Both poets experienced trying childhoods that left scars: Lowell was hospitalized many times for his manic depression (bipolar disorder) and Bishop, tossed from grandparent to grandparent to aunt, dealt with asthma and depression and battled alcoholism for much of her life. Bishop was exceedingly shy; Lowell was outgoing, more famous, and had a huge circle of connections which he readily put at Bishop's disposal. Both thought of letter writing as an art. There are over 400 letters between them in the book, Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell.
After Lowell's death in 1977 Elizabeth Bishop wrote her poem, "North Haven, In Memoriam: Robert Lowell"
The last two stanzas are:
|Robert Lowell & Elizabeth Bishop|
Years ago, you told me it was here
(in 1932?) you first "discovered girls"
and learned to sail, and learned to kiss.
You had "such fun," you said, that classic summer.
("Fun"--it always seemed to leave you at a loss...)
You left North Haven, anchored in its rock,
afloat in mystic blue...And now--you've left
for good. You can't derange, or re-arrange,
your poems again. (But the Sparrows can their song.)
The words won't change again. Sad friend, you cannot change.