Friday, April 18, 2014

17 of 30: "One Art" by Elizabeth Bishop

Elizabeth Bishop and I are birthday buddies, each of us born on the eighth of Februaries seventy-eight years apart, though we missed witnessing each other's live selves by a decade, roughly.

This well-known villanelle was a poem I taught to my Community High School students in 2011, one hundred years after Bishop's birth. It's more than one of my favorite poems, more than a stellar villanelle. It's influential on a grand scale, spectacularly whole.

It's "One Art" by Elizabeth Bishop:
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.
17 of 30. Happy National Poetry Month!