Elizabeth Bishop was often honored for her poetry. She served as consultant in poetry (poet laureate) to the Library of Congress in 1949-1950. Among many awards and prizes, she received an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1951), the Shelley Memorial Award (1953), the Pulitzer Prize in poetry (1956), the Academy of American Poets Fellowship (1969), the National Book Award in Poetry (1970), and the National Book Critics Circle Award in poetry (1976) for Geography III. She became a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1954 and served as chancellor for the Academy of American Poets from 1966 to 1979. However, as John Ashbery said, in seconding her presentation as the winner of the Books Abroad/Neustadt International Prize for Literature in 1976, she is a “writer’s writer.” Despite her continuing presence for more than thirty years as a major American poet, Bishop never achieved great popular success. Perhaps the delicacy of much of her writing, her restrained style, and her ambiguous questioning and testing of experience made her more difficult and less approachable than poets with showier technique or more explicit philosophies.
Bishop’s place in American poetry, in the company of such poets as Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, and Richard Wilbur, is among the celebrators and commemorators of the things of this world, in her steady conviction that by bringing the light of poetic intelligence, the mind’s eye, on those things, she would enrich her readers’ understanding of them and of themselves.