Biography of Elizabeth Bishop

Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979) was born in Worcester, Massachusetts. Her father died before she was a year old; four years later, when her mother suffered a mental breakdown, Bishop was taken to live with her grandmother in Nova Scotia. Although her mother lived until 1934, Bishop saw her for the last time in 1916, a visit recalled in one of her rare autobiographical stories, "In the Village."

Bishop planned to enter Cornell Medical School after graduating from Vassar, but was persuaded by poet Marianne Moore to become a writer. For the next fifteen years, she was a virtual nomad, traveling in Canada, Europe, and North and South America. In 1951, she finally settled in Rio de Janeiro, where she lived for almost twenty years. During the final decade of her life, Bishop continued to travel, but she resumed living in the United States and taught frequently at Harvard.

She was an austere writer, publishing only four slim volumes of poetry: North and South (1946); A Cold Spring (1955), which won the Pulitzer Prize; Questions of Travel (1965); and Geography III (1976), which won the National Book Critics' Circle Award. The Complete Poems, 1927-1979 (1984) was published after her death, as was a collection of her prose. Despite her modest output, she has earned an enduring place of respect among twentieth-century poets.

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