Since her death in 1979, Elizabeth Bishop, who published only one hundred poems in her lifetime, has become one of America's best-loved poets. And yet — painfully shy and living out of public view in Key West and Brazil, among other hideaways — she has never been seen so fully as a woman and an artist. Megan Marshall makes incisive and moving use of a newly discovered cache of Bishop's letters — to her psychiatrist and to three of her lovers — to reveal a much darker childhood than has been known, a secret affair, and the last chapter of her passionate romance with the Brazilian modernist designer Lota de Macedo Soares.
These elements of Bishop's life, along with her friendships with poets Marianne Moore and Robert Lowell, are brought to life with novelistic intensity. And by alternating the narrative line of biography with brief passages of memoir, Marshall, who studied with Bishop in her storied 1970s poetry workshop at Harvard, offers the reader a compelling glimpse of the ways poetry and biography, subject and biographer, are entwined.