“Housefulls, Churchfulls, Airportsfull”


In an extended essay in the New Yorker, Megan Marshall, author of the forthcoming Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast, writes about Bishop’s late, serendipitous move to Harvard where she met Alice Methfessel, a young “house secretary” who would become her caretaker, and the last great love of her life:

“The poor heart doesn’t seem to grow old at all,” [Bishop] wrote to Methfessel in March of 1971, a month after her sixtieth birthday and two weeks past Methfessel’s twenty-eighth. She sent Methfessel “love—housefulls, churchfulls, airportsfull,” slept with Methfessel’s letters, carried her photo buttoned into her shirt pocket. Methfessel lay in bed at night watching slides of Bishop that she’d taken on late-fall excursions, projected on the white wall of her apartment.

Kirstin Allio is currently a Howard Foundation Fellow at Brown University. Her story collection, Clothed, Female Figure comes out with Dzanc in 2016. Her novel, Garner (Coffee House), was a finalist for the LA Times Book Award for First Fiction. She has received the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” Award, a PEN/O. Henry Prize, and has published many short stories, poems, and essays. More from this author →