When first introduced to Robert Lowell in 1947, Elizabeth Bishop wrote that 'he was living in a basement room on Third Avenue . . . and was rather untidy. He was wearing a rumpled dark blue suit . . . I took to him at once.' Lowell was equally taken by Bishop, and thought she had 'more to offer, I think, than anyone writing poems in English'. The candid, affectionate, constrained and loving friendship of the two American poets is recorded in letters written over three decades. It begins after the publication of their first books, when they were 'as mischievous as children about the figures they held most in awe' (David Kalstone), and ends only with Lowell's death. The letters also record the complications of each other's lives - Lowell's mental illness, Bishop's struggles with alcohol, their mutually crossed love affairs. In their now celebrated correspondences, they performed best for one another, as the drama of their public and private lives unfolded.
Thomas Travisano is the author of Elizabeth Bishop: Her Artistic Development and is co-founder and first president of the Elizabeth Bishop Society. He is Babcock Professor of English at Hartwick College in Oneonta, New York. Saskia Hamilton is the editor of The Letters of Robert Lowell. She is Associate Professor of English at Barnard College, Columbia University, and lives in New York City.