“More can be learned about how to write poetry from Elizabeth Bishop than from reading the writings of most other poets.”—Jerome Mazzaro, “Elizabeth Bishop’s Particulars” (WLT Vol. 51, Winter 1977)
Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979) was born in Massachussetts. Her father died when she was very young, and as a result of the heartbreak, her mother was committed to an institution in 1916. Bishop never reunited with her mother and was subsequently raised by her grandparents. Though she dabbled with poetry while in school, Bishop left home to attend Vassar College for music composition in 1929. After suffering a bout of stage fright, she changed her focus to English literature. Following her graduation from college, Bishop spent the rest of her life traveling, writing poetry, and teaching at various colleges around the United States.
“The body of her work is relatively small, yet one cannot read a single line either of her poetry or prose without feeling that a real poet is speaking,” said nominating author Marie-Claire Blais in her presentation of Bishop to the Neustadt jurors. “Some poets turn their struggle to rage and hate, but she has arrived at a kind of pure nostalgia that is both past and present and at the peace ‘beneath’ and ‘within’ (but not necessarily ‘with’) which I consider essential to great poetry,” (WLT Vol. 51, Winter 1977).
Bishop’s body of work includes the poetry collections North & South (Houghton Mifflin, 1946), A Cold Spring (Houghton Mifflin, 1956), and The Complete Poems (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1969). Her poems and letters to her friends appear in many recent publications.
In addition to the 1976 Neustadt Prize, Bishop was awarded the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in 1950, The Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1956, and the National Book Award for Poetry in 1970. From 1949-1950 she was honored as the Poet Laureate of the United States.
1976 Neustadt Jurors and Finalists
|Melih Cevdet Anday (Turkey)||Yannis Ritsos (Greece)|
|John Ashbery (USA)||Elizabeth Bishop (USA)|
|Agustí Bartra (Spain)||Anaïs Nin (USA)|
|H. C. ten Berge (The Netherlands)||Bert Schierbeek (The Netherlands)|
|Marie-Claire Blais (Canada)||Elizabeth Bishop (USA)|
|Paal Brekke (Norway)||Andrei Voznesensky (USSR)|
|Dennis Brutus (South Africa)||Wole Soyinka (Nigeria)|
|Mohammed Dib (Algeria)||Tawfiq al-Hakim (Egypt)|
|Zbigniew Herbert (Poland)||Czesław Miłosz (Poland)|
|Thomas Kinsella (Ireland)||Robert Lowell (USA)|
|Günter Kunert (East Germany)||Tadeusz Rózewicz (Poland)|