Elizabeth Bishop

From Academic Kids

Elizabeth Bishop (February 8, 1911October 6, 1979), was an American poet and writer, increasingly regarded as one of the finest 20th century poets writing in English.

A disciple of Marianne Moore, and a good friend of poets Robert Lowell and James Merrill, Elizabeth Bishop was born in Worcester, Massachusetts. After her father's death and her mother's institutionalization, Elizabeth Bishop lived with her Canadian grandparents in Nova Scotia for a few years, and later with her father's family in Boston, Massachusetts. She attended The Walnut Hill School, and entered Vassar College in the fall of 1929, the year of the stock market crash. She graduated from college in 1934, having befriended writer Mary McCarthy (who was one year her senior).

Elizabeth Bishop was awarded the Houghton Mifflin poetry award in 1946 and, in 1956, the Pulitzer Prize for her collection of poetry, North & South - A Cold Spring. She later received the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, as well as two Guggenheim fellowships. In 1976, she became the first woman to receive the International Neustadt Prize for Literature, and remains the only American to be awarded that prize.[1] (http://www.ou.edu/worldlit/neustadt/laureates.html)

Elizabeth Bishop traveled widely during her lifetime, living in New York, Key West, and, for sixteen years, in Brazil with her companion Lota de Macedo Soares.

Bishop often contributed articles to The New Yorker, and, in 1964, wrote the obituary for Flannery O'Connor in The New York Review of Books.

Bishop lectured in higher education for a number of years. For a short time she taught at the University of Washington, before moving to Harvard for seven years. She also taught at New York University, before finishing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Early in her career, Bishop was regarded (and perhaps dismissed) as a "miniaturist," a master of small poetic structures and descriptive detail. Careful reading of her work, however, reveals a sharp-edged confessional edge: her life story is told through poems which, though nominally addressing and describing other subject matter (including paintings, tourist destinations, etc.), in fact speak to true events (and to her, and the reader's, underlying existential states). She was far from prolific: her Complete Poems is a relatively slim volume.

"Miss Bishop" — as she preferred most people to address her — was notoriously shy. She did not seek or particularly enjoy literary publicity. Though highly regarded by fellow poets (her friend James Merrill described her as a "poet's poet's poet"), it was only after her death in 1979, and particularly after the 1994 publication of One Art, her collected letters, that Bishop's reputation grew well beyond the small critical fame that she enjoyed in her lifetime.



  • North & South (1946)
  • North & South - A Cold Spring (1955)
  • Questions of Travel (1965)
  • The Complete Poems (1969)
  • Geography III (1976)
  • The Complete Poems 1927-1979 (1983) [posthumous]

Other works:

  • The Diary of Helena Morley (translation) (1957)
  • Three Stories by Clarice Lispector (translation) (1964)
  • Ballad of the Burglar of Babylon (children's book) (1968)
  • One Art (collected letters) (1994) [posthumous]

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