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Studying with Miss Bishop

Studying with Miss Bishop

Dana Gioia

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Studying With Miss Bishop: Memoirs from a Young Writer’s Life / 184-page paperback / 5" x 8" / ISBN 9781589881518 / Publication Date: 1/12/2021

"Highly enjoyable . . . Studying with Miss Bishop offers the opportunity to encounter writing as an act of civility."
Wall Street Journal

"Wonderfully evocative of the literary world in the 1970s and 1980s, these essays are fascinating snapshots of remarkable encounters which, when brought together, chart a delightfully unusual path to literary success."


In Studying with Miss Bishop, Dana Gioia discusses six people who helped him become a writer and better understand what it meant to dedicate one’s life to writing. Four were famous authors―Elizabeth Bishop, John Cheever, James Dickey, and Robert Fitzgerald. Two were unknown―Gioia’s Merchant Marine uncle and Ronald Perry, a forgotten poet. Each of the six essays provides a vivid portrait; taken together they tell the story of Gioia’s own journey from working-class LA to international literary success.

"[A] fantastically charming collection."Los Angeles Review of Books

"In deft, graceful essays, poet, literary critic, and librettist Gioia recalls six 'people of potent personality' who shaped his vocation . . . An appealing literary memoir."―Kirkus Reviews

"Gioia’s writing is vivid, generous, and unpretentious, leaving us with enduring and haunting images so fully realized that we feel as if we too were there. This is a beautiful book and an important contribution to American letters."―World Literature Today

"Studying With Miss Bishop is surely destined to become a classic. These affectionate portraits . . . communicate as well as any book ever the love that underlies an authentic literary vocation."Catholic World Report

"The portraits Gioia creates are vivid, his prose supple, unpretentious, often humorous. What comes across most is his generosity . . . Memoirs of this sort can easily become tired. Gioia’s shows a youthful freshness and curiosity on every page."First Things

"Reading this memoir is like being at one of those memorable dinner parties, attended by the best and brightest, sparkling with wit and excellent conversations. You don’t want it to be over, the conversations to end! But with books, you need not worry. You can go back to the party, savor it, reread it again, and again."―Julia Alvarez, author of In the Time of the Butterflies and Afterlife

“Gioia has been uncommonly lucky in meeting many major poets, among them Elizabeth Bishop. His portrait of her in these pages is shrewd and subtle. The famously elusive poet quivers into life here.”―Jay Parini, author of Borges and Me: An Encounter

Watch a video: Dana Gioia reads an excerpt about taking Elizabeth Bishop's Harvard class in 1975.

Listen to a podcast: Dana Gioia in conversation with Tyler Cowen.

Read an interview with Dana Gioia in Literary Matters.

Michael Dirda, in the Washington Post, recommends Studying With Miss Bishop in his column on "books about books."

Also available as an ebook:

Dana Gioia is a poet and critic. He has published five full-length collections of verse, most recently 99 Poems: New & Selected, which won the Poets’ Prize as the best new book of the year. His third collection, Interrogations at Noon, was awarded the American Book Award. An influential critic, Gioia’s controversial volume, Can Poetry Matter? was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. The book is credited with helping revive the role of poetry in American public culture. Gioia has also edited or co-edited two dozen best-selling literary anthologies, including An Introduction to Poetry (with X. J. Kennedy) and Best American Poetry 2018. His essays and reviews have appeared in The New YorkerAtlanticWashington PostNew York TimesHudson Review, and other journals. Gioia has served as the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts and as California State Poet Laureate. He is currently the Judge Widney Professor of Poetry and Public Culture at the University of Southern California. He divides his time between Los Angeles and Sonoma County, California.

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