Born in 1911 in Worcester, Massachusetts Elizabeth Bishop was the only child of William T. Bishop and Gertrude May Bishop. At about 18 months old her father passed away from kidney disease on October 13, 1911. Bishop's mother was permanently institutionalized in 1916 in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia and died there in May 1934. Her maternal grandparents, who lived in Nova Scotia, then took her in. "In the Village" and "First Death in Nova Scotia" express some of her experiences there. Then, on May 1918 her aunt Maud Bulmer Shepherdson as she states “saved her life” rescuing her from her grandparents’ grasps.
Elizabeth’s poor health affected her schooling before the age of fourteen. She began school in September 1916 Grade Primary at the Great Village school and Walnut Hill School (in Boston) for her high-school years. In 1933, Con Spirito alongside Mary McCarthy and and the sisters Eunice and Eleanor Clark she co-founded a rebel literary magazine at Vassar, by the name of Con Spirito. In 1934, she received her bachelor's degree from Vassar College and majored in English Literature.
She didn’t settle down for long and did not need to due to the inheritance from her deceased father. From 1935 to 1937 she traveled to France, Spain, North Africa, Ireland, and Italy finally staying in Key West, Florida, for approximately four years. Her poetry describes her travels some of which are in her 1st book North and South, published in 1946. She also lived for 15 years in Brazil with her lover Lota de Macedo Soares a female architect. The relationship ended due to volatile and tempestuous behaviors stemming from depression, bursts of anger, and alcoholism. Not until 1971 did Bishop begin a relationship with Alice Methfessel whom she was with until death. Bishop was not very open about details of her romantic or intimate (like her struggled with alcoholism and depression) life because she wanted to be judged on her writing based on her works and unique style not her gender or sexual orientation.
She described her poetry as such: "I have written, so far, what I feel is a rather 'precious' kind of poetry, although I am very much opposed to the precious. One wishes things were different, that one could begin all over again."
She wrote slowly wrote and published her Collected Poems that’s what makes her work beyond astonishing. She has been considered by John Ashbery as a "poet's poet," but with the her last book, Geography III is said to have really established her in the world of literature. She received the 1956 Pulitzer Prize for her collection,won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1970. She earned two Guggenheim Fellowships and an Ingram Merrill Foundation grant. One cannot forget her making history by became the first woman to receive the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, and is still the only American to be awarded that prize.
She taught at University of Washington briefly before teaching at Harvard University. Elizabeth Bishop was...