- Category : 1911-births
- Type : GP
- Profile : 6/3 - Role Model / Martyr
- Definition : Split - Large
- Incarnation Cross : LAX Masks 1
Bishop spent many years writing a single poem, aiming for a spontaneous effect. With her "passion for accuracy" she wrote about the geographical locations she loved in her poems that only subtly reveal the themes of the alienation she felt as a woman, a lesbian, an orphan, a traveler without roots. The body of her work is small but considered brilliant. During her lifetime, she suffered from asthma, depression and alcoholism.
She had a sad childhood. Her father died before her first birthday, leaving her independently wealthy, and her mother, suffering from several nervous conditions, was committed to a mental hospital when Bishop was five. From the time she was three until she was six years old, Bishop lived in Nova Scotia with her mother’s parents and then moved to Worcester, where she lived with her father’s relatives.
Following graduation from Walnut Hill School, she attended Vassar, where she met the poet Marianne Moore, who became a mentor to the young woman. Bishop, who earned her bachelor’s in English in 1934, helped establish the Vassar College magazine, which published several of her poems, and, with the encouragement of Moore, Bishop gave up any idea about a medical career and turned to poetry.
In 1935, Moore published several of the younger woman’s poems in an anthology. After a year in New York, Bishop lived intermittently in Europe for three years, until she bought a home in Key West, Florida in 1938. Her first volume of poetry, having been rejected several times, was published in 1946. In 1947, Randall Jarrell introduced her to Robert Lowell, another poet who became a lifelong friend. .
In 1951, she became ill on a trip to South America, and she was left behind in Brazil, a country which she made home for the next 18 years. She embarked on a committed lesbian relationship with Lota de Macedo Soares, who ultimately took her own life. After her lover’s suicide, Bishop spent more time in the US, becoming Harvard University’s poet-in-residence in 1969.
Bishop began an intimate relationship with Alice Methfessel in 1971, a relationship that endured until Bishop’s death. In 1970, the Brazilian government awarded her the Order of Rio Branco, and she won the National Book Award in 1970 and the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1976. That same year, she became the first woman to win the Neustadt International Prize for literature. Bishop’s last volume of poetry was published in 1976.
She died of a cerebral aneurysm in Boston, MA on 6 October 1979.