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“One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop

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    Feeling of lost is known to everybody. A human being will never be prepared for it, and no matter what we lose it brings anger and sadness. The time is the best doctor to heal our soul after loosing someone or something very important to us. I have close friend who lost his mother, when he was 16. I can`t even imagine how does it feel. One moment, one misgiving is enough to change your life forever. Someone you loved is gone and your hearts ache in sadness forever, and secret tears will flow. Actually with what words can you express your compassion in such a moments?

    In the master stuck “One Art” Elizabeth Bishop constructs a poem that reveals a struggle with mastering the issue of loss. Falling under the category of lyric suggests that this poem requires an effort to grasp the full meaning behind the text. Bishop carefully designed the form of the poem. Not only does it flow and sound beautiful, but also it is thoroughly organized. With the first five stanzas containing three lines each, readers are able to jump from one thought to the next easily due the organization and the A-B-A rhyme scheme.

    The poem`s auditory quality is harmonious and pleasant. This effect is produced by words containing long vowels and soft consonants such as “master” and “fluster” and “vaster”. Also a rhythmic word such as “ intent” and “spent” creates the pleasing sound of the poem. Each line contains either ten or eleven syllables in which every other syllable is stressed. The repetition of the phrase “ The art of losing isn`t hard to master. ” (Line 6, 12, 18) serve as the backbone of the poem. Its meaning shifts as the poem progress.

    Rather than being totally straightforward, it grows more and more ironic as we see that “the art of losing” is indeed quite hard to master. Bishop validates her thought process throughout the poem, and convinces herself that losing becomes easier with the time and practice. As a poem progress to the loss of loved one, Bishop used more brakes in her writing. In the fifth stanza for example, the flow is broken up eight times thru the use if period and comas. (I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster, / some realms I owned, two rivers, and continent. I miss them, but it wasn`t a disaster. ) It changes the overall structure of the poem and also an emotional transformation within the speaker. Bishop crescendos each stanza to create a firm foundation for the dramatic conclusion, and incorporates expressive words throughout the poem to illuminate the last stanza`s attitude shift from that of carelessness to seriousness. By the end it is obvious that she is losing control and she forced herself to accept or at least admit her grief to herself.

    ON the beginning of the poem the author is mainly trying to convince the reader that the art of losing can be learned, trained and that we can be prepared for the pain that is coming together with loosing something, someone. She wants to tell us that with the experience we made in life and the flow of the time and us getting used to the situation of loosing, we can be more prepared in the future. For example in the first stanza with the words “so many things seem filled with the intent/ to be lost that their loss is no disaster” (line 2,3), she is convinced that it is normal to lose.

    That we are loosing something everyday and we wish to lose some things or some people because we are tired of it. “Lose something every day. Accept the fluster/ of lost door keys, the hours badly spent. “ (Line 4,5) When we lose something that can be replaced or doesn’t matter that much we don’t fee so bad about it. Sometimes we don’t even realize that we loosing for example time badly spend. We losing a lot of time on doing something that is not necessarily needed or important and it is normal. The speaker in the beginning is impersonal and does not mention any valuable item, which was lost.

    Then in the third stanza the poet starts to talk about the process of practicing. “ Then practice losing farther, losing faster:” (line 7) – since it is normal to lose, we get practice on it and we don`t even feel the lose anymore. With the time we loosing more and as more. The time flow and the lost object, plans etc. become not so important anymore. –“Places, and names, and where it was you meant /to travel. ” (Line 8) All the statements that Bishop is making so far are sarcastic and ironic as we process with the text.

    Bishop builds up the emotions as we move along the poem. The simply shift form the third stanza to the forth allow for a more personal touch to the poem with the addition of the world “I”. “I lost my mothers watch” (line 10)– I believe that author refers to her childhood and how the watch was very important to her. After her father death, her mother got mentally ill and the girl never met her mother. So the symbol of her mothers watch was the only thing she could band with someone so important, yet we notice that since it was long time ago it’s not such a disaster.

    Bishop is getting into the territory of emotionally significant objects. Bishop leads the reader through her life-memorizing situation that bring her feeling of los through her life. “And look! My last, or/ next-to-last, of three loved houses went” (line 10,11) Author is trying to show the reader that even if you think that it was the last one house to love, fate can be very surprising and make us move more times. Even if you loved your last house, you will get used to the new place and you will fall in love with it and soon enough it wont be a disaster. I lost two cities, lovely ones” (line 13), Bishop is giving a coma and the accents that the cities she was living in were really beautiful and she “miss them” (line 15). She also refers to her moving around the world here. And moments of moving to the different counties are hard and bring feeling of miss and lost and scare, but it is still not a disaster. Finally in her last stanza Bishop is opening and is showing to a reader her struggle with los that she is experiencing right now. We can see that she is trying to convince herself that it’s not so bad to lose.

    Although her emotions, seems to build up in this stanza, author stays thru to the poetic form of the villanelle in the rhyme scheme and repetition of the refrain. By implementing “you”(line 16), Bishop transformed the poem into a personal piece by braking away form the pattern of inanimate objects and incorporating an actual being. The parenthesis around “(the joking voice, a gesture/ I love)” (line16) creates a caesura for the reader, allowing a pause before confronting the uncertainty of the last lines.

    By placing the proclamation “I love” (line 17) on a separate line, Bishop emphasizing the words, allowing them to stand separate with the feeling they evoke. The refrain in this stanza include the word “ too” “ the art of losing`s not too hard to master” (line 18) which seems to show that the author is not so sure that loss “ isn’t hard to master” and in the closing line repetition of “likes”, “though it may look like (Write it! ) Like a disaster. ” postpones the final word that the author is hesitant to admit “disaster”.

    Clearly the refrain weakens in this final stanza. The statement in the parenthesis (Write it) is showing that the energy needed to allow the word “disaster” to be recognized. It shows us that the poet has difficulty admitting the pain of her loss, even to herself. By putting it in writing Bishop is accepting the fact that she have not yet mastered the art of loss. And she wants to delay the most devastating disaster: the loss of person still deeply loved. This poem is and extraordinary piece of art.

    There is so much obvious heartache and emotion written within the lines that it is almost as if you can feel what she was going through when she wrote it. The art of loss is utilized as a means of depicting and describing loss. This art of loss is one that is undoubtedly “to hard to master”. (Line 18) no matter how practiced we become at the “art of losing”, we will never really be ready for losses, which will always seem “like disaster”(line19). The motif of art functions as a means of bearing with loss for the poet, because she compels herself to face her losses by writing them down.

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    “One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop. (2017, Jan 31). Retrieved from

    Frequently Asked Questions

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    What does the title one art mean?
    The "one art" of the title combines loss, coping with loss, and expressing the experience through verse.
    Who is Elizabeth Bishop's one art about?
    As she wrote “One Art,” writes Megan Marshall, Bishop stripped draft after draft of references to a pair of “blue eyes” belonging to her lover Alice Methfessel, whose rejection—along with the suicide of Bishop's previous partner, Lota de Macendo Soares—is believed to have inspired the poem.

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