Partner Elizabeth Bishop
60 Brattle St, Cambridge, MA 02138
437 Lewis Wharf, Boston, MA 02110
2780 14th Ave, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923
Alice Methfessel (died June 28, 2009) was Elizabeth Bishop's muse. Always reticent about her personal life, Elizabeth Bishop chose not to publish in her lifetime a poem she wrote about Alice Methfessel, a much younger woman Bishop met when she arrived in 1970 to teach at Harvard College.
The literary executor of Bishop’s estate, Methfessel moved to California more than 20 years ago and died in her home in Carmel June 28, 2009, of complications of lung ailments. She was 66.
Exacting and precise, Bishop could spend years revising and published only about 80 poems while alive. Unlike her good friend Robert Lowell, whose poetry sometimes burned with confessional fervor, Bishop generally eschewed the personal. But her work changed some during the years she spent with Methfessel. Bishop dedicated her last book, “Geography III,’’ to Methfessel. The book was published in 1976 and went on to win the National Book Critics Circle award.
Born in New York City, Methfessel was a descendant of John Roebling, the engineer who designed the Brooklyn Bridge. She grew up in Summit, N.J., and graduated from Queens University in Charlotte, N.C., with a degree in English.
Methfessel was the administrative assistant at Harvard’s Kirkland House when Bishop arrived to teach. When Bishop died in 1979, she left her Boston apartment on Lewis Wharf to Methfessel.
Several years later, Methfessel met Angela Leap when the two were waiting at an airport to travel to a computer camp both were attending. They became friends and traveling companions and moved west together. They lived in San Francisco before moving to Carmel, where Methfessel stayed in a house and Leap in a guest cottage on the same property.
Methfessel was a skier and kayaker, and her ashes, encased in a basket weighted with rocks, were slipped into the Pacific not far from Carmel.