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Versions of "Dear Elizabeth"

BicoVictorRoberts2 (137K) Using Elizabeth Bishop's words found in letters to May Swenson, which describe Bishop's pet birds, the "Bicos de Lacre," otherwise known as the common waxbill, Swenson wrote "Dear Elizabeth" which was published in The New Yorker on October 9, 1965. There are twenty-two extent drafts of "Dear Elizabeth" in the May Swenson Papers housed by Washington University Special Collections. These drafts demonstrate how Swenson arranged and rearranged the lines to obtain different visual and rhythmic effects. They also show her meticulous consideration of punctuation in her creative process. The published version and ten drafts have been transcribed here. Images of the original document are also available for select versions. In addition, these eleven versions are available for line-by-line comparison.

Line-by-line Comparison of Various Versions of "Dear Elizabeth"

The published version and ten of these drafts are available for line-by-line comparison in "The Versioning Machine," an open-source software tool created by the University of Maryland's Institute for Technology in the Humanities. Click here to view the side-by-side comparisons of these texts in a new window.

Transcriptions of Selected Extent Drafts of "Dear Elizabeth"

Transcription of the published version of "Dear Elizabeth"

Transcription of a draft of "Dear Elizabeth" believed to have been written fourth.

Transcription of a draft of "Dear Elizabeth" believed to have been written eighth.

Transcription of one of two drafts of "Dear Elizabeth" dated January 28, 1964.

Transcription of one of two drafts of "Dear Elizabeth" dated January 28, 1964.

Transcription a draft of "Dear Elizabeth" dated February 26, 1964.




Images and Transcriptions of the Extent Drafts of "Dear Elizabeth"

One of two drafts of "Dear Elizabeth" dated September 21, 1964.
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One of two drafts of "Dear Elizabeth" dated October 15, 1964.
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Page one of one of two drafts of "Dear Elizabeth" dated October 15, 1964.
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Page two of one of two drafts of "Dear Elizabeth" dated October 15, 1964.
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One of two drafts of "Dear Elizabeth" dated September 21, 1964.
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Draft of "Dear Elizabeth" dated June 9, 1965.
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