Sunday, December 28, 2008

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

All of the commentaries that I have read about this poem have been insipid, so I guess that I am just going to have to write one of my own.
Undoubtedly, Bishop is being satirical in this poem when she says that "The art of losing isn't hard to master" since truely it is difficult to lose opportunities, place, people, and things. And maybe in being satirical, she is suggesting the need for humor in coping or dealing with painful losses.
However, in the line "so many things seem filled with the intent to be lost" she is possibly suggesting the invetability of loss as a part of the life process. As people grown and change, they lose thier connections to places, people, and possessions.
And maybe she is also suggesting when she says that "losing isn't a disaster", that life certainly does go on, even after the most painful and life-altering losses.
In her book, "The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing", Melissa Bank uses this poem to explain a thematic element of her book; the idea that a persons' character is developed through experiences of loss.
Perhaps Bishop is suggesting this as well; and that in the development of "the art of losing" a person chooses how they react to thier losses, and in this, they will shape an outcome that "isn't a disaster".

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