Saturday, April 11, 2009

"One Art" - Elizabeth Bishop. Villanelle

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.

"The art of losing," was something that I interpreted at first as just being forgetful. She talks about losing her car keys and losing names of places and people which won't "bring disaster."

However, as the poem continues, the things she loses increase in value such as her mother's watch and even rivers and continents. She misses them, but they weren't very tragic losses and this is because she has become so used to losing things. The purpose of why she starts out with losing car keys is because she starts to numb herself to the idea of loss (something that is very hard for many people to deal with). She does not make a big deal out of losing her car keys, nor does she make a big deal out of forgetting people's name. So when the time comes that she loses "you" it doesn't affect her as much as one would probably think it should. This is where the art of losing becomes something that she has "mastered" because it takes a while to numb your feelings about losing something that meant a lot to you.

I believe that Bishop is saying that this is a good thing. She is telling the reader that it is not hard to master the art of losing, but it takes some practice. So when a "disaster" does strike, people will not have a hard time moving on. She wants people to be able to move on because if they dwell in the past of losing someone and trying to recapture their memories with them, they will never grow into a stronger person. She wants the reader to be strong about losing something like she is.

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