Sandpiper by Elizabeth Bishop

Filmmaker and television producer John Scott is working on a feature-length documentary called Elizabeth Bishop and the Art of Losing, which will include a number of videos like this one illustrating her poems. He wrote about the project at length for the Elizabeth Bishop Centenary blog.

Each scene will end on a poem whose inspiration comes from the tensions of the time period being described. And thus the poetry will not only be an aesthetically pleasing and rewarding study of genius, it will deepen the emotional content of her life-story.

I learned about the project from a feature at VidPoFilm back on Nov. 18. Brenda Clews sent Scott a couple questions via email. Quoting from his answers:

I am not interested solely in being illustrative — I am interested in at times being playful with the way the visuals/sounds and the words come together in an effort to use the expressive powers of visuals and sounds. There’s lots of potential in the medium itself that I think might otherwise be lost if it is simply slaved word for word to the text. […]

I believe the beauty of Bishop’s poetry is that it is so loaded with the spirit of the moment, in the fragmentary, in the lush, in the juxtaposition of contrasting images and in the point of view of its subjects.

Do read the rest. About this videopoem in particular, Scott noted on YouTube:

“Sandpiper” is a poem that was written by Elizabeth Bishop in 1965 and it is believed that it was based on observations she made on a trip she made as an adult back to Nova Scotia. Bishop’s adult life took her in many directions and places, and she has explicitly compared herself to the sandpiper and (presumably) both of their quests to endlessly seek (enlightenment?) through careful observation.


  1. Reply
    swoon 9 December, 2011

    Liking this. A lot.

  2. Reply
    Brenda 9 December, 2011

    Sandpiper is a phenomenal filmpoem.

    Thanks, and thanks (you’ll understand when you see another comment with a suggestion).

  3. Reply
    John Scott 9 December, 2011

    Thanks so much Dave for featuring the work. I check in and enjoy the work on this site a lot. A great idea. Anyone interested in getting in touch about this project feel free to contact me at or leave a comment here.

  4. Reply

    […] projected feature-length documentary, Elizabeth Bishop and the Art of Losing. See “Sandpiper” for more information and links. Jason Harrington supplied the animation here. […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.