Elizabeth Bishop

Elizabeth Bishop

Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979) is a celebrated American poet who won many accolades in her lifetime including the Pulitizer Prize and the National Book Award.

Bishop lost both parents at a very young age – her father to illnes, her mother to a psychiatric hospital – and her poetry is marked by her struggle to come to terms with death and loss; her search for a place to call home; her obsession with travel; and her ability to find beauty in the most unexpected places.

Bishop avoided ‘confessional’ poetry, instead developing a talent for microscopic detail. In her poetry, seemingly insignificant events are transformed into engaging narratives and often contain moments of insight and epiphany. Her style alternates between conversational everyday speech and zoomed-in detailed descriptions. One aspect of her poetry that is truly remarkable is her ability to re-insert herself into the psyche of a young child and to write poetry from within this perspective.

In this Study Guide, we discuss the major events in her life and then analyse the following poems:

1. The Fish
2. The Prodigal
3. Questions of Travel
4. Filling Station
5. Sestina
6. First Death in Nova Scotia

NOTE: This is a PODCAST not a word file – download onto your iPod/mp3 player. Listen whenever & wherever you want to help you get to grips with the poet.

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