Critical appreciation ‘One art’ Elizabeth Bishop’s six-stanza Belleville ‘one art’ is a misleading poem dealing with the struggle of mastering the issue of loss and how to interpret it. Through the use of a rather casual tone and understatement, as well as crescendo stanzas, Bishop succeeds to mislead the reader and bring the dramatic last stanza as an unexpected outcome, quite in contrast with the rest of the poem.
My analysis will try to show how through the use of language, tone and poetic devices, Bishops achieves to engage the reader into a complex reflection about the importance of putting things in respective and how she manages to convey a message.
The first stanza of the poem starts with a claim stating, “The art of losing isn’t hard to master”. By saying so, the speaker suggests that the action of losing, which is qualified as a skill, an “art” is rather insignificant and “no disaster”. The tone, rather casual and ironic is quite misleading for it contrasts with the serious subject of the poem.
Going on, the speaker straightly urges the reader to “lose something everyday and “accept the fluster”. Here, the use of the imperative form which gives the impression that the speaker is giving instructions is disturbing and appeals to make us wonder why the author advices such a thing. Because the poetic voice takes on didactic characteristics, we get the impression that the poem is based on the author’s own personal experience with loss. From there, we have a progressive gradation in the things that are lost.
We start from insignificant objects such as “door keys”, and quickly move on to far more serious aspects such as time with “the hour badly spent”. However, Bishop seems to make no difference between losing material things such as eyes and time, not recoverable. By directly connecting the two she seems not to discern any hierarchy and suggests that the losses themselves are not what matters the most at the end. The stanza ends with the repetition of the very first line “The art of losing isn’t hard to master”. This repetition gives us the impression that she is trying to convince herself of such.
Stanza three goes on with the same idea for it further directs the reader to “practice losing farther, losing faster: places and names and where it was you meant to travel”. The homophony between “farther” and faster” puts the verse in relief. This stanza continues the speaker’s lesson of the art of losing and suggests that it becomes easier with a bit of time and practice, that losing is all about habit. This time, we are encouraged to lose places and names and the speaker once again ironically emphasizes the unimportance of the losses.
However, we notice that, as the poem progresses it becomes far more personal. Indeed, she started with mere objects, recoverable losses, to bring on names. The tone becomes more solemn, maybe to bring on the fourth stanza. The last verse “none of this will bring disaster” makes us curious about what will follow. We have an anaphora on the expression “l lost” in the following two stanzas. The presence of Critical appreciation One art By audio this first persona “l” participates to make the poem more personal for we know that this time Bishop isn’t talking about losses in general but of her own experience.
In stanza four, we are taken back to material losses with a “watch”; however, we understand it has a sentimental value with the possession mark on “My mother’s watch”. This allusion to her probably death mother reflects an acutely felt emotion of Bishop’s. The watch appears as a metonymy of her beloved lost mother, as the only remaining memories of her. We understand that this apparently indifferent tone we had at the beginning of the poem reflects in fact internal emotions related to great losses. From then we have a hyperbolic gradation in the losses.
She starts by losing “two cities,” “some realms,” “two rivers” to end up by losing a whole “continent”. The last line is interested to study. Indeed for the first time, we have the impression that ere losses have actually affected her for she says “l miss them”. However she still maintains that “it wasn’t a disaster”. The reader wonders whether it is ironic or if it is done on purpose to enhance something even bigger coming. Finally, Bishop brings on the last stanza as a totally unexpected outcome. We understand with the first line “even losing you (the Joking voice, a gesture I love)” she met painful loss, the loss someone she loved.
The word “even” brings a tone of relative acceptance. She finally admits that it “may look like a disaster”. We can notice the run on line on “l love” which makes it even more apparent. Yet she still regards losing as an “art” one should “master. ” However when she affirmed that losing keys, houses, watch etc. “isn’t hard to master”, here she makes a slight but significant difference by saying it isn’t “too hard to master”. By changing the refrain she indicates a change in her opinion, she clearly admits that losing love is far more difficult to master.
She tries to make us reader understand that losses always seem worse than they actually are. She even order the reader to “Write it! Meaning to remember it, as something important to always bear in mind. In “one art” Bishop stays true to the poetic form of the Belleville in her rhyme scheme, repetition of the refrain, and ending of lines with words rhyming. Through this regular poetic structure she manages to turn her internal emotions into art to convey a message. By starting with small and rather insignificant losses like objects, she quickly escalates to significant losses. However she still maintains that those are not disasters.
The losses grow larger as the poem progresses until the last stanza which moms as an outcome with the loss of a beloved person. If it appears to us reader as the paroxysm of losses, the speaker is not yet ready to admit that it is a disaster although it may look like such. Bishop here tries to convey a serious message about how people should put things into perspective and not make a big deal about things that don’t worth it. These crescendo stanzas highlight the importance of life that goes on even when we face difficulties. She ends up by saying that losing is hard but always surmountable no matter what we lose.
Cite this Critical appreciation One art
Critical appreciation One art. (2017, Jul 19). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/critical-appreciation-one-art-5494/