Elizabeth Bishop was born on February 8, 1911 in Worcester, Massachusetts to Gertrude Bulmer and William Thomas Bishop, the owners of J.W. Bishop contracting firm. Her father died when she was eight months old of Bright’s disease. Her mother lost her citizenship because of this and they were forced to move to Nova Scotia (Anne A. Colwell). Bishop’s mother spent the next five years constantly moving in and out of psychiatric hospitals. When Bishop was five years old, her mother had a complete breakdown and was hospitalized in a public sanatorium in Dart Mouth, Nova Scotia where she was diagnosed as permanently insane. Bishop never saw her again (“Elizabeth Bishop”).
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In 1967 Bishop and Soares both left Brazil to New York to escape the politics Soares was involved in. On the evening of their arrival, Soares overdosed on tranquilizers and died at the age of fifty-seven. Two years later, Bishop published Complete Poems, which included old and new poems. The collection was awarded he National Book Award in 1970. Later that year, Bishop took a position at Harvard when her friend Robert Lowell became too sick to teach his classes (“Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979)” 1034) and in 1976 published her last collection of poetry Geography III, which one the Book Critics’ Circle Award in 1977.
Bishop died on October 6, 1979 in Boston, Massachusetts of a cerebral hemorrhage in her home. She is buried in Worcester’s Hope Cemetery. Her epitaph is from her poem “ The Bight”, and reads: “All the untidy activity continues,/ awful but cheerful.” (“Elizabeth Bishop”). She died at the age of sixty-eight.
September rain falls on the house.
In the Failing light, the old grandmother
sits in the kitchen with the child
beside the Little Marvel Stove,
reading the jokes from the almanac,
laughing and talking to hide her tears.
She thinks that her equinoctial ears
and the rain hat beats on the roof of the house
were both foretold by the almanac,
but only known to a grandmother.
The iron kettle sings on the stove.
She cuts some bread and says to the child,
It’s time for tea now; but the child
is watching the teakettle’s small hard tears
dance like mad on the hot black stove,
the way the rain must dance on the house.
Tidying up, the old grandmother
hangs up the clever almanac
on its string. Birdlike, the...