Elizabeth Bishop

(1911 -- 1979)

(bio by Bill Gilson)

During 35 years of writing, Elizabeth Bishop published five slim volumes of poetry. Robert Lowell, in a a sonnet addressed to her, spoke of her working methods: ``Do/you still hang your words in air, ten years unfinished, glued to your notice board, with gaps/or empties for the unimaginable phrase...?'' A lover of geography and of detail, of the sly joke and unexpected image, Bishop somehow combines a very personal feel with one of distance, as if offering the poems while wishing herself not to be seen. She was born in Worcester, Massachusetts. Her father was a builder who died when she was one year old, and her mother shortly thereafter suffered a breakdown and spent the rest of her life in a sanitorium. Bishop was raised by relatives and during World War I lived in Nova Scotia. She went to Vassar, and in 1945 her first book, ``North and South'' won the Houghton Miffling Prize. An inheritance from her father enabled her to travel fairly widely; she lived for many years in Brazil, returning to this country in 1970 when the inheritance ran out, to take a teaching job at Harvard.