May 1, 2015
The Table of Contents, the print anthology as a finite, bounded object — they loom large. While they do that, though, this blog is going to hold out for a little longer, not going there yet. (And, for the sake of company, Jordan Brower, coeditor of the anthology, will also be airing his perplexities and uncertainties.)
So, still very much a toss-up for Bishop.
What I love about “Brazil, January 1, 1502″ — an initial lightness of tone that I almost don’t recognize, as if Brazil had indeed alienated her, made it all right for her to be light: “big leaves, little leaves, and giant leaves,/ blue, blue-green, and olive..” Very far away from the title, it seems. But then the distance slowly diminishes, with the rocks “threatened from underneath by moss/ in lovely hell-green flames,/ attacked above/ by scaling-ladder vines, oblique and neat,/ “one leaf yes and one leaf no’ (in Portuguese).”
Such a strange way of telling that story. No one who reads the poem can forget it. What I love about “Manuelzinho” is that it doesn’t have that terrible strangeness, happy just to do some straightforward scolding: “You starve/ your horse and yourself/ and your dogs and family./ Among endless variety,/ you eat boiled cabbage stalks.”
Two completely different worlds – and not only because one poem re-stages 1502 while the other stays put in the here and now.