Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Poem of Loss

    Poetry Friday is hosted today by Myra, Fats and Iphigene at Gathering Books.





Elizabeth Bishop was a respected, but an obscure poet until after her death in 1979.  According to The Poetry Foundation “her reputation has grown to the point that many critics, like Larry Rohter in the New York Times, have referred to her as ‘one of the most important American poets’ of the twentieth century. Bishop was a perfectionist who did not write prolifically, preferring instead to spend long periods of time polishing her work. She published only 101 poems during her lifetime.”  Yet in that lifetime, she won the Pulitzer Prize for North And South, and the National Book Award for The Complete Poems.  This site also states “her reputation increased greatly in the years just prior to her death, particularly after the 1976 publication of Geography III and her winning of the Neustadt International Prize for Literature.”

Although some sites I read seemed to believe this poem by Elizabeth Bishop is about divorce or separation, when reading it, I believe the loss could be different things that happen in one’s life. Bishop appears to believe that this grief of loss takes practice, and perhaps then one might accept it.  Like all poems, it speaks to each reader personally. 

                           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.

and you can read the rest here at Poets.org, as well as find other poems by Elizabeth Bishop.



photo credit: jmtimages via photopin cc

15 comments:

  1. Hmm. I interpret it the same as you. But I took a poetry class in college and I clearly remember the rather eccentric professor telling us that we all will interpret poems differently based on our own life experiences. Love that class.

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  2. One of my favorites. I do like her work and want to read more of it. Like you, I think it addresses losses of all kinds. Kind of ironic that you posted this today, as last night I had my recurring nightmare of leaving my purse unattended and having my wallet stolen -- so I lost my driver's license, credit cards and cash. I wonder what the dream interpreters would make of it?

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    1. Sometimes I think those dreams reflect the stress of too much to manage. Who knows? I am so interested in her words that seem to say she wants us to practice. Why? One loss at a time, I say!

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  3. Linda,
    That is one of my favorite poems! I can so relate to "the hour badly spent" as I have many of those in my days.
    I've always wondered about the injunction in the last line "though it make look like (Write it!) like disaster".
    Is she reluctant to write 'disaster' and is forcing herself to write it? Is 'write it!' aimed at the reader? That line has always puzzled me.

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    1. Good question about that line. From the repetition of the word "like," I see it as a call to herself to finish the thought, to say it or admit it. But as has been pointed out here, subject to interpretation.

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    2. I thought too, at the end of the poem, that she just wanted to express that one should say it, perhaps meaning deal with it by writing it, & admitting it's a disaster. She does make us think!

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  4. Her poems are so finely crafted, and she never went over the top (as Anne Sexton, say) in the confessional mode - there was always discipline in her art. Thanks for sharing this poem, Linda!

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    1. I would wish I could find that discipline. Sometimes I write too much.

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  5. Thank you, Linda, for sharing this poem and the introduction. I didn't realize she'd only published 101 poems. And a villanelle is hard to master - yet so effectively done here.

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    1. I'm with you, Robyn, with a WOW over the 101 poems. (and thanks for reminding me about the name of the form...I had LOST that word!!!)

      This poem is just so perfect. Life is loss, the flip side of which is gain and growth, but we DO need to embrace both sides of the coin in order to fully embrace life.

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  6. I knew this poem but all the discussion is what I've enjoyed most here. Imagine: if you exercise such discipline that 101 poems is all that seem fit to publish, how many must have been lost? No wonder perhaps that she had to urge herself to "write it"--to keep writing it, although it might be lost, although there is disaster lurking.

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    1. So many do know this poem. It is fun to hear the responses from each & see the poem from a new perspective. Isn't it wonderful that this woman has touched us so?

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  7. I have long loved this poem, and now, reading your words about EB, I want to read and love the other 100. Thank you! a.

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    1. As Heidi said above, I wonder what is lost, & to examine the other 100 might show what Elizabeth Bishop wanted to show us, and nothing more. She has a quiet mystery about her.

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  8. This is one of my favorite poems. Thanks for sharing it.

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