Halfway through Elizabeth Bishop and The New Yorker: The Complete Correspondence, Howard Moss confesses: “The truth is that I have, somehow, forgotten how to write letters. All I can think of saying is what I had for lunch, or what kind of day it is.” Fortunately, Moss makes a distinction between letters and written communication, between vivid self-expression and quotidian details. His meaculpa stands alongside the book’s title as a warning to readers that there are very few letters in this dense, new collection, which was released alongside Poems and Prose to mark Bishop’s centenary.

Instead, there are queries. Queries that do not “give us a rare glimpse into [Bishop’s] artistic development,” but rather the provisions in her contract. It’s true that the collection offers a lens onto The New Yorker’s house style and its influence...

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