a permanent banner to hang in the village each summer. April Sharpe’s striking image of St. James Church was chosen.
With all this visual art in the picture, so to speak, it was logical for the Exhibit Committee to include a small art gallery with the exhibit project, which we are calling “Echoes of Elizabeth Bishop.”

The next series of posts will profile the various artists who will participate in the inaugural exhibition in the gallery.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

“Elizabeth Bishop’s Beginnings” Permanent Exhibit: Concept

We all come from somewhere. Elizabeth Bishop wrote in her famous poem “The Moose” that she was “From narrow provinces / of fish and bread and tea,” that she grew up in a “home of long tides / where the bay leaves the sea / twice a day…” Of course, she meant, first and foremost, Nova Scotia, but also the Maritime Provinces generally, as she had ancestral links to all of the Maritimes. Her maternal grandfather was born in Nova Scotia. Her maternal grandmother was born in New Brunswick. Her paternal grandfather was born in Prince Edward Island (the narrowest province of them all). Though she herself was born in New England, where her father was born; Bishop’s spiritual home was Great Village, where her mother was born. She told the writer Anne Stevenson that she was three-quarters Canadian and one-quarter New Englander. She told Robert Lowell she was a "herring-choker" [New England] "bluenoser" [Nova Scotian].

In the class prophecy of her Walnut Hill School graduating yearbook (1930), her peers foresaw Bishop’s life in this way: “Miss Bishop, the poet laureate of Nova Scotia. Walnut Hill has proudly placed her bust in the alcove, while she remains in Nova Scotian seclusion.” In her 1934 Vassar College yearbook, she declared her home beneath her graduation photograph.
When the residents of Great Village affixed a memorial plaque to St. James United Church in 1992, they were publicly claiming that Bishop was our “home-made” poet, something the Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia has celebrated and honoured for nearly a quarter of a century.
With this legitimate claim to Bishop’s life and art, it seemed reasonable to assert that Great Village is a, if not the, place of  “Elizabeth Bishop’s Beginnings” and to shape the permanent exhibit around this idea.

The exhibit will be a presentation of the most important element of those beginnings: Bishop’s maternal family, the Bulmer-Hutchinsons. It will include a set of images of Bishop and her immediate family, as well as carefully selected artefacts to represent each person.

Each image and artefact will have its own story-caption, which will be collected in a catalogue, copies of which will be on hand for those who want to delve into the details of the individuals’ lives.

For example, Bishop’s Great-Grandfather Robert Hutchinson, was, arguably, the ancestor who most intrigued Bishop.
GREAT-GRANDFATHER: ROBERT HUTCHINSON

All of Elizabeth Bishop’s ancestors were British (Bulmers, Hutchinsons, Bishops and Fosters) who made their way at different times to North America, from the mid-eighteenth to the mid-nineteenth centuries.

The Hutchinsons were some of the most colourful of these ancestors — seafarers, missionaries, educators and artists. Bishop was especially interested in her Great-Grandfather Robert Hutchinson (5 October 1816–30 September 1866).

Robert Hutchinson married Elizabeth Black sometime in the late 1840s. They emigrated to Saint John, N.B., in 1848. Their first two children were born in this port city. Sometime in the mid-1850s, the family moved to Folly Village (now Glenholme). Their remaining children were born in Nova Scotia.

The History of Great Village lists Robert as a “Master Mariner,” which did not necessarily mean he was a captain, though Bishop believed he was. He sailed on the ships that were built in nearby Great Village, which plied the world’s oceans, including as far south as Cape Horn, a site Bishop was told her great-grandfather reached on one of his voyages.

Seafaring was a dangerous business. The danger fatally found Robert Hutchinson in 1866 when his ship was lost at sea with all hands. Bishop was told the ship went down in a “famous storm” off Sable Island (though she also recalled it might have been Cape Sable Island). Whichever place it was, Robert Hutchison died leaving a young widow with four children.

So convinced was Bishop that the wreck had been off the infamous “Graveyard of the Atlantic,” that she made a trip to Sable Island in 1951.

The origin of this image is unknown, but in all probability, it is a drawing done by Robert’s artist son George W. Hutchinson.

***************
Most of the material in the exhibit is found at the Esther Clark Wright Archives at Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S. Some of the exhibit artefacts are on loan from there. The Bulmer family archive has been digitized and can be seen by clicking here.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

"Accept the fluster of lost door keys..."

Alfred Villeneuve's Solo Exhibition

On 20 April, I posted a profile of our exhibit raffle artist, Alfred Villeneuve. In that post I mention that Alfred has a solo show coming up this summer. He has recently sent a notice about it, which I want to share.

Congraulations, Alfred. We wish you all the best with this exciting event. Stay tuned for the next installments about the EBSNS exhibit/gallery project and our AGM.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia AGM coming up in June

We are excited to announce that the EBSNS Annual General Meeting will be held on 17 June 2017, in St. James Church in Great Village, Nova Scotia, starting at 1:00 p.m. We will unveil our new Elizabeth Bishop exhibit and art gallery, draw for the raffle prize and our guest speaker will be Nova Scotia writer Alexander MacLeod.
You can download a copy of the poster on the EBSNS website, by clicking here. Just scroll down the page. 

Stay tuned for more posts about the new exhibit and gallery, including profiles of the artists involved.

Friday, April 28, 2017

“Elizabeth Bishop’s Beginnings” Permanent Exhibit: Progress

In 2015, the Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia created an ad hoc Elizabeth Bishop display in the sanctuary of St. James Church in Great Village. Pulled together quickly, this display was meant to presage the permanent exhibit that the society began to plan during the winter of 2016. It was located at the back of the sanctuary. When some of the old pews were removed at the front, the display boards were repositioned in the spot where the permanent exhibit would go.
(The sanctuary space before cleaning, with ad hoc display.
Photo by Patti Sharpe)
In the fall of 2016, the Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia initiated its fund-raising efforts and began to prepare the space allotted to it for the exhibit. The ad hoc display was dismantled and new track lighting was installed in November.
(The new track lighting. Photo by Patti Sharpe.)
 
(The clearing and cleaning commenses. Photo by Laurie Gunn.)
As the Exhibit Committee discussed the issues, it was decided to begin modestly and learn the capacity of the space. The committee decided room to house not only a Bishop exhibit, which the committee entitled “Elizabeth Bishop’s Beginnings,” but there was also room for a small art gallery. Bishop’s immediate maternal family included two professional visual artists and Bishop herself enjoyed painting, so an art gallery made sense. The gallery component is called “Echoes of Elizabeth Bishop,” the same title used for the collection of EB100 Writing Competition winners the EBSNS published in 2013 with Gaspereau Press.

The Exhibit Committee commissioned Great Village woodworker and carpenter Garry Shears to build two display cabinets for the exhibit, which he worked on over the winter of 2017. As soon the cabinets are in hand, we will share photos of them. Garry is a fine craftsman and we know these cabinets will be both beautiful and functional, the perfect containers for the precious objects in the exhibit.

The committee decided that the first exhibition in the small gallery would be work by Colchester County artists, and invitations were extended to a half a dozen local artists. Profiles of the artists involved will appear on this blog in the weeks to come.

On 15 April 2017, the Exhibit Committee and some EBSNS board members gathered in St. James Church to do additional preparation of the space. During that session, it was decided that another pew needed to be removed, so arrangements were made for that to happen.
(Clean-up day, April 2017. L. to r. Judith van Duren, Cathy Mazur,
Sandra Barry, deep in discussion. Photo by Laurie Gunn.)
(Laurie Gunn's hooked rug hanging is as colourful
as the stained glass windows. Photo by Laurie Gunn.)
In addition to the items on display, the EBSNS will also sell some of its merchandise: our popular fridge magnet and postcard, for example, and various books. To help with this aspect of the space, Garry Shears has made a wooden lock-box.
 (EBSNS magnet.)

The next post will explain the concept of “Elizabeth Bishop’s Beginnings” Exhibit.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Seán Street and Neil Campbell: Estuary CD project

I owe Elizabeth Bishop a huge debt of gratitude for all the amazing people she has brought into my life, directly or circuitously. Below is one story — ongoing — of a fascinating connection.
********************
On Thursday, 10 May 2007, I received an email, out of the blue, from the British poet Seán Street. Seán was at that time the director of The Centre for Broadcasting History Research at Bournemouth University in the UK. He also worked for BBC Radio. He had recently been to Nova Scotia to do research for a radio documentary about the Halifax Explosion, “The Splintered City,” where he met historian Henry Roper. Seán wrote to me because a colleague of his, Paul Dodgson, was exploring the idea of doing a BBC Radio documentary about Elizabeth Bishop and Great Village. Seán “asked Henry if he knew of someone who could furnish information about EB, and he immediately named you [meaning me].” (Thank you so much Henry!!) As it turned out, Paul Dodgson and writer Lavinia Greenlaw came to Nova Scotia in September 2008 and spent a week at the Elizabeth Bishop House, out of which came their documentary, “As Big As Life,” broadcast that November on BBC Radio 3.
 
(Seán Street.)
I asked Seán how he became interested in the Explosion and he said that he had heard about it in detail when he was in Newfoundland in 2005 doing another documentary, “The Fisheries Broadcast,” which aired not only on BBC Radio but also CBC Radio. Hearing this, I immediately asked him if he had ever heard of  Sable Island and suggested it might be a good subject for another documentary. Over the next couple of years, Seán and I corresponded. He kindly sent me a copy of Time Between Tides: New and Selected Poems 1981–2009, in which are some wonderful poems inspired by his time in Newfoundland.

In the summer of 2009, Seán and his producer Julian May came to Halifax where they met with Henry and me, and a number of other people, to talk about Sable Island. I had put them in touch with Zoe Lucas, the reigning expert on the island. For several days, they tired valiantly to get out to Sable Island, but the weather did not cooperate. Thick fog shrouded the island for the entire time they were in Nova Scotia. Their documentary, in part a testament to how difficult it is to get to Sable Island, aired that fall.

Being a fan of Elizabeth Bishop’s work, they took time to go to Great Village and explore some of Bishop’s “motherland,” while they waited. This visit triggered a lovely poem, “Great Village, 1953”: “Time shaping a long hurt through memory earned ….”

I had a couple of opportunities to see Seán and Julian during their 2009 visit. It was wonderful finally to meet Seán, after a couple of years of corresponding. I remember a particularly lively conversation about poetry that we had in the bar at the Prince George Hotel, imbibing some expensive Scotch!

In recent years, Seán has published a trilogy of prose books about sound aesthetics, the most recent is due out soon from Palgrave, Sound Poetics: Interaction and Personal Identity. In 2013 his collection of poetry Cello was published. He kindly sent that one to me, too.

On Monday, 24 April 2017, I had an email from Seán to say that he had been reading Bishop’s “At the Fishhouses” and just wanted to touch base. This began a lovely exchange during which he told me that he has published two more poetry collections: Camera Obscura (2016) and Talk, Radio: Poems of Transmission, which will be out this week! He also told me that he, Liverpool musician and composer Neil Campbell, and singer Perri Allyne-Hughes have collaborated on a CD, Estuary, based on poems from Time Between Tides and Cello, including his wonderful, Bishop-esque poem “Sestina: Fog, Halifax Harbour,” with its end-words: silence, memory, island, ignites, thought, fog.

With all his Atlantic Canadian connections, I thought it would be nice to share Seán’s exciting news with our readers. The CD will be launched on 18 May in Liverpool and will include a performance by the principals, doing the new work, as well as previous collaborations. Congratulations Seán! You can see/hear a video from Estuary here.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

“Elizabeth Bishop’s Beginnings” Permanent Exhibit: Background

AS the many visitors from all over the world attest, Great Village itself is a memorial to the life, art and legacy of Elizabeth Bishop. If Bishop could return to this community in the twenty-first century, she would find that much has changed, of course (she knew change was inevitable); but she would also recognize much that has remained — the topography and geography, the built heritage, the spirit of the people.

Bishop was not born in Great Village. She lived there continuously for only a brief period of time. But the time she spent in Great Village during her childhood was profound and pivotal to her life and art. As Bishop wrote, “Something needn’t be large to be good.” This small village had a large impact on one of the most important poets of the twentieth century.

Not only did the place itself imprint on her mind and imagination, but also her maternal family and the residents of the village. It must be remembered that Great Village was larger and more bustling at the turn of the twentieth century than it is in the early twenty-first century. There was a great deal of cultural and economic activity for Bishop to experience.

The Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia has spent nearly a quarter century recognizing and celebrating the importance of Great Village and maternal family to the life and art of Elizabeth Bishop. One of the ways it has done so is through exhibits.

Elizabeth Bishop Exhibits of the past:

The first Elizabeth Bishop exhibit in Great Village took place in 1992, in St. James United Church, before the EBSNS had come into existence. It was mounted as part of the celebration that saw a Bishop memorial plaque placed on the church.
At that point, Bishop’s first cousin Phyllis Sutherland loaned some of her extensive family archive.
(1992 exhibit)
This material was eventually catalogued and sold to the Province of Nova Scotia, with the help of the EBSNS and Acadia University, where the material was deposited.
(1992 exhibit)
After the EBSNS came into existence, it was involved in a number of exhibits about Bishop’s connections to Nova Scotia. The first occurred on 10 June 1995, also in the church, in conjunction with the Elizabeth Bishop Memorial Lecture, delivered by Thomas Travisano.
(l. to r. Sandra Barry, John Barnstead and
Peter Sanger in front of part of the 1995 exhibit.)
The next exhibit occurred in September 1998 at Acadia University, in conjunction with the Elizabeth Bishop Symposium, “Divisions of the Heart.” By this time, the Bulmer family archive was at the Esther Clark Wright Archives and the exhibit was set up in the Kirkconnell Room.

In 2007 the EBSNS collaborated with the Colchester Historeum in Truro, N.S., to mount an extensive exhibit about Bishop and her Great Village connections, curated by Sandra Barry and Elinor Maher. This exhibit ran through the summer and had many visitors. In June 2007, the EBSNS and the Great Village Historical Society had unveiled the pergola and the initial historical panels, which were about Elizabeth Bishop, a very public “exhibit.”

 A natural evolution:

During the Elizabeth Bishop Centenary in 2011, the EBSNS set up a small display about Bishop and EB100 at the Truro Library.
(The Bishop and EB100 Display at the Truro Library, 2011)
EB100 activities and the subsequent legacy projects took most of the time, energy and resources of the EBSNS from 2010 to 2013; but once this activity eased, the EBSNS board began to ponder its next projects. When the St. James Church Preservation Society offered the EBSNS space in the sanctuary of the church, the next project became clear: a permanent exhibit about Bishop, to complement the historical panels on the pergola. Creating a permanent exhibit to recognize and celebrate the importance of Great Village and her maternal family to Elizabeth Bishop is a natural and logical evolution for the EBSNS. The next post will update on the progress of this project.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Our Raffle Prize Artist: A Profile of Alfred Villeneuve

As mentioned in the previous post, the EBSNS is holding a raffle fund-raiser for its exhibit/gallery project. The prize is an en plein air painting done by Ontario artist Alfred Villeneuve.
(Suzie LeBlanc and Alfred Villeneuve,
Toronto, 2012. Photo by Des Brunelle.)
Alfred first became involved with the Bishop Society when he kindly donated a painting to fund-raise for Suzie LeBlanc’s “I am in need of music” CD project. Suzie auctioned that painting at a gathering she held in Toronto in 2012.
(Alfred and Halifax writer Mary Ellen Sullivan,
with the donated painting,
at CD fund-raiser. Photo by Des Brunelle.)
When Alfred kindly offered another paintings in support of the current project, the EBSNS board was delighted. (The raffle is open only to Nova Scotians.)

Alfred is a very busy artist with two upcoming exhibits. He is part of a joint exhibtion at Whetung Ojibwa Centre in Curve Lake, north of Peterborough, Ontario. This exhibition opens on the long weekend in May 2017. They have a Facebook page, too.

On 8 July 2017 at 2:00 p.m., Alfred’s solo exhibition, “Tanakiwin — Home and Native Land,” opens at Rational Expressions Gallery in Stayner, Ontario. The EBSNS congratulates Alfred on this important showcase of his stunning paintings, both studio and en plein air, most inspired by his time in Algonquin Park.
(One of the paintings that will be part of “Tanakiwin.”)

Thank you, Alfred Villeneuve, for all your support.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Update about Elizabeth Bishop Exhibit and Art Gallery: Fund-raising

The Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia has accomplished quite a lot since it formed in 1994. We have produced annual newsletters, without interruption (you can read all the back issues on our website). We helped ensure that a significant collection of Bishop family material was preserved (it is housed at Acadia University Archives: http://openarchive.acadiau.ca/cdm/landingpage/collection/BBHS). We have produced a number of pamphlets, booklets and books. We collaborated with the Great Village Historical Society to build a pergola in Great Village on which are eight large panels about the history of the village, including two about Bishop.
(Pergola in 2007 with its first two (Bishop) panels.
Since then, six more panels, about the history of Great Village,
have been added. Photo by Brenda Barry.)
We have hosted nearly yearly special day-long or multi-day events (talks, concerts, workshops, festivals, Annual General Meetings). This kind of steady activity reached a peak in 2011 when the EBSNS was a principal force behind the celebration of Elizabeth Bishop’s Centenary (EB100). After this incredible year, the society worked on several major legacy projects, including supporting Suzie LeBlanc’s “I am in need of music,” a Juno-award-winning CD of settings of Bishop poems by Canadian composers. Ms LeBlanc is the EBSNS’s Honorary Patron.
All of this activity came about because of the strong support of the volunteer board and community volunteers. The EBSNS has also raised tens of thousands of dollars during the past two decades for all of these projects and events. One thing that the EBSNS is especially proud of is how much support we have given to artists in Great Village, Colchester County and Nova Scotia in general. The society has also brought in guest speakers from near and far.

The “Elizabeth Bishop’s Beginnings” exhibit and the “Echoes of Elizabeth Bishop” art gallery bring together two of the primary missions of the EBSNS. The first is to celebrate and educate Nova Scotians about Bishop’s connection to Great Village and her place in our cultural history. The second is to support local artists. With this project, the EBSNS is collaborating with the St. James Church Preservation Society. This kind of collaboration has been a hall-mark of the EBSNS presence in the village throughout its existence.

The EBSNS is relying again on the generous support of its volunteer board. In addition, of course, the society has fund-raised for this big project. Our first fund-raiser, which we call “Patron of the Exhibit,” started in October of 2016. As of 9 April 2017, we have raised $2,300.00 from 26 patrons. We will create a plaque listing all our patrons, which will be included with the exhibit. This fund-raiser will remain active until 30 May 2017. If you are interested in becoming a patron, you can write to the EBSNS at contactus@elizabethbishopns.org. The EBSNS extends heartfelt thanks to all those who have supported the project in this way.

As successful as the “Patron of the Exhibit” is, the society still needed to raise more money. Ontario artist Alfred Villeneuve generously donated one of his en plein air paintings of Algonquin Park for a raffle.
(Summer Zeppelins over Lake of Two Rivers, 9”x12” — Value $800.00)
The winning ticket will be drawn at our Annual General Meeting on 17 June 2017, in St. James Church, Great Village, N.S., at 3:30 p.m.

Because of the lottery license regulations in Nova Scotia, we are allowed to sell tickets only to Nova Scotians. Tickets will be on sale until the day of the AGM. If you are a Nova Scotian and would like to buy tickets email: contactus@elizabethbishopns.org.

Stay tuned for more update about all these activities.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia at 23

(Banners created by the EBSNS, 5 June 2015.
Artwork by April Sharpe. Photo by Sandra Barry.)
The EBSNS turns 23 this year. Perhaps this birthday is not as big a deal as Canada 150, but the society is proud of its longevity and continuous activity. Our Annual General Meeting is coming up on Saturday, 17 June 2017, at 1:00 p.m., in St. James Church in Great Village, Nova Scotia.

In addition to our usual business, this AGM is special for three reasons. First, the society will unveil a permanent exhibit about Elizabeth Bishop, with a small art gallery space, which will feature work by Nova Scotian artists. This exhibit/gallery space will be located in the sanctuary of St. James Church, a beautiful heritage building that had profound significance for Bishop.
(St. James Church, 7 August 2015. Photo by Brenda Barry.)

Second, the EBSNS is delighted to announce that our guest speaker will be Nova Scotian writer Alexander MacLeod. A long-time Bishop fan and scholar, Giller Prize nominated MacLeod will read from his own work and submit himself to an interview with yours truly.
(Alexander MacLeod (l.) and Colm Toibin (r),
at Elizabeth Bishop House, June 2011.)

Third, we will draw for the raffle prize, an en plein air painting by Ontario artist Alfred Villeneuve.
(Alfred Villeneuve's painting, "Summer Zeppelins over
Lake of Two Rivers, Algonquin Park." Photo by Laurie Gunn.)
Over the next two months, I will post updates about our progress with the permanent exhibit, detailing what we will present in “Elizabeth Bishop’s Beginnings.” I will post updates about the “Echoes of Elizabeth Bishop” art gallery, particularly profiles of the artists involved in the inaugural exhibition. These profiles will be linked to on the EBSNS Facebook page. I will also post updates about some of the other activities the EBSNS is engaged in, as we approach the AGM.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Suzie LeBlanc concert in Halifax, 9 April 2017

Soprano Suzie LeBlanc (Honorary Patron of the Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia) will be presenting her final Cecilia Concert of the 2016–2017 season next Sunday afternoon at the Maritime Conservatory of Performing Arts in Halifax, N.S.
(Suzie singing in Lunenburg, N.S.)
Below are details of this event from the Cecilia Concerts website.

“Le Jongleur de Notre-Dame”
Grammy-winning soprano and Cecilia Concerts Musician-In-Residence Suzie LeBlanc stars in a concert performance of the opera "Le Jongleur de Notre-Dame" by composer Jules Massenet Sunday, April 9th 2:00 p.m. in Halifax.

Massenet, one of the most popular of the late French Romantics, is well known for many operatic masterpieces and listeners to this upcoming performance will agree that “Le Jongleur de Notre-Dame” is no exception to Massenet’s talent for memorable music and affecting theatre. Bass-baritones Gregory Servant and Jon Paul Decosse sing the principal male roles, and the opera also features Leander Mendoza, John Lindsay Botten, and Alan Manchester along with the Opera Nova Scotia chamber choir. Lynette Wahlstrom is pianist, and Walter H. Kemp conducts. Suzie LeBlanc tackles the male lead role.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

First Encounter XLII: Alexandra Hirschel

My first encounter with Elizabeth Bishop was in 2014 when I watched the film “Reaching for the Moon,” which in German is simply called “Die Poetin” (The Poet). I found that title interesting, probably because I had started writing short stories myself in 2013. While I watched the film I didn’t even realize that it was about a real person. I thought it was a fictional story until I read the quotations of Miss Bishop and Robert Lowell at the end of the film. I had watched a lot of films about writers before but none of them haunted me like “Reaching for the Moon.” I thought about the quoted poems in the film for weeks until finally, in September 2014, I bought Bishop’s complete poems.
The first poem I read was “The Map” — I had some problems with “Norway’s hare” until I opened an atlas and found Norway looking like a running hare. The second poem I read was “A Cold Spring,” which has become one of my favorites and opened Bishop’s beautiful world of metaphors to me. Probably that is what I love so much about her poetry, that she describes everything so detailed. As I’m not a native speaker I sometimes have to look up quite a lot of words in the dictionary, but Bishop’s great descriptions are really worth having a close look on them.

It didn’t take long until I had read much more poems. At that time we had to do presentations in our English class at school and I decided that Miss Bishop’s poetry would be a great topic. I suggested to present Bishop as well as her poem “One Art.” Our teacher was enthusiastic because she hadn’t heard of Miss Bishop before. At that time I also found the Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia, where I got very kind answers to all my questions from Sandra Barry.

Some time after I had presented Bishop in class I read Remembering Elizabeth Bishop — An Oral Biography. I really could identify with Bishop in her early years, as I had always felt out of place in school. Living at the edge of the German Alps one usually does a lot of winter sports, but I never did like those things. That made me the odd one out at elementary school, I think. Especially in the last two years, Miss Bishop’s poetry and stories helped me a lot in finding my way. I struggled with the decision of what I would study after finishing my final exams. Unlike Bishop, who chose to become a writer, I chose to study veterinary medicine. I haven’t regretted my decision so far and find it quite funny that we seem to share an interest in medicine.

Recently — in February 2017 — I organized an Elizabeth Bishop evening with some of my texts and Bishop’s poems because I find it a pity that only few people here in Germany are familiar with Miss Bishop, who is such a great poet. Over the last years she really has become my favorite writer.
(Alexandra during her reading in February 2017.)

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Letters to Aunt Grace, Part 45: Money matters

Bishop’s concluding paragraph in her 19 July 1959 letter to Grace is packed with updates and observations about life in Brazil.

In a couple of previous letters, Bishop had hinted that they were planning another trip to the US, with a hope of making it to Nova Scotia this time (their last visit to the US had been in 1957 to shepherd The Diary of ‘Helena Morley’ into print).

But Bishop now had to admit to herself and her aunt that such a trip was not possible: “I DON’T think I’ll get to the U.S. or anywhere this year.” She admitted that this idea was
“a wild-day dream,” and she shouldn’t have tempted Grace with “that idea.” Bishop was pondering “applying for another fellowship of some sort for next year,” but since it, too, was just an idea, she didn’t go into details. She confessed to Grace that she would “love to get back for a while,” but the reason it was unlikely was money, “I am too broke and haven’t been earning anything for a long, long stretch, alas.”

She does report that she “just did sell one poem to The New Yorker, but poems don’t ‘bring in’ very much, of course.” This poem was “The Riverman.” Bishop received confirmation of this acceptance and payment for it two days before she wrote to Grace, in a letter from Katharine White, who wrote on 6 July: “Howard [Moss] took off just before he could put through for payment of your beautiful poem, “The River Man [sic].” At least he had the excitement and pleasure of reading and voting on it. It is your first poem since 1956, I believe, an I can’t tell you how happy we are — all of us — to have it. Worth waiting for! For me, it’s a magical poem that casts a spell — one of your very best.” (Elizabeth Bishop and The New Yorker: The Complete Correspondence, ed. Joelle Biele. Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2010, 210.) Bishop responded to White on 18 July.

While it was nice to sell the poem, she told her aunt that she needed to “get my two stories done soon!” I am not sure what these might be, but Millier says she was writing a lot of Brazil pieces during 1959.

The subject of income triggered some observations about Brazil’s economy, which was still in a stretch of “bad inflation,” with “prices go[ing] up and up.” Because Bishop had US currency, “some things still seem very cheap to me, food for example, and my dollar has gone up some, too.” But overall, “general life is more expensive for me here than it was.”

Mentioning food triggered yet another observation: “They have started, last year, super-markets in Rio.” Today, we can’t imagine shopping any place else. We must have a movement (“Buy Local,” for example) to shift our buying patterns, but the 1950s was the surge to consolidation of the consumer, though probably in the US this kind of shift was well underway. Interesting that it was only beginning to manifest in Brazil.
(The supermarket phenomenon, 1950s style.)
Bishop told Grace that on the day they returned to Samambaia, “we went to one [super-market] and laid in a supply of groceries.” Bishop still preferred to shop at the traditional “big covered market” in Petrópolis, saying it was “more fun.” But the down-side was having to “go to ten or twelve different places for things, and from stall to stall.” She listed the vendors: meat, fish, egg, fruit, cheese men; a bakery; a coffee bean place, and so on. The benefit of having everyone in one spot was they had done their task “all in about half an hour in Rio.” The other matter about the “street markets” was that they were “wasteful and usually dirty.”
(A glimpse of the glory of supermarket produce in 1960.)
These observations triggered yet another thought: “Times are changing here very fast.” Since her arrival in Brazil, “so many things have changed.” In keeping with the food theme, Bishop mentions a change she’d noted before: “We have pasteurized milk in Rio now — not enough of it, but you can get it.” That change had yet to make it to Petrópolis, where they “still fight every day almost with our neighbor to please put a little less water in the milk,” a practice Brazilians called “baptizing.” Scribbled in the bottom margin was the coda, “ Then it has to be boiled & boiled.”

Bishop closed her letter with her usual: “With lots of love and please write again.”

**************
Ed. Note: I am going to take a hiatus from “Letters to Aunt Grace.” I am not sure for how long, but it will be for at least several weeks or a month or so. When I return to this series (if I do), I will take up the narrative with Bishop’s next letter, dated 25 August 1959.



Sunday, March 19, 2017

Letters to Aunt Grace, Part 44: Health and family updates

Having dispatched the “newsy notes” and recipes that opened her letter of 19 July 1959, Bishop turned to medical matters, those in Brazil and those with her aunt.

The first family member to be updated was Bishop’s “poor cat.” Was it Tobias? She doesn’t say, but most likely that is who it was. While they were in Rio, the cat had “developed two bald spots in front of his ears.” This development made their cook, who was holding down the fort, “frantic.” Bishop had mentioned in a previous letter how the cook had called “every day,” something that had made Bishop “wonder.” She was able to tell Grace, “however, he’s rapidly getting his hair back.” Bishop supposed that he had eaten “a poisonous lizard or something.”

In addition to the cat’s troubles, their car was still ailing. Bishop informed Grace that they had “arrived back with the car busted again.” Remember the story about pushing it down the mountain in Rio. As a result, they had not yet seen “the new baby,” who, Bishop reiterated is “named Patricia.”
(Bishop with Tobias. From Carmen Oliveira, Flores Raras e Banalíssimas:
A história de Lota de Macedo Soares e Elizabeth Bishop.
Rocco: Rio de Janeiro, 1996 (between 64–65).)
Bishop had seen her doctor in Rio and offered Grace a wry update: “The doctor’s final remark on my big little-finger joint was: ‘Post-forty degeneration.’ That’s a cheering thought! Let’s hope it doesn’t spread.”

But what concerned Bishop more was her aunt’s health. She knew Grace was having tests and asked her to “tell me if you’ve had x-rays and a cardiograph.” Bishop herself had undergone the latter test a couple of years before because her “asthma-doctor wanted one just on general principles.” Grace knew well enough Bishop’s “history of asthma, adrenalin-taking etc.” Bishop reported that the test showed only “thickened lung tissues, naturally, after all this time.” She assured her aunt, as if the practicing nurse wouldn’t know, that a cardiograph test was “no trouble at all, in fact I rather enjoyed it.” Grace was clearly having some “heart business,” which caused Bishop real concern. “Please don’t go taking digitalis unless you know what’s wrong exactly — it is dangerous.” Grace must have complained about “pains in the lower chest, suffocation feelings, etc.,” which Bishop observed could “come from other causes perfectly well, you know.”

Bishop and Grace shared, for many obvious reasons a fascination with all things medical. It was one of the main subjects in their letters. The irony was that Grace was far healthier than Bishop, even at her more advanced age, living to nearly 90 to Bishop’s 68. Grace’s decades of nursing and Bishop’s own bent towards medicine, because of her direct childhood encounters with it, made their shared interest a dominant theme.

Bishop concluded this short dense paragraph with another diagnosis: “‘Angina’ can mean so many things, or nothing at all, by itself.” — with a final question: “How is that leg?” Bishop’s questions to her aunt were not dutiful courtesy, but deep, even anxious concern. Grace was her direct link to all that was Nova Scotia and maternal family. Bishop needed to stay connected to that place and time and those people to such a degree that she even allowed herself to write the name of the one person on her maternal side who had betrayed her trust: George Shepherdson (Aunt Maude’s husband). It is clear that Grace never learned of the abuse he inflicted on Bishop. By this time, George, a widower of 19 years, was again living in Nova Scotia. Grace, the remaining Bulmer in the province kept in touch with her brother-in-law out of a sense of duty and had offered Bishop and update in her most recent letter. In spite of everything he did to her, Bishop actually allowed herself to respond (perhaps because she did not want to rouse Grace’s suspicions).

“Poor Uncle George — it is sad, all right.” Just what was sad about George’s life is not, of course, repeated. There was no need. Clearly, one of the issues was some sort of isolation: “Do you think he has any other friends there besides that housekeeper’s daughter?” Why would Bishop care if he was lonely? Bishop then offers yet another medical assessment: “Part of his troubles has always been due to one very simple thing, too — too much starch.” What is one to think of such a conclusion? Is Bishop serious? Ironic? George was a tall man and too much carbohydrate and age had triggered “weight” issues and even “exzema,” [sic] a condition Bishop knew well. The last time Bishop saw him was likely in 1940 in Florida, just before Maude and George drove home to Great Village, where Maude promptly proceeded to die.

The next relative to get the treatment was Aunt Florence. Efforts had been underway to get “her into that Episcoplian [sic] home,” and Bishop had written to her cousin Kay Orr Sargent to find out the status of this effort, which required the intervention of her aunt’s doctor; but she hadn’t “heard yet.” Florence and George were handfuls, “It is even worse than Uncle G,” Bishop noted, because Florence “fights with everyone and hurts their feelings in the cruelest way.” For all their disagreeableness, for all the ways they had hurt Bishop during her childhood, somehow she was able to cast her distant gaze towards these difficult people and wonder about their circumstances. She was safe from any lashing out that might have been directed to her, yet, still, she seemed to want to know.

With health and family issues tended to, Bishop concludes her letter with some observations about Brazil. The next post will address these.