The Issue of Loss

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Elizabeth Bishop’s poem “One Art” deals with the issue of “loss.” Describing “loss” as an art, Bishop depicts events, originating with common affairs –such as losing a key. As the poem goes on, the losses Bishop mentions surely grow in importance. As they gradually become more emotional, Bishop’s idea of loss as easily “mastered” becomes vaguely delusional. In her poem, Elizabeth Bishop focuses the simple losses in her life in attempts to conceal the true emotion of loss.

From the simplicity of losing a door key to the heartbreak of losing a home or someone dear, Bishop states and restates that loss isn’t difficult to acquire. Loss is, in fact, a commodity in life –things are lost every day. The loss of a possession is expected, as Bishop alludes [“so many things seem filled with the intent / to be lost that their loss is no disaster.”]. When a possession goes missing, that loss churns to knowing disappointment –it is acknowledged that loss was to be expected, as aforementioned.

“Lose something every day. Accept the fluster

of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master.”

The excerpt above reinstates common losses. However, everyday loss generally relates to objects of trivial matters. Items such as an earring or a sock are commonly lost a multitude of times in the lives of many. Elizabeth Bishop implies the loss of “door keys” and the time used to look for said keys in stanza two. This clearly conforms to the idea that loss is a common matter.

“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 lo...

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..., are simple, but gradually grow in terms of emotion. By centralizing inconsequential losses, and anticipating loss, Bishop attempts to cope with monumental loss- that of a lover. However, her meager tries towards overcoming said loss are mediocre and faulty. Bishops roundabout focuses on simpler losses help the reader understand the many situations of loss, and how “the art of losing’s not too hard to master” in simpler situations. Yet, when it comes to the loss of a loved one, striving to façade emotions nonchalantly is a worthless endeavor, for the loss of a loved one cannot be subdued by denial. No matter how Bishop tried to dismiss the feelings following loss, “the art of losing’s” especially hard to master.

Works Cited
The Complete Poems 1927-1979 by Elizabeth Bishop, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc. Copyright © 1979, 1983 by Alice Helen Methfessel.
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