Elizabeth Bishop was born in 1911 in Massachusetts. At a very young age, she was sent to live with her grandparents in Nova Scotia, after her father died and her mother was institutionalized. She was educated at Vassar College and then spent much of her life traveling and living abroad, including Europe, South America, and North Africa. Her descriptions and memories of these voyages and encounters can be found throughout her poetry.
Bishop's work was deeply influenced by her friend and mentor, the poet Marianne Moore. Unlike her other close friend Robert Lowell, and contemporaries such as Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton, Bishop avoided explicit accounts of her personal life, and focused her precise and carefully crafted lines on subtle impressions of the physical world. Although she was a critically acclaimed poet throughout her career, the publication of her last book, Geography III, signaled Bishop’s widespread recognition among the general public.
Geography III includes "In the Waiting Room," "The Moose," and her famous and often anthologized villanelle, "One Art," which begins: "The art of losing isn't hard to master;/ so many things seem filled with the intent/to be lost that their loss is no disaster." With its carefully considered and perfectly rendered images, Bishop's descriptive powers in Geography III are unrivaled.