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One Art -- Elizabeth Bishop

Guest poem submitted by Pavithra Krishnan:
(Poem #639) One Art
 The art of losing isn't hard to master;
 so many things seem filled with the intent
 to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

 Lose something every day.  Accept the fluster
 of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
 The art of losing isn't hard to master.

 Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
 places, and names, and where it was you meant
 to travel.  None of these will bring disaster.

 I lost my mother's watch.  And look! my last, or
 next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
 The art of losing isn't hard to master.

 I lost two cities, lovely ones.  And, vaster,
 some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
 I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

 ---Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
 I love) I shan't have lied.  It's evident
 the art of losing's not too hard to master
 though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.
-- Elizabeth Bishop
 The concept of loss has long been favoured by the poets. In their turns
they have variously bemoaned the loss of beauty, youth, fame, life -- and
love. The poetry of loss is a genre unto itself. Immediately poignant by its
implications of tragedy. Freighted with an irrevocable absence. Often
shadowed by pain, sadness.

 ... yeah, I think loss works pretty darn well in verse. And I'm also
certain Elizabeth Bishop understood all this. Perhaps better than she might
have cared to. There is a courageous pretense built into this poem that I
like. Bishop is wry, funny and flippant and very determined not to sound
weepy-eyed. The fierce repetition of the line "the art of losing's not hard
to master" makes you wonder how far and fast she's had to lose. To me Bishop
is valiantly attempting to make believe for awhile that the experience of
loss may be impersonalised into perfection by practising it as an art (take
a breather). That she succeeds in convincing neither herself nor her reader,
hurts her verse not the least.

Pavithra.

220 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

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Rick Molloy said...

Hi ,

Actually I think the art of losing is hard to master, and I find the poem
quite flipppant in it's dismissal of life and losing. As admirable as it
seems, I do not think I would so easily give up the material and spirititual
possessions that are advocated by the poem.

Do you really have an interest in this poem?

Interested in your comments,

Rick

Angel54586 said...

i don't understand the end of this poem! whom has this person lossed at the
end? is it a person or the joking voice? what does she mean by joking voice
anyway? why does it say "write it" in the middle of the sentence? I'm
confused!

T0zeebeach said...

i think she's talking to the reader at the end of the poem

Ray Rasmussen said...

I think that Bishop is saying that we grow beyond the little losses,
think that we have reached an anchored place, and then lose the one
important thing ... in this case a friend/lover? [his/her joking
voice, a gesture] ... and now she must make herself "WRITE IT" ...
because it is a disaster and the one path through it is to
write/express it.
Ray Rasmussen

anonymous said...

"villanelle", folks, "villanelle".
(Somebody has to say it.)

John Wolfe said...

Marilyn Hacker has a wise and beautiful response to this poem. This is from her
1990 collection, "Going Back to the River."

From Orient Point

The art of living isn’t hard to muster:
Enjoy the hour, not what it might portend.
When someone makes you promises, don’t trust her

unless they’re in the here and now, and just her
willing largesse free-handed to a friend.
The art of living isn’t hard to muster:

groom the old dog, her coat gets back its luster;
take brisk walks so you’re hungry at the end.
When someone makes you promises, don’t trust her

to know she can afford what they will cost her
to keep until they’re kept. Till then, pretend
the art of living isn’t hard to muster.

Cooking, eating and drinking are a cluster
of pleasures. Next time, don’t go round the bend
when someone makes you promises. Don’t trust her

past where you’d trust yourself, and don’t adjust her
words to mean more to you than she’d intend.
The art of living isn’t hard to muster.

You never had her, so you haven’t lost her
like spare house keys. Whatever she opens,
when someone makes you promises, don’t. Trust your
art; go on living: that’s not hard to muster.

Michal Goldman said...

YES!

WRTE IT! Those two little words are the big lesson, the tough task, and
the main hope. Thanks for saying it so well.
michal

Michal Goldman said...

Yes since it's the road map and the life line. Great grandchild of
Verlaine?

michal

Michal Goldman said...

Thank you for this! Though I think Bishop's poem is more beautiful. I
loved it and memorized it and for as long as I said it every now and
then it was a good companion. Some poems - this is one of them - feel
good in the mouth, and you can tell it even before you read them aloud.
michal

LLinda said...

(Write it) - Elizabeth is forcing a moment. Take a breath, sit up and face the feelings that you have buried deep. "It may look like"... disaster...be reminded "may" . After the feelings have been forced, maybe then you can accept "the art of losing"...and go on.

JesseAporta said...

The point to this poem is that the art of losing is hard to deal with but
everyone is good at it. Its universal appeal is what makes this poem so
powerful. We have all lost someone...we all get pissed when we loose the little
mundane things like keys or a wallet or eyeglasses. Bishop tells us to let go.
Simple and Pure. Just let go!

sky said...

This poem and poet share a common experience. Trying to remember where I last left off in the middle of a sentence, stop write down what I ment to say in the beginning when I was trying to remember what it was I was trying to say. Yeah, I really embrase the poet and her poem.
Sky Kaly in NM, still here.

Kate.Bills said...

I think the poem is saying: those who love always experience loss, but
this is no reason not to love - rather, to accept that in life you have to
deal with loss - and to accept this, means you can survive, and even start
living after your loss (and what better way to start the uphill struggle
than to build on the small, but well rehearsed experience of loss gained
in our daily lives)

Kate

Kate Bills
Northdoor plc
T:F:E:
W: www.northdoor.co.uk

Paul Mercken said...

In the recent film ŒIn her shoes¹ this poem is read in a nursing home by an
apparently ignorant dyslexic girl (Cameron Diaz) to a blind professor of
literature (Norman Lloyd), who elicits from her a poignant interpretation,
perhaps the best moment in the film.

Paul Mercken said...

In the recent film 'In Her Shoes' this poem is read in a nursing home by an
apparently ignorant dyslexic girl (Cameron Diaz) to a blind professor of
literature (Norman Lloyd), who elicits from her a poignant interpretation,
perhaps the best moment of the film.

Shannon Daley said...

Think of this poem and especially the "art" of losing in connection to the mastery of writing poetry. Bishop is stuggling to deal with the loss of a lover or close friend (we can assume this from the final quatraine) and she is dealing with this loss by showing her compentcty in writing poetry and especially in tackling a villanelle (a difficult and strict structure). "Write it!"- a command to herself to express her grief through the art of poetry.

so what do you all think?

Guilherme Menezes said...

In this poem, Bishop talk about a person witch live a not importnat
life. It´s a critical way of life.

Emily K Salmond said...

Have you ever lost someone you cared about? One day they were there and the next they were just out of your life? Coping with it is impossible. It could be a hard breakup or a death or just a falling out with a friend or loved one. She's not just overlooking loss and saying its easy - she's trying to hard for that if you really look closely. she can't master it - that's why she had to tell herself "write it" about it looking like disaster in the final line. That is how she feels. The loss was a disaster, she's trying to pull herself through it, but she's really quite miserable.

Katya Ivanova said...

Losing is a part of life and we should learn to deal with it. It is not a
disaster to lose your spare keys or move away from a place you love,
adopting this attitude helps us go through life - if you have a master
key, if there are many other wonderful places in the world left to explore
what is there to feel sorry for, but extending this approach to
relationships with people doesn’t work as well, as the poet tries to
convince herself (ironically)

David Williamson said...

Salmonde1, I feel is the nearest to understanding Bishop’s words.
Bishop tries to convince herself that to lose someone close can be
disregarded in the same manner as mislaying ones keys. That one can lose all
material possessions and that it doesn’t really matter.
Well it doesn’t! But to lose someone close does matter. It is a disaster, a
tragedy and fills one full or regret.
Especially if the loss is due to being careless in that lost relationship.
Her self denial of the importance of the lost relationship evaporates in the
last line, when she suddenly realises...it is a disaster.

Margaret Shank said...

I think this is one of the saddest poems I have ever read. The poet puts on a brave face, but as the poem progresses you are aghast at how much she (and by extension, we all) have lost (or will). "Write it!" is placed precisely where it should be to prove that all loss, no matter how minor, is symbolic of the terrible process of life, in which we all have to lose every single thing, even existence itself: "like disaster." Someone once wrote that to buy a pet is to buy a tragedy. Well, to live is to live a tragedy as well. "Call no man happy until he is dead."

Margaret Shank said...

P.P.S. Evidently this listserv doesn't permit emphasis. Anyway, "Write" is italicized.

Margaret Shank said...

P.P.P.S. Oh yeah, and Gerard Manley Hopkins's "Margaret, are you grieving" and certain Japanese and Chinese poems I know by heart as well. All about loss, the swift passage of time ("Time flies, you say? Ah, no! Alas, Time stays - we go"), the fragility of life, the impermanence of all things. Hmmm. But then there's "Does a dog have Buddha nature? Mu!"

Tom Spencer said...

I love the comments posted about the flippant tone of this poem. The
repetition of the line "The art of losing isn't hard to master" does
feel like a brave yet casual masquerade. Bishop's theme and tone reminds
me of the Dylan song, "Most of the Time."

Most of the time
I'm clear focused all around,
Most of the time
I can keep both feet on the ground,
I can follow the path, I can read the signs,
Stay right with it, when the road unwinds,
I can handle whatever I stumble upon,
I don't even notice she's gone,
Most of the time.

Most of the time
It's well understood,
Most of the time
I wouldn't change it if I could,
I can't make it all match up, I can hold my own,
I can deal with the situation right down to the bone,
I can survive, I can endure
And I don't even think about her
Most of the time.

Most of the time
My head is on straight,
Most of the time
I'm strong enough not to hate.
I don't build up illusion 'till it makes me sick,
I ain't afraid of confusion no matter how thick
I can smile in the face of mankind.
Don't even remember what her lips felt like on mine
Most of the time.

Most of the time
She ain't even in my mind,
I wouldn't know her if I saw her
She's that far behind.
Most of the time
I can't even be sure
If she was ever with me
Or if I was with her.

Most of the time
I'm halfway content,
Most of the time
I know exactly where I went,
I don't cheat on myself, I don't run and hide,
Hide from the feelings, that are buried inside,
I don't compromise and I don't pretend,
I don't even care if I ever see her again
Most of the time.

Thanks for this site! Gardensoul aka Tom Spencer

Janet Levatin said...

Thanks for all the great comments. I can't tell when the most recent
post was, but mine is put her in February, 2006. I'm doing a study on
loss, having experienced a couple of losses of people recently. Reading
the posts is very helpful. Thanks for the comparison to the Dylan song.
I find it particularly art.

Lisa.Galoci said...

Have you noticed the obvious? She's talking about the art of losing, not
the art of winning. Why doesn't she want to win?

Lisa Galoci

Oyuijf said...

THe Art of Losing is not a prescription for life; it is a poem. As such, it
is completely successful.

Chriszen said...

what ms. bishop is saying is that small things are not that big of a loss,
when compared to losing someone. she in the masterful poem is trying to
convince herself that losing a dear one is no difference than losing say; car keys.
suffice it to say, though she tries to console herself with that thought, it
obviously (as seen in the last stanza) doesn't work.
ron sterzinger
minnesota

Wayne C.Massick said...

If any of you have a dvd go to our local video place and rent the movie
" In her shoes" In the middle of this film is a good description of
this poem. Please watch it.

New guy in Lille said...

Hi!
I just read all the comment on Bishop's wonderful "One Art". I was
especially amazed to find Hacker's take on the poem, all the more so that it
happens that just this Sunday, I also wrote a Villanelle in Homage to "One
Art". Here it is if anyone is interested.

A Humble Homage to E.B., with thanks to Patrick

The villanelle's so hard an art to master.
I tried to win his heart through sonnets yet
my poor attempts did clearly spell disaster.

"One Art" had thrilled his soul so, aiming vaster,
I tracked her steps. Oh how could I forget?
the game of love's so hard an art to master:

faced with disdain, it's no use running faster.
A lover less naïve could safely bet
my poor attempts were sure to spell disaster.

Why thus gesticulate if but to bluster
a fully-flawed unwarranted duet?
Seduction is so hard an art to master.

Failing to learn the art of loss I muster
frail words around me and refuse to let
my poor attempts fall flat and spell disaster.

Where marble stood: a replica of plaster
and, as for love, I've but an empty net.
The villanelle's so hard an art to master:
my poor attempt could only spell disaster.

P.H. Lerlim, Nov 19 2006

Emma Gorst said...

She's saying that the "art" of losing isn't "hard" to master; it's
impossible. If loss were easy, or possible, to master, then she'd write
about how losing was easy. Instead she writes about how it's "not"
difficult--repeating "not" over and over again. These repeated "nots"
signify the denial that she's affected by the loss of her lover.

The art of losing is impossible to master because it is, in fact, like
disaster. The fact that disaster makes up the last word of the poem
reinforces it. Like any good Shakespearean sonnet, the last lines give a
definitive reading. The art of losing looks like disaster because it is
disaster, but that's too hard to write and far too hard to acknowledge, so
what we have to put up with instead is a kind of surface flippancy, a
pretence that loss can be survived without any significant loss of self.

I admire Marilyn Hacker's response. But the reason that we need to treat the
art of living seriously is because it's valuable. Without the threat of
loss, we would have no need to value it. Elizabeth Bishop's poem admirably
dramatises that threat.

I love this poem and memorised it when I first learned it, ten years ago.

melanie hickerson said...

Hello,
Thank you for posting this poem! I read it years ago and then painted a
painting in 1997 called "The Art of Losing". (see attached file)
Yesterday, I sold the painting and the patron wanted to know about the
title and I could not remember author...just remembered a few lines. It
will mean alot to the new owners to know the poem too.
Thank you again.
Melanie Hickerson

Chris Bemis said...

We struggle for the ability to reflect on events without unraveling. We
stare into the endless abyss of our loss, learning just how far we can meet
it with an even gaze before we are naked in our mourning. The disaster is
when we have lost ourselves in the darkness. Yet it seems in the darkest
places, something is there to see the absence of light. Perhaps even when we
are truly gone, there is something of us that remains to see that we are
gone.

Carla Reimerink said...

Why 'write it!'? Because writing something down is a means to convince
yourself. It may look like disaster, write it down, LOOK LIKE, but it isn't,
it isn't, it just looks like disaster.

But of course, it is disaster, it is, it is, it is. The fact that she uses
the powerful (over the top?) word 'disaster' shows how enormous the loss of
a loved one can be, and how different from all the other losses mentioned
before.

Ana Olinto said...

bishop, hopkins, chinese classics... good taste!
do you like pound, eliot, sappho, tu fu?

my name is ana
cheers

Arlene Allen said...

Maybe it's my age but I read differently into this piquant (is that the word?) poem. I see it as a wry (and very touching) poem about facing personal tragedy with honesty.

To me, it's about someone who is experiencing the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. At first, you learn to lose little things and you get upset but life goes on. Then you find you are losing more important things. Slowly, you realize that you're going to keep on losing things and you can't do anything about it anyway, so you have to accept it.

Then, she continues, your memories of your past experiences are lost. And, ultimately, you experience the biggest loss of all, your "Self" that you have learned to be (the joking voice, the gestures) that you thought "belong" to you since you created them and experienced them through all the stages of life.

What she is saying is that she knows that she be experiencing this biggest loss of all.

She's not going down without a fight, even if she has to write everything down in order to remember.

Anyway, that's my interpretation.

Rowden Dayna E CPT NGVA said...

The author of this poem appears to have experienced a loss so profound that
she is forced to continuously remind herself that she can recover from the
loss. In order to lessen the pain, she compares her loss items she has lost
in the past, such as keys and watches. She later goes on to recollect, to a
greater extent, her coping with the loss of houses and even a beloved
hometown or country. The loss for the author is so deep that she
continuously reminds herself that she can master her loss and not the
opposite. As she grow maudlin and recalls the memory of her friend she lost,
you can image she is getting more and more sad. When she says the words,
"Write it," she is convincing her that this loss is not a disaster (despite
the fact that she feels that way) by almost forcing herself to write the
words, and she tells herself she can survive this loss. Imagine a woman
starting off by saying "Yeah, I've lost my keys, and I've lost a watch - no
big deal. I even lost 3 homes and may never see my home country again. I
survived." Later, as her sadness grows deeper because of her memories, she
finally tells herself, "So, if you made it through all that, you can survive
this interminable pain you feel now."

DAYNA E. ROWDEN

David Sholes said...

June 2007. The Art of Losing Isn't Hard to Master. I'm watching my marriage fall apart. It's been going on for some time and we're getting closer and closer. Last week we divided our belongings - on paper. This week we are communicating only by email - even through we are in the same house. I know all too well what my contributions to the problem have been. I know all too well what I must change in order to avoid the final fall. I am AWARE. And yet..... And Yet. Awareness isn't enough. Awareness in itself doesn't correct my course of action. Awareness in itself doesn't make me a person whom my wife wants to continue to be with. I still have to TAKE ACTION. I can be aware and still watch myself make all the same time-worn mistakes and missteps that I've been making all along. Watch myself as if watching someone else do exactly the wrong thing - and screaming at them "nooooo don't do it!".

This is the art of losing. To know that you are losing. To desire not to lose. To know what must happen in order not to lose. But to continue to lose anyway. It is an Art, and it is a Tragedy. And Ms. Bishop is correct -- It's not hard to master.

Olympia Critikou said...

Loosing, per se, may not be a disaster
When it is not your life or your soul you loose in the matter

But the art of loosing
Which you may not even have to try to master

Can be a disaster
Until you get to realize how well this art of loosing you master

Olympia

A.J. Carrillo said...

Bishops poem is wonderful. Note that this is about the loss of her
(female) lover that she had when she lived in Brazil. This is, as
someone pointed out, a villanelle, hence the repetition. And finally,
the poetry in the last few lines in extraordinary. You'll notice that
the rhythm is beautifully choked up...lots of glottal stops,
signifying that she's trying to hold back the tears and is having
trouble controlling her speech. You'll also want to know that she is
from New England, and, god bless them, women from that area tend to
refrain from showing their emotions. Doesn't it make for much deeper,
evocative poetry?

AJ

Julie1050 said...

What got from this was that she was writing to convince herself that losing
a loved one (the one with the joking voice) isn't so bad... But really you
get to the last stanza and you see that though she is trying she can't convince
herself... And she says (Write it!) to herself so she can admit that maybe
she is wrong and that her loss is harder than she would have thought.

Cara

Ngangbam Singh said...

Serendipity!

I came across this beautiful villanelle in an equally beautiful movie
called 'In Her Shoes'.

'In Her Shoes' is a movie about two sisters with nothings in common
other than their shoes size.

In the movie, Maggie (Cameron Diaz) the flighty of the sisters, reads
'One Art' to a blind old patient (a one-time english professor who
realises the girl is suffering from dyslexia and intent to help her
overcome by making her read).

I found the poetry really lovely and true then, but never thought, I
would live in each line someday.

By the opening lines the poetry may appear something
gloomy/bemoaning/giving up. (and few readers still prefer to argues)

On the contrary it is rather a very encouraging poetry which will give
one a reason to be practical and to carry on.

Bishops started with

The art of losing isn't hard to master;

so many things seem filled with the intent

to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

She is right! how hard one try and how careful one is, certain things
are bound to be lost, someday.

In her second, third and forth tercets she went on explaining small
small losses like loss of door key / badly spent time / places / names /
loved houses and a very pertinent one (mother's watch) sure you would
have done it ! in your childhood.

She repeated asserts herself "art of losing is no hard to master" tells
to prepare for and accept losses.

Losses come in various forms, from badly spent time to losing your
hometown.

Of all the most beautiful is the last quatrain,

---Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture

I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident

the art of losing's not too hard to master

though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

The use of the word like "Even", "i shan't have lied", "evident",
"writes it!" et. al. tells that this is the major loss that she has been
preparing to overcome.

---Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture

I love) ,

- must be a very close one

I shan't have lied. It's evident

the art of losing's not too hard to master

- maybe she would have had lost all hope before

(Write it!)

- now she is firm that she would live through, but she misses (???) and
still carries the pain.

The poetry is beautiful and true 'you may live through'

but no ! "The art of losing is hard to master"

Haridev Ngangbam

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Disclaimer:

Ngangbam Singh said...

Good one

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Disclaimer:

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter said...

Is this the Margaret Shank who lived in DC and belonged to WIW years
ago? If so, please let me know!

Ruth

-----
Ruth E. "I can write about anything!" (TM) Thaler-Carter* www.writerruth.com
Author/Publisher, "Get Paid to Write! Getting Started as a Freelance
Writer"

Co-owner, Communication Central (www.communication-central.com)
Newsletter Editor, national EFA, Assn. for Women in Communications-
Rochester

muttaleb said...

The art of loosing..well ryhmed , hidden yet felt music.Even though the
subject matter is may seem childish ,the content made it wisdom .
Material things are never lost but misplaced ,one may run into them at a
point .The spiritual losses are eternal ..Here one need to be an arist
to overcome the resulted empitiness .
Mottalib
KUWAIT

SAJ04 said...

One Art.
Had I read this poem thirty years ago, I would have had a much different take
on it, than I have since losing loves and places. It is beautifully written
to reflect the art of losing, but to me, they are all devastating. I feel a
connectedness to Elizabeth Bishop because of this poem. I have printed it
out to be read at my funeral......hopefully not for many many years to come.
Susan Clark
Madison, CT

abc said...

I think a lot of people who have commented on this poem saying that it sounds flippant have lost out on the poem's true meaning. Although she says the art of losing isn't so hard to master the tone of the poem if you observe is one of denial Its like she's trying to convince herself that she's okay with the loss and doesn't care about the things she's lost when in fact the very opposite of that is true. Observe the last few lines of the poem, its like she's trying extra hard to sound careless about the loss of that special someone in her life when in reality the loss has been eating her from inside.

Grasshopper said...

I came across this poem in the movie 'in her shoes', loved it.
Losing isn't hard to master, because the one fact is we have no control over it, especially when it concerns people or something as simple as a flower, they eventually fade away leaving us with nothing but pain even though we may try to deny that pain.
Philip F Tariang.

Anonymous said...

The poem is certainly not flippant.
at the end you see that she is convincing herself to write that the art of lossing is not hard to master although it may seem like a disaster. She believes it is a disaster.

"(...) It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster."

thaiscarlo said...

It's interesting the way she tries to convince herself that even the big losses of her life were not hard to master. I don't think it's only about the "joking voice" (a lover? a friend?), although this is certainly the greatest loss. It is also about losing cities and houses she has loved.
It is like she has lost the idea of a "home", and that's deep, and sad, and hurts. Still, she is right: losing whatever you lose is not hard to master compared to a broken heart.

By the way: beautiful poems you have made, I printed them all.

Margaret said...

Hi Ruth, if you ever stop by here again (well, I have) --

No, I'm not that Margaret Shank. I was born in Bethesda Naval Hospital, but I've lived almost alll my life in California.

Anonymous said...

Dear Rick,

The poem as I see it is a protective rationalization against our existence. Loosing the tangible (and in the case of spirituality - intangible) possessions we carry is but a part of life, but furthermore it is important to realize that coping with such loses is the part of our existence that is necessary. Elizabeth Bishop is doing just that in this poem. She is rationalizing and adapting to a loss. The protective part of her rationalization is taking place in the concept that her loss 'is not a disaster'. She speaks of colossal losses as if there nothing, only as a means to cope. Being depressed after all is illogical. Biologically speaking, emotions only exist as a means to ensure our existence as a species. However the concept of being depressed can be overcome by rational thought, and it is that nature that makes us the dominant species. Also keep in mind that this was Elizabeth's way of venting her issues, but again that was just her logic finding a means to overcome her emotions.

Hope you like my opinion!!!!

Kindest regards,

Mina Hanna

John Bins said...

Perhaps it is commonplace to observe that the villanelle, with its rigid structure, tight rhyme scheme and recurrent repetitious lines might be easier to accomplish in its native tongue, French. Elizabeth Bishop’s “one art” is that she has succeeded so magnificently in English.
As one might expect, when the first and third lines are to be repeated alternately in each of the other stanzas, all of the villanelles I’ve read in English tend to circularity. Ms. Bishop’s poem has movement, found nowhere else. Her content is moving from inconsequential to sublime, her mood is moving from carefree to sober and the passion or intensity from free to, well, disaster.
This movement is accompanied by, and to some extent accomplished by, her freedom with the form, inasmuch as she disregards the requirement of the form that the third line be repeated exactly and regularly throughout the poem. And as she gets wound up, so do her rhymes: I loved “my last, or” to rhyme with master and disaster and she takes some license to rhyme those two words with “gesture”. She also she takes some liberties with the rhythm. But then license is what poetry is all about.
The poem is a mirror for Elizabeth Bishop’s life: She had many losses starting with her parents at an early age and leading to many intense loves. She moved from house to house, city to city, continent to continent and from loves to loves.
Would it surprise you to learn that the Vassar Library, which has the bulk of Elizabeth Bishop's papers, has 17 drafts of this poem?

Anonymous said...

Rick: get a clue.

Anonymous said...

Not sure how some people are missing the depth of this poem. It is not flippant, you are missing the point. Read it again.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anonymous of August 30th. Rick really hasn't got a clue - the whole point is that loss happens and even though you try to recover, there are things and people we all lose that will, for all of us in one way or another, be disaster. I too have lost - a child twenty years ago, whose loss is still DISASTER!!

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really? everybody has such hi falutin' explanations for the last line. i think (Write it!) - the physical act of writing - makes it look like disaster. Because what is a truer representation of a disaster - different things to different people - than the name we have chosen to give it, the actual word. so in spelling it out - disaster, the word, will always looks like disaster. and of course, her symbolic pun is intended.

alex in Salem said...

this poem still smacks of melancholy which is the lost void of poetic hearts. When loss is truely mastered there is joy, not pain

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I encountered this poem first in sung form, actually. I recommend that song: "Art of Losing" from the album Dizzy Spells by The Ex. They're a Dutch anarchist post-punk / experimental rock group.

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In “One Art,” Bishop uses the poem to give form to her thoughts on loss. Throughout much of the poem, her voice is flippant about the ease of which things get lost, things ranging from keys to time. In the fourth stanza, however, as she notes that she lost her mother's watch and a loved house, she sounds less willing to accept the loss. In the fifth, she says that losing two cities and an entire continent still was not a disaster, although such losses sound enormous. The last stanza is often taken to refer to the suicide of Bishop's lover, the “you” the poem says she has lost. However, when the poem says that this shows that the art of losing is “not too hard to master,” her understatement suggests the opposite, as the poem concludes that the loss “may look like (Write it!) like disaster.” The enthusiastic “Write it!” shows one way to cope with disastrous losses; through art.
When I first looked at the title of the poem, I figured it be strongly referred to art and art only. On the contrast, it was sorrowful and meaningful. The main meaning is loss, although multiple subjects were referred back to it. I'd like to thing the author created art with this poem itself. By intaking each stanza, the reader could create a vivid image in their mind. As for an artist, like myself, I could paint so many scenes from this one poem. In addition to that statement, this also means there are multiple ways to interpret this poem. Bishop approaches this subject with composure and eloquence; it certainly doesn't lean toward the positive side, but neither does it lean to pure negativity. "One Art" makes the factor of loss sound more acceptable, pointing out it's naturalness.

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I don't think she is talking about her lover. Her girlfriend was Lota, who commited sucied in 1967.
She had a best friend called Marianne Moore which died in 1977. I think the poem is about her (she is talking about missing the joking voice she loved, i think that referes to a verry strong friendship).
Or maybe it's about both.
She was in a depression during this time and she thought that nobody loved her anymore cause she had lost the last person on earth who loved her

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the art of loosing is not hard to master it is difficult to let go yet once death arrives there is nothing left but resignation.

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Anonymous said...

a lot of you guys are dumbasses. Im in high school and I understand that Bishop is writing this as a way to make herself deal with the loss of her lover (the joking voice... belongs to a person) Shes not saying "oh man losing stuffs so easy!" shes saying that we all lose things all the time whether or not we try and shes trying to comfort herself by saying that its not the end of the world. By doing this form of poem she is forcing herself to face the situation as it is at the end. when she says "write it" shes pushing herself to complete the poem and accept her loss. (durrr)

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Rick... ur an effing moron... angel who commented after... all i have to say is "wait whaaaattt?! im a dumbass who doesnt understand anything because i think its cool to be dumb when really everyone wants to strangle meee! haha waaaahhhh!"<--- thats you. go away. if you dont understand poetry either take an english class and dont sleep with the teacher to pass or just stop. just. just stop. go away. give up. dont even bother reading poetry anymore. just. just stop.

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Write it at the end is a command to the reader to substitute a word for disaster, i.e., what it feels like to you the reader to lose something.

The poem is about how inescapable loss is in life. If you think about it, one loses virtually everything -- each place, each stage of life, each relationship, life itself. Loss is inescapable. The poem is suggesting by the description that losing is an "art" that one has a choice how to react to the loss. Needless to say in the short run there is pain (disaster), but in the long run? Perhaps a different choice can be made relative to the loss. Perhaps indifference for trivial losses, or even gratitude for more serious ones.

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