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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.

Short Poem Analysis

"One Art" by Elizabeth Bishop is a poignant and introspective poem that explores the theme of loss and the impermanence of human experiences. Through its skillful use of form and repetition, the poem delves into the speaker's attempt to cope with the inevitability of losing things and people dear to her.

The poem takes the form of a villanelle, a structured poetic form with a specific rhyme scheme and repeating lines. This form contributes to the poem's sense of rhythm and control, which contrasts with the emotional turmoil underlying the speaker's words.

The repeated line "The art of losing isn't hard to master" becomes a mantra that guides the poem's exploration of various kinds of losses. The speaker describes a series of losses, ranging from small and insignificant items to more significant and emotionally impactful losses, such as places, relationships, and loved ones.

As the poem progresses, the speaker's tone shifts from a matter-of-fact declaration to one of increasing emotional intensity. The repetition of the line "I lost two cities, lovely ones" reveals the speaker's vulnerability and the emotional weight of the losses she has experienced.

The poem's final stanza, however, disrupts the pattern by expressing a deeply personal and profound loss—the loss of a loved person. Here, the speaker's emotional facade crumbles, and the repeated lines become a cry of grief: "It's evident the art of losing's not too hard to master / though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster."

"One Art" is a meditation on the inevitability of loss and the human tendency to cope with it by downplaying its impact. The poem's title and recurring refrain emphasize the speaker's belief that loss is a skill that can be mastered. However, the breaking of this pattern in the final stanza reveals the emotional toll that profound loss can have.

Elizabeth Bishop's "One Art" speaks to the universal human experience of grappling with the fragility of existence and the challenges of letting go. The poem's form, repetition, and emotional journey make it a powerful exploration of the complexities of loss and the ways we navigate through it.

One Art Poem by Elizabeth Bishop
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