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Authors: Elizabeth Bishop

Elizabeth Bishop, a noted american poetElizabeth Bishop was an American poet and short-story writer. She was the Poet Laureate of the United States from 1949 to 1950, a Pulitzer Prize winner in 1956 and a National Book Award Winner for Poetry in 1970. She is considered one of the most important and distinguished American poets of the 20th century.

Elizabeth Bishop was born in 1911 in Worcester, Massachusetts. When she was very young her father died, her mother was committed to a mental asylum, and she was sent to live with her grandparents in Nova Scotia. Bishop's mother remained in an asylum until her death in 1934, and the two were never reunited. Later in childhood, Bishop's paternal family gained custody, and she was removed from the care of her grandparents and moved in with her father's wealthier family in Worcester, Massachusetts. While she was living in Worcester, she developed chronic asthma, from which she suffered for the rest of her life. Her time in Worcester is briefly chronicled in her poem "In The Waiting Room."

Bishop boarded at the Walnut Hill School in Natick, Massachusetts, where she studied music. At the school her first poems were published by her friend Frani Blough in a student magazine. Then she entered Vassar College in the fall of 1929 majoring in English where she took courses including 16th and 17th century literature graduating in 1934.  After graduating, Elizabeth Bishop lived in New York. Elizabeth Bishop received a sizable inheritance from your father, and her income allowed her to travel extensively in France, Spain, Ireland, Italy, and North Africa. Her poetry is filled with descriptions of her journeys and the sights she saw. In 1938, Elizabeth Bishop moved to Key West, where she wrote many of the poems that eventually were collected in her Pulitzer Prize-winning North and South. In 1951 she left Key West, and for fourteen years she lived in Brazil, where she and her lover, the architect Lota de Macedo Soares, became a curiosity in the town of P├ętropolis.

Elizabeth Bishop was a perfectionist who did not write prolifically, preferring instead to spend long periods of time polishing her work. She published only 101 poems during her lifetime. Her verse is marked by precise descriptions of the physical world and an air of poetic serenity, but her underlying themes include the struggle to find a sense of belonging, and the human experiences of grief and longing. Questions of Travel (1965), was Elizabeth Bishop's third collection, and contained twenty new poems and the short story "In the Village." The story was included at the urging of Robert Lowell, who had printed a lengthy autobiographical prose piece in his enormously influential collection Life Studies in 1959.  A collected edition of her poetry appeared in 1969, and won the National Book Award. In addition to winning the Pulitzer Prize, Elizabeth Bishop won the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award as well as two Guggenheim Fellowships and an Ingram Merrill Foundation grant. In 1976, Bishop became the first woman to receive the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, and remains the only American to be awarded that prize.

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Elizabeth Bishop
Author-American poet
Wrote North and South