Elizabeth Bishop and Brazilian Popular Music: From Anonymous Sambas to Contemporary Composers
Bishop’s interest in Brazilian popular music is evident in many writings. In a letter to Lowell, she criticizes the carnival version in the movie Orpheus, manifesting her will to make “a good collection” of sambas in translation. She writes: “I suspect [sambas] are some of the last folk poetry to be made in the world.” Besides the “anonymous four sambas” included in Complete Poems, Bishop translated a selection of well-known Brazilian composers. This unpublished repertoire was meant for a talk on Brazilian popular music at Bristol Community College in 1977, with poet Ricardo Sternberg on guitar. Considering Bishop’s translations from the anonymous sambas to contemporary composers, this study discusses her critical views, cultural and political implications and resonances of Brazilian popular culture in her poetry.