Becoming a Poet

Elizabeth Bishop with Marianne Moore and Robert Lowell
David Kalstone
Edited by Robert Hemenway; Afterword by James Merrill
A celebrated study of Elizabeth Bishop's genius, as revealed through her literary friendships


Becoming a Poet traces the evolution of Elizabeth Bishop's poetic career through her friendships with other poets, notably Marianne Moore and Robert Lowell. Published in 1989 following critic David Kalstone's death, with the help of a number of his friends and colleagues, it was greeted with uniformly enthusiastic praise. Hailed at that time as "one of the most sensitive appreciations of Elizabeth Bishop's genius ever composed" and "a first-rate piece of criticism" and "a masterpiece of understanding about friendship and about poetry," it has been largely unavailable in recent years.

Praise / Awards

  • "In choosing to present Elizabeth Bishop's life in poetry through her friendships with Marianne Moore and Robert Lowell, David Kalstone reminds us that what really matters in the life of a writer is the life of the imaginations. . . . Becoming a Poet is an indispensable study, not only for scholars and lovers of Bishop's poetry, but for anyone curious about how creative minds make art out of the unpromising materials of life."
    —Katha Pollitt, New York Times Book Review
  • "I have read few books in which psychological and critical insight collaborate so well. It is, I would say, an immediate classic, not only for its success as a specific study but for its general implications about the complicated interactions between life and letters."
    —Thom Gunn, Times Literary Supplement
  • ". . . illuminates not only its nominal subjects but also the ways and means of poetry itself; it shows how a writer transforms the materials of a single, common life, especially one that is by no means inherently interesting, into the stuff of literature. It reveals how the poet is born as well as made."
    —Willard Spiegelman, Wall Street Journal

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 320pp.
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Sales Restrictions

Our edition is unavailable in United Kingdom


  • Paper
  • 2001
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-08720-4

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  • $27.95 U.S.