Elizabeth Bishop

1911-1979

 

'All the untidy activity continues, awful but cheerful'

 

Elizabeth Bishop is buried in the Hope Cemetery, Worcester, Worcester County, Massachusetts, USA.

Bishop was born in Massachusetts, where she was brought up by her grandparents after the death of her father and the mental collapse of her mother.



Elizabeth Bishop's Gravestone

She received little formal education due to being ill with asthma as a child. However, she did enter Vassar College in 1929 - where she later met Marianne Moore (in 1934) who was working there as a librarian. Moore acted as a mentor for the younger poet and influenced Bishop's style considerably.

With the aid of an allowance from her deceased father, Bishop was able to travel widely - which was reflected in many of her poems e.g. Questions of Travel (1965) and Geography III (1976). She finally setlled in Brazil.

Her first book, North and South was published in 1946 and contained her wonderfully descriptive poem The Fish. (Marianne Moore had also written an accomplished poem called The Fish which is likely to have been an influence.)

When her inheritance ran out Bishop took up lecturing - at institutions such as Harvard and the University of Washington.

She was friendly with Robert Lowell for many years - and their friendship was later made the subject of a play entitled Dear Elizabeth by Sarah Ruhl. (Robert Lowell dedicated his poem Skunk Hour to Bishop.) Unlike Lowell, Bishop eschewed the use of confessional poetry; instead, her style was clear, objective and reticent.

Bishop died in 1979 - aged 68 years.

I caught a tremendous fish
and held him beside the boat
half out of water, with my hook
fast in a corner of his mouth.
He didnít fight.
He hadnít fought at all.
He hung a grunting weight,
battered and venerable
and homely. Here and there
his brown skin hung in strips
like ancient wallpaper,
and its pattern of darker brown
was like wallpaper:

(from The Fish)
 

 


 

 

 
 
 
 

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