Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979)

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Elizabeth Bishop (February 8, 1911 - October 6, 1979) published 6 books of poetry, four books of prose, and co-authored a poetry anthology. Posthumous collections are The Complete Poems 1927-1979 (1983) and Edgar Allen Poe & The Jukebox: Uncollected Poems, Drafts, and Fragments (2006). She also co-edited, with Emmanuel Brasil, an Anthology of Twentieth Century Brazilian Poetry (1972), and translated The Diary of Helena Morley (1977). When she was quite young, her father died and her mother needed to be taken to a mental asylum, so Bishop was raised by her grandparents in Nova Scotia. After graduating from college, she traveled to France, Spain, North Africa, Italy, Ireland, and eventually lived in Key West, Florida for several years. From 1951 to 1969 she lived in Brazil. She also served as Poet Laureate of the United States from 1949-1950.

Her poetry, surprisingly, does not focus on the personal struggles of her life and is not written in a “confessional” style. Instead, it talks a lot about the scenery she encounters in her many travels. Bishop’s book of poetry Poems: North & South/A Cold Spring won the 1956 Pulitzer Prize, and her book Complete Poems won the 1970 National Book Award. She then briefly taught at the University of Washington before teaching at Harvard University for several years. She also taught at New York University and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Bishop won the Neustadt International Prize for Literature in 1976 for her book Geography III, making her the first woman to win the award and the only American to win it to this day. She was a lesbian and considered herself a feminist, but did not want her work to be published in all-female anthologies, not wanting to be judged based on her gender or sexual orientation, but by the quality of her work. Bishop was awarded the Fellowship of the Academy of American Poets in 1964 and served as a Chancellor from 1966 to 1979. The Elizabeth Bishop House in Great Village, Nova Scotia, an artist’s retreat, was dedicated to her after her death.

http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/7 AND http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Bishop Beltway Poetry Quarterly: http://www.beltwaypoetry.com/poetry/poets/names/bishop-elizabeth/ DC Writers’ Homes: http://dcwriters.poetrymutual.org/pages/bishop.html


Written by Word Works intern Monica Root October 2013; edited by Kim Roberts January 2016


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