'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.
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
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
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
brown skin hung in strips
like ancient wallpaper,
its pattern of darker brown
was like wallpaper:
(from The Fish)