Elizabeth Bishop and friend. —Vassar College Library photo
Elizabeth Bishop was a poet with vision. She didn’t write as an expert with an insider’s view of the outside world. Rather, she wrote as an outsider looking in — hoping to make sense of life’s struggles, longings, and grief. Her poems are easy to identify with as she admits she doesn’t know all the answers. But they aren’t simplistic. She put her own spin on various poetic styles and conventions to give her works literary depth and additional significance.
Born in Worcester, Mass, in 1911, Elizabeth Bishop’s father died when she was a year old, and her mother was institutionalized. She never saw her mother again. She lived for a time with her grandparents in Nova Scotia, before she was sent back to Massachusetts. She graduated from Vassar College, where she developed a close friendship with poet Marianne Moore.
Although she only published around 100 poems in her lifetime, her work was appreciated, and she was named the Poet Laureate of the United States from 1949 to 1950. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1956, and also the National Book Award. Larry Rohter of the New York Times called her “one of the most important American poets” of the twentieth century. Read more…