This essay examines the influence of Elizabeth Bishop on Seamus Heaney’s poetics in the 1980s and 1990s as he became a global poet. She stands as a unique and overlooked exemplar in Heaney’s poetic pantheon. His reading of Bishop’s work, for all its limitations, nonetheless enables some of his most celebrated poetry of “home.” Since the 1990s, Bishop’s reputation has grown considerably, and recent critical assessments of newly published work have led to new ways of reading her older collections, so that the “reticence” for which she was famed now appears less as an aesthetic principle—as Heaney understands it—than as a concession to a repressive environment. Through intertextual close-readings alongside an examination of Heaney’s literarycritical responses to her work, this essay argues Heaney’s view of Bishop is often refracted through the lens of his own concerns. Ultimately, however, that view helps Heaney develop a poetics where form itself—the essential border-making and border-crossing apparatus—is emblematic of a solution to political crisis, making his misreading a highly productive one.

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