Graduate student Katrina Dodson provides background to a poem by Elizabeth Bishop, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet who spent a substantial portion of her life in Brazil.
Elizabeth Bishop has become one of the most admired figures in 20th-century American poetry, yet the two places she felt most at home were Nova Scotia and Brazil, associations that link the poet to the Americas beyond the United States. Nova Scotia was the land of Bishop’s early childhood, while her attachment to Brazil was formed by happy accident. During a trip around South America, she was delayed in Rio de Janeiro because of an allergic reaction to a cashew fruit sampled at the home of Lota de Macedo Soares. Her host became her nurse, and by the end of Bishop’s convalescence, the two had fallen in love. Bishop spent the next two decades living off and on in Brazil, incorporating the country’s sights and culture into her poetry while also translating several Brazilian writers into English.