Welcome To This House



Welcome To This House (2015), is a feature documentary film on the homes and loves of poet Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979), about life in the shadows, and the anxiety of art making without full self-disclosure.  Hammer filmed in Bishop’s ‘best loved homes’ in the US, Canada, and Brazil believing that buildings and landscapes bear cultural memories.  Interviews with poets, friends, and scholars provide “missing documents” of numerous female lovers. Bishop’s intimate poetry is beautifully performed by Kathleen Chalfant and with the creative music composition by Joan La Barbara brings Bishop into our lives with new facts and unexpected details.


In 2010 I was thinking about a film on Cape Cod comparing the landscapes around the places I had lived during summer months, the old dune shacks and the modern houses that are being rebuilt. I realized I needed a human figure for physical and emotional scale to populate the architecture and the geography.  The poet Elizabeth Bishop had lived both at a girls youth camp in Wellfleet and as a young adult in the Province Lands dune shacks of her friends.

I had always wanted to deeply study only one poet during graduate school but the preplanned nature of universities and their over determined courses of study precluded this from happening. Finally, thanks to the Guggenheim Foundation, I was able to launch a new project.  I learned much later that Guggenheim board members also dearly love Bishop’s poetry.

As an artist I believe that the architectural structures in which I live and work influence the art I make.  I went in search of Bishop’s homes to explore the buildings and the poetry and paintings she made in them.  This quest took me to her childhood home in Nova Scotia, to Camp Chequesset on Cape Cod, to Vassar College where she went to school, and to her homes in Key West, Brazil, Cambridge and Boston.

Bishop was in the closet to the outside world, but she seemed to have as many lovers as she had homes.  I globe trotted on her trail and found more and more female lovers emerging from interviews with friends, colleagues, critics and poets.   Bishop was a lusty woman and I respect that, but writing openly of these experiences wasn’t possible due to her need for privacy propelled by the homophobia of the times. In addition, and maybe partly responsible for her reticence, was the childhood trauma she experienced of her mother’s breakdown and confinement in an institution.  The understanding of this significant loss following the death of her father when she was an infant, and her conflicted need both to stay still and to move brought me to a closer reading of published and unpublished poems where I found intimate disclosures in her poetry.

This film brings together my twin graduate studies in literature and in filmmaking and my undergraduate studies in psychology. As with any biographical film, ellipses are made. I hope I’ve selected the poems, homes and lovers that reveal a relational side of Bishop’s personality while suggesting to the audience the meaning between the structure of an artist’s home and her art.



Barbara Hammer

Music Composed by:

 Joan La Barbara

Sound Design:

Barbara Hammer

Director of Photography:

Barbara Hammer

Erin Harper

Stephanie Testa

Voice of Elizabeth Bishop:

Kathleen Chalfant

Second Camera:

Maya Ciarrocchi

Alex H. Auriema

Sound Effects:

 David Lawrence Goldman


Linda Dittmar

Barbara Hammer

Erin Miller

Production Assistants:

Joe Berg

Lane Brettschneider

Laura Cooper

Carolyn Lieba Francois-Lazard

JiYe Kim

Kika von Klück

Juliana Pamplona

Lisa Wiesdorf

Post Production & Sound Mix:

One Glass Video

Thanks to:

Great Village:

Sandra Barry

Laurie Gunn

Helen Mac Lachlan

Robert & Meredith Layton

Patti Sharpe

Allison Totten

Cape Cod:

Cherry Aivirett

Barbara Kennedy

Peter McMahon

David Wright

Key West:

Marie-Claire Blais

Rosalind Brackenbury

Marie-Claire Blais

Paula Carbonelle

Jackney Drudge

Jack Einhorn

Tom Hambright

Arlo Haskell

Pat C. Johnson

Buddy Johnson

Robert A. Johnson

Lynn Kaufelt

June Klausing

Alison Lurie

Harry Mathews

Alan Meece

Emil Osterling

Edmund White

Carey Winfrey

Anita Woodruff


José Carlos Barretto

Walkyria Barreto and Maria Ignez Barretto

Ricardo Correia de Araújo

Joana and Carlos Eduardo dos Santos da Costa

José Alberto and Linda Nemer

Carmen L. Oliveira

Marta Peixoto

Nélida Piñon

Flore Sussekind

Zuleika Borges Torrealba

Cambridge/Boston/New York:

David Alexander

Jackie Anderson

John Ashbery

Robert Denby

Elsa Dorfman

Jonathan Galassi

Ken Gaulin

Richard Howard

Carle A. Johnson

Joel Katz

Laura Menidas

Ronald D. Patkus

Barbara Page

Dean M. Rogers

Patrick J. Rogers

Lloyd Schwartz

Kathleen Spivack

Thomas & Elsa Travisiano

Alice Quinn

Rosanna Clark Warren

The Prose and Poetry of Elizabeth Bishop

Courtesy of Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

Voices & Visions: Elizabeth Bishop

Courtesy of New York Center for Visual History and The Annenberg/CPB Project

Aquarela do Brazil

Composed by Ary Barroso

Performed by Silvio Caldas

God Bless The Child

Written by A. Herzog, Jr./Billie Holiday

Performed by Billie Holiday

Samba da Fato

Composed by Cicero Pixinguinha

Performed by Patricio Teixeira and TBT Trio


Arcadia University Archive

C-Scape, Dune Shack

Monroe County Library, Key West

Nova Scotia Archives

Rosenbach Museum and Library

Vassar College Rare Book Collections

Wellfleet Historical Society and Museum

Yale Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Funding and Support:

C-Scape, Dune Shack

Cape Cod Modern House Trust

The Frameline Completion Fund

The Elizabeth Bishop House, Great Village

The Guggenheim Foundation

The Studios at Key West

Worcester County Poetry Association

A Very Special Thanks to:

Florrie Burke

© 2015 Barbara Hammer


The website of visual artist and filmmaker Barbara Hammer. View clips, read synopses and information about the films, and purchase DVDs.