Elizabeth Bishop


Worcester, Massachusetts


Elizabeth Bishop was born in Worcester, Massachusetts on February 8, 1911. Her dad died when she was only eight months old, and her mom became mentally ill and was institutionalized when Elizabeth was just five years old. After this, she went to live with her grandparents for part of her childhood until her fathers family got full custody over her. When she was living with them, she missed her grandparents and developed chronic asthma, which she had for the rest of her life. For high school, she boarded at Walnut High School where she studied music, then she went to Vassar College. When she was at college she gave up music and took English classes instead. She decided she wanted to write poems.

Elizabeth was greatly inspired to write poems by the poet Marianne Moore. Some of Elizabeth's first poems were published by a friend when she attended Walnut High School. She wrote poems sparingly, not having to worry about money because of here father's money that he left her, and she spent lots of her time traveling. She traveled to places that she wrote about in her poems. Although she didn't write much, she still was a very good poetry writer.

"A Summer's Dream"

A Summer’s Dream

To the sagging wharf
few ships could come.
The population numbered
two giants, an idiot, a dwarf,

a gentle storekeeper
asleep behind his counter,
and our kind landlady—
the dwarf was her dressmaker.

The idiot could be beguiled
by picking blackberries,
but then threw them away.
The shrunken seamstress smiled.

By the sea, lying
blue as a mackerel,
our boarding house was streaked
as though it had been crying.

Extraordinary geraniums
crowded the front windows,
the floors glittered with
assorted linoleums.

Every night we listened
for a horned owl.
In the horned lamp flame,
the wallpaper glistened.

The giant with the stammer
was the landlady’s son,
grumbling on the stairs
over an old grammar.

He was morose,
but she was cheerful.
The bedroom was cold,
the feather bed close.

We were awakened in the dark by
the somnambulist brook
nearing the sea,
still dreaming audibly.