“One Art” is a poem by Elizabeth Bishop that reflects on the nature of art and life. The speaker in the poem contemplates the losses she has experienced throughout her life, and how each one has taught her something about the meaning of life. Although the speaker mourns her losses, she also recognizes that they have helped her to appreciate the art of living.
The speaker begins by acknowledging that loss is a part of life, and that everyone experiences it at some point. She reflects on how each loss is like a piece of art, in that it can be beautiful or tragic, but ultimately it is something to be appreciated. The speaker goes on to say that the art of living is not about avoiding loss, but about learning from it. Each loss is an opportunity to grow and to become more aware of the preciousness of life.
A poem isn’t just a collection of words and phrases. The majority of poems have underlying themes and figurative language to assist the reader in better comprehending and analyzing the work. Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art” has the theme that no matter how much someone may get used to losing something, the loss of friendship and love is particularly difficult to face.
The poem also suggests that art is a good way to deal with these losses. Bishop begins the poem by stating that “the art of losing isn’t hard to master” (1). She goes on to list various things one might lose, such as keys and doorstops, and says that “I lost my mother’s watch” and “I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster” (2-3). These examples show that it is possible to get used to losing things.
However, the speaker says that “the art of losing isn’t hard to master,” implying that there is an art to it, and this suggests that it is not easy to master (1).
The poem takes a turn in the fourth stanza, when the speaker says that she “lost two cities, lovely ones” (4). The loss of these cities is significant because it is not something that can be replaced.
The final stanza is key to understanding the poem. In this stanza, the speaker says that she has “lost friends, some by death…but each time / I have mastered the art of losing” (5-7). The speaker has lost many things, but the loss of friends is different. The speaker says that she has “mastered the art of losing,” but this does not seem to be true because she says that each time she loses something, it is “a disaster” (7).
The poem ends with the speaker saying that “the art of losing isn’t hard to master,” but this time it seems like a statement of fact rather than a suggestion (8). The speaker has learned that the only way to deal with loss is to accept it and move on.
Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art” is a poem about loss and how to deal with it. The speaker suggests that the best way to deal with loss is to accept it and move on. The poem also suggests that art can be a good way to deal with loss.
Metaphors and other literary devices are used to enhance themes in poems by way of symbolism, irony, and repetition. Bishop employs symbolism to offer a deeper, intellectual meaning to her topic beyond its literal meaning. The phrase “art” has two distinct meanings for Bishop. To describe loss as a kind of practice or sport, she invented the phrase “the art of losing.”
In the first stanza, enjambment is used to keep the poem flowing which also could be seen as a metaphor for life. Life keeps moving forward even when bad things happen and we must keep going. The first quatrain introduces the speaker’s acceptance of loss as a part of life. In the second quatrain, the speaker begins to list off some of the things she has lost, but she does so in a nonchalant tone.
She downplays the significance of these items by saying that they are “just” material possessions. However, in the third quatrain, the speaker starts to lose more important things such as “houses…cities…rivers…” (Bishop 3). The tone of the poem changes here as the speaker becomes more emotional. The fourth quatrain is where the speaker finally comes to terms with her losses. She realizes that she can’t keep living in the past and that she needs to move on.
The final stanza ties everything together and brings the reader back to the beginning. The poem ends with the same words that it started with, “One Art” (Bishop 8). This could be seen as a symbol for how loss is a never-ending cycle. No matter how many times we lose something, we will always have to face loss again.Elizabeth Bishop was an American poet and short story writer. She was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, on February 8, 1911.
Bishop’s father died when she was eight months old, and her mother was institutionalized shortly thereafter. As a result, Bishop was raised by her paternal grandparents in Nova Scotia. Bishop began writing poetry at a young age, and she published her first poem when she was just sixteen years old. In 1934, she enrolled at Vassar College on a scholarship. Bishop graduated from Vassar in 1938, and she went on to earn her master’s degree from Columbia University in 1941.
Bishop’s first collection of poems, North & South, was published in 1946. The book was well-received by critics, and it earned Bishop the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1956. Bishop’s other collections of poetry include A Cold Spring (1955), Questions of Travel (1965), and Geography III (1976).
In addition to her poetry, Bishop also wrote a number of short stories. Her story “In the Village” was included in The Best American Short Stories of 1951. Bishop was also a respected translator, and she translated the work of Brazilian poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade
Bishop was awarded the National Book Award for Poetry in 1970, and she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1974. She served as a consultant to the Library of Congress from 1949 to 1950, and she was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Elizabeth Bishop died on October 6, 1979, in Boston, Massachusetts.