Edgar Allan Poe & The Juke-Box Uncollected Poems, Drafts, and Fragments

Elizabeth Bishop; Edited and Annotated by Alice Quinn

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

392 Pages



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From the mid-1930s until her death in 1979, Elizabeth Bishop published some ninety poems and thirty translations. Yet her notebooks reveal that she embarked upon many more compositions, some existing in only fragmentary form, some embodied in extensive drafts, and many more left as handwritten copies. Edgar Allan Poe & the Jukebox presents, alongside facsimiles of many of the pages from which they are drawn, wistful and comic poems Bishop wrote in high school; poems begun soon after college, reflecting her passion for Elizabethan verse and surrealist technique; love poems and dream fragments from the 1930s and '40s; poems about her Canadian childhood; poems she was working on into the late 1970s, begun decades before; and many other works that have hitherto been quoted almost exclusively in biographical and critical studies. The editor, Alice Quinn, has also mined from the more than 3,500 pages in the Bishop archive rich tangential material, presented in the Notes, that illuminates the poet's sources and intentions, and an appendix offers fascinating work related to the drafts, including two abandoned memoirs of childhood, an unfinished piece on Auden from the early 1930s, pages of an undelivered lecture beginning, "Writing poetry is an unnatural act . . . ," and a draft of a story about her mother's experience teaching school thirty miles from her home in Nova Scotia and becoming (as Bishop wrote in a letter) "so homesick she was taken the family dog to cheer her up." "The unfinished poems should be tremendous from your descriptions," Robert Lowell wrote to her in 1962. This revelatory and moving selection allows us to see those she left behind, bringing us into the poet's laboratory, showing us the initial provocative images that prompted her to begin a poem, illustrating terrain unexplored in the work published in her lifetime, and revealing the artistic resolution she exercised, keeping poems for years in mindful abeyance and releasing only those that lived up to her exacting standard.


Praise for Edgar Allan Poe & The Juke-Box

"You are living in a world created by Elizabeth Bishop. Granted, our culture owes its shape to plenty of other forces—Hollywood, Microsoft, Rachael Ray—but nothing matches the impact of a great artist, and in the second half of the 20th century, no American artist in any medium was great than Bishop (1911-79). That she worked in one of our country's least popular fields, poetry, doesn't matter. That she was a woman doesn't matter. That she was gay doesn't matter. That she was an alcoholic, and expatriate and essentially an orphan—none of this matters. What matters is that she left behind a body of work that teaches us, as Italo Calvino once said of literature generally, 'a method subtle and flexible enough to be the same thing as an absence of any method whatever.' The publication of Edgar Allan Poe & the Juke-Box, which gathers for the first time Bishop's unpublished material, isn't just a significant event in our poetry; it's part of a continuing alteration in the scale of American life . . . Quinn's notes throughout are superb . . . This is the devoted editing this material needed and deserved."—David Orr, The New York Times Book Review (cover review)
"Edgar Allen Poe & the Juke-Box does shine a bright light on Bishop's unpublished work, but it is not a harsh one. It reveals a poet often concerned with the unfolding of a sense of stupefaction—of astonishment as well as bewilderment."—John Palattella, Boston Review
"Readers will be grateful to find the best of [Bishop's] raw material gathered by Alice Quinn, poetry editor of The New Yorker . . . Reading through her collected poems, you marvel at how often she succeeded . . . If she knew intuitively what made her poems work, should these drafts and fragments have been left unpublished? At their deaths, Shelley, Housman, and many another left lovely poems in rough draft (the entire works of Wyatt, Traherne, and Dickinson, which remained in manuscript, might have vanished in a kitchen fire). It would be criminal, by whatever statutes apply, to leave in dusty archives poems so touched with mournful knowledge, with the sense of a life sometimes wrongly spent . . . Alice Quinn's thoughtful editing has returned these poems to the density of their histories . . . Quinn's editorial decisions are never doctrinaire—her affectionate tone is among the pleasures of this edition . . . [A] book that will be indispensable to readers of Bishop."—William Logan, The New Criterion
"Though she published only 80 poems in books and journals during her decades-long career . . . her notebooks, journals and letters—3,500 pages housed at the department of special collections at Vassar College, Bishop's alma mater—reveal a dazzling store of orphaned poems . . . But it is Quinn's own artful writing that brings to life the generous footnotes 130 pages of them . . . with their fine-spun, often fascinating tangents, they weave together whole strands of Bishop's life from letters, biographies, journal entries, and published and unpublished poems, connecting them to the particular poem at hand."—Megan Harlan, San Francisco Chronicle
“Thanks to the skill of its editing and the intelligence of its presentation, Edgar Allan Poe and the Jukebox can only increase our understanding of Bishop, and our admiration . . . [Quinn] has chosen material that casts a great deal of light on Bishop’s mind and methods, and [her] expansive notes allow the reader to make sense of each piece in the context of Bishop’s life, reading and writing . . . [Her] insistence on perfection, documented in every page of [the book], is what makes Elizabeth Bishop not just a cherishable poet, but an exemplary one.”—Adam Kirsch, The Times Literary Supplement (London)
"Now, astonishingly, we have an entire volume of Bishop's unpublished poems and prose fragments, curated and richly annotated by The New Yorker’s poetry editor, Alice Quinn . . . Edgar Allan Poe & the Juke-Box is cause for exultation, an opportunity to witness the poet at work and—equally important—at play."—Kerry Fried, Newsday
“There is some debate about whether the private and perfectionist Bishop would have wanted these fragments, these poems she chose not to publish, out in the world. I may be biased, but I am glad there is more of her writing for others to discover. I know first hand how a chance encounter can transform you from a person who doesn’t read poetry to one who does.”—Sue Dickman, The Christian Monitor
"The appearance of Alice Quinn's new collection of Bishop's previously unpublished work made me feel as if a forgotten relative had died and left me an enormous windfall . . . There are many, many poems in this new collection that can stand beside her best work . . . By the end of Edgar Allan Poe & the Juke-Box (a poem that, by the way, is itself worth the price of admission), I decided that Bishop was rather unfair to keep these poems from us for so long."—George Bilgere, The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)
"So sparkling and lustrous, one feels the pang of her absence all over again."—John Freeman, The Times Union
"Nowhere is Quinn's patient, daily, loving attention to poetry more evident than in her first book . . . It is a labor of love as well as rigorous scholarship . . . To read this book is to understand the harsh discipline of poetry, the joy of creation, and to appreciate better the struggles and achievements of one of the greatest American poets."—Susan Larson, The Times-Picayune (New Orleans)
"Literature lovers will be in raptures over Edgar Allan Poe & the Juke-Box . . . The collection provides a wonderful glimpse into the origins of Bishop’s genius, and her personal evolution."—Julie Hale, BookPage
"For those who love Elizabeth Bishop, there can never be enough of her writing. The arrival of this trove of unknown manuscripts is therefore a stupendous event."—John Ashbery
"Both a literary autobiography and a cri de coeur of the artist as a young woman . . . Quinn's meticulous gleanings from 3500 pages of Bishop's work, stored at Vassar College, tell of her background; of her personal identity; and of how, through many false and true starts, she developed into a major 20th-century American poet."—Library Journal
"This book is as much Alice Quinn's as Elizabeth Bishop's. The New Yorker poetry editor spent countless hours with the 3,500 pages of Bishop (1911–1979) material housed in the Vassar College library, and particularly with two notebooks that contain drafts from the period 1936–1948, which, Quinn says in an introduction, furnished the 'kernel' of the book. None of the material (aside from 'One Art,' of which 16 drafts are included as an example of Bishop's exacting process) was marked by Bishop for publication but, as Quinn notes, much of it has been quoted extensively by Bishop scholars. Quinn, who also directs the Poetry Society of America, hopes this volume 'will provide an adventure for readers who love the established canon,' and it is, indeed, a fan's book. But it also contains some terrific lines and images; a few fully realized poems that will eventually enter the Bishop canon; and a delicious look into Bishop's thinking and composition—seeing a bad Bishop poem is a revelation. There are 108 poems (seven less than the Collected), 11 prose pieces, the 'One Art,'some sketches and other visual art, drafts and 120 pages of Quinn's excellent notes . . . All [of the poems] will be cherished by those who love her work."—Publishers Weekly, (starred review)

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Read an Excerpt

Elizabeth Bishop (1911-79) won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Alice Quinn is poetry editor of The New Yorker and the director of the Poetry Society of America.
Read the full excerpt


  • Elizabeth Bishop; Edited and Annotated by Alice Quinn

  • Elizabeth Bishop (1911-79) is one of the great, most beloved poets of the twentieth century. Her work has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award.
    Alice Quinn is poetry editor of The New Yorker and the executive director of the Poetry Society of America. She teaches at Columbia University's School of the Arts.
  • Elizabeth Bishop Joseph Breitenbach
    Elizabeth Bishop
  • Alice Quinn Robert Falcetti