Elizabeth Bishop

(8 February 1911 – 6 October 1979 / Worcester, Massachusetts)

One Art - Poem by Elizabeth Bishop

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.

Form: Villanelle

Comments about One Art by Elizabeth Bishop

  • Gold Star - 45,481 Points Gangadharan Nair Pulingat (11/17/2015 2:27:00 AM)

    Humans losses something in the long journey of life. A beautiful poem this experienced. (Report) Reply

    0 person liked.
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  • Silver Star - 3,430 Points Sofia Kioroglou (9/21/2015 4:49:00 AM)

    Sublime! A wonderful write that gives ample food for thought! The art of losing is not hard to master! Excellent! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 0 Points Anon Amys (9/9/2015 7:47:00 PM)

    Love it! Who can even think of something like this? I really enjoyed reading it and hope to see some more great poems (Report) Reply

  • Veteran Poet - 1,536 Points Briony Nicholls (9/1/2015 8:41:00 AM)

    Who can argue with Bishop? Not anyone who has lived long enough to know that constantly losing is a constant. I like the first three lines most of all because of her observation that most things seem intent on being lost, so why mourn them when they finally are lost. I love Elizabeth Bishop's very sharp perception and observation. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 0 Points Robyn Elliman (8/11/2015 3:18:00 AM)

    Lovely poem, really enjoyed it. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 0 Points Virgil Watts (5/26/2015 8:56:00 PM)

    My favorite aspect of this poem is the way in which Bishop uses litotes to establish that the art of losing, while it isn't hard to master (i.e. loss is a natural aspect of life) , also is not necessarily easy to bear. I've also always been fascinated by the interjection of Write it! in the final line, which, to me at least, adds a more visceral and emotional weight to the poem which leaves the categorical statement repeated throughout (The art of losing isn't hard to master) somewhat unresolved. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 0 Points Julie Heath (10/27/2014 5:18:00 AM)

    we're all seeking to master the one art of loss, to master disaster, to eventually care less. (Report) Reply

  • Gold Star - 5,614 Points John Richter (10/21/2014 2:03:00 PM)

    I think this is an amusing, playful little poem about losing things, where Elizabeth is exemplifying quite dramatically not so much the art of losing, but rather realizing the affect it has upon us, especially when trying so hard to remain chin-up over loss. And she had many losses to swallow during her lifetime. The remark of continents make sense to me because I think she spent much time outside of the U.S.. And of course she lost a very dear friend while living in Brazil, of which I suspect this poem might be reflecting.... But beautiful none the less, which is why Elizabeth has become one of my very favorite American modern poets. (Report) Reply

  • Bronze Star - 2,059 Points Bull Hawking (10/21/2014 12:46:00 PM)

    I wonder if she is speaking of poetry itself.....since it IS hard to master the art of leaving the right thing out to make it perfectly incomplete.....think... Hopkins'....A Disorder In The Dress. (Report) Reply

  • Bronze Star - 2,190 Points Kay Staley (10/21/2014 9:47:00 AM)

    I suppose this is a classic. I see it around everywhere. (Report) Reply

  • Gold Star - 6,116 Points Pranab K Chakraborty (10/21/2014 8:35:00 AM)

    Excellent. Simply unique the expression fits with just this 14. And the message universal, don't try to repeat again...rather a law of nature we simply try to build guard-wall to resit its natural course...confused...is that called civilization! ..........................Good poem indeed. (Report) Reply

  • Gold Star - 8,689 Points Herbert Guitang (4/26/2014 5:55:00 AM)

    A profound and deep in context. SUPERB (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Linda Johnson (4/8/2014 10:24:00 PM)

    It's interesting to note that after the first 3 verses she starts writing about losing things she never owned- her mothers watch, the continent... (quote) 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. end quote
    And then later in the poem... even losing you.
    It seems at first look that it is a poem about denial, but I wonder, is it really about her loss of a friend or lover, and even more so- difficult to come to terms of the fact that one can not really lose what you don't own, but maybe that is why it forces her to continue the last few words. Why though, did she include 'like disaster at the end- instead of just disaster? (Report) Reply

  • Freshman - 867 Points Liliana ~el (10/21/2013 7:41:00 PM)

    A very lighthearted and uplifting take on loss and usual frustration, often ultimate chaos!
    Lovely (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Ongu Oruc (3/31/2013 2:23:00 PM)

    May I ask you why you wrote this comment from the movie ''In her shoes''(2005) ? It was Maggie's(Cameron Diaz) speech in the movie. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Barbara Roth (1/27/2013 3:28:00 AM)

    Elizabeth is talking about a friend in this poem. At first, she talks about the loss of real things, i.e. keys, a watch. She then talks about things that you can't get back, i.e., a continent, river. She tries to use the tone that she's detached, as if it doesn't matter, but in fact it does. It's the not the loss of a lover, but something more dear to her; it's the loss of a friend. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Rosemary Michelle Simpson (5/1/2012 5:35:00 PM)

    There should NOT be an a before disaster in the last line. Please make this critical correction. (Report) Reply

    Rookie - 0 Points Anon Amys (9/9/2015 7:52:00 PM)

    where do you mean?

  • Rookie - 35 Points Jan Hauck (4/16/2012 8:32:00 AM)

    I can see why this poem gets such high ratings and it is good. For me personally it is still one step away from perfection because the form of a Villanelle hasn't not quite been followed through with. (Report) Reply

    Rookie - 0 Points Anon Amys (9/9/2015 7:54:00 PM)

    that's deep

  • Rookie - 13 Points Mohammed Abdalla (1/9/2012 11:59:00 PM)

    The writer is going around in pretension shamming indifferent to the loss of all these things mentioned, which might be true, to some extent, but the only real loss she's referring to - with (even you) is the cause of all this mayhem and the one that really counts with her, and it's obvious to be a friend, a dear, or the dearest friend. because only really dearest ones can provide fuel for this massive poetic ignition. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 0 Points Frida Sloth (7/4/2010 5:32:00 PM)

    every day you lose something, small things such as car keys. little things that doesn't make your day or life a total dissaster. then one day it could happen to you that you would loose something valueable. something that will make you life a dissaster. it might not take a day. day after day you will loose this thing bit after bit and suddenly it dissapears. this thing is called love. it's not the love to a lover. it's the deepest love of all. it's the love to a friends. Think about how it would be to you, loosing your friends joking voice, or your friends smile, the little things there is with this person that makes you love that person even more. that would be a dissaster, wouldn't it? (Report) Reply

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Read poems about / on: lost, travel, loss, mother, city, river

Poem Submitted: Friday, January 3, 2003

Poem Edited: Thursday, May 23, 2013

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