Friday, February 06, 2009

One Art by Elizabeth Bishop

Bishop's famous poem begins with a playful tone, then builds to a serious and powerful ending. You might recognize the form (the villanelle) from Dylan Thomas's "Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night."


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 was born in 1911 in Worcester, Massachusetts, but grew up with her grandparents in Nova Scotia. She is considered to have been one of the great American poets of the 20th Century, and is best known for her remarkable book Geography III. She died in 1979.

13 Comments:

Blogger James Watkins said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this. A poignant wordsmith is she.

8:48 PM  
Blogger Princess Haiku said...

This is such a timely post as people are learning how to learn with losses these days. We all need to remember to go deeper into spirit to sustain us. I lost a valuable given to me by a deceased relative and mourned until I realized that it was about the memory of loving that person. It's our memories that are most precious.

2:39 AM  
Anonymous Beth Partin said...

This poem appears in In Your Shoes. It's used to show that Cameron Diaz's character is smart.

12:20 PM  
Anonymous Frustrated Poet said...

Great poem. Excellent choice. I love the development from the mundane to the serious.

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Anonymous electric bicycle said...

I like it !

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

The last two stanzas are a little difficult for me to understand. Also, it is interesting how the first two stanzas are stated like advice and the last few concentrate on her own experiences--much like how somebody who just had a bad experience might be saying "oh don't trust that, do lock your doors..etc--because, gurl, let me tell you what happened to me...

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