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

  • (5/12/2018 7:50:00 PM)

    Wonderfull peom (Report) Reply

    0 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • (5/11/2018 3:16:00 AM)

    An excellent poem that has both surface and deep meaning, depending on how one sees it.The art of loosing isn't hard to master. (Report) Reply

  • (4/23/2018 1:57:00 AM)

    so beautifully put.. (Report) Reply

  • (4/19/2018 2:37:00 AM)

    We flow with it
    A poem not hard to master,
    Not loving it
    Would certainly be a disaster.
    (Report) Reply

  • (3/7/2018 1:40:00 AM)

    oooooh, is good (Report) Reply

  • (12/6/2017 10:59:00 AM)

    Nice nd interesting poem (Report) Reply

  • (11/17/2017 8:37:00 AM)

    Wonderful (Report) Reply

  • Glen Sales (9/13/2017 1:52:00 AM)

    Awesome! one of the best poems I like most. truly it illustrates the silence that surrounds every word. (Report) Reply

  • (8/22/2017 11:37:00 PM)

    beautiful poem...The persistence of living ever after a loss especially if what is lost can be replaced (Report) Reply

  • Sylvaonyema Uba (2/19/2017 11:49:00 PM)

    So many things seem filled with the intent

    Well communicated.

    (Report) Reply

  • Tom Allport (1/3/2017 11:53:00 AM)

    tom allport
    a lot of things we lose and then we cope, it is all part of being alive. (Report) Reply

  • (3/19/2016 10:21:00 AM)

    A most elegant Villanelle from a writer certainly mastered poetic language. (Report) Reply

  • (3/11/2016 10:15:00 AM)

    Art, loss, mastering. Nothing can be mastered in our lives, least of all in art. But Art (write it!) gives us the best way of coping with disaster and emotional ruin that it entails (write (right) it!) . (Report) Reply

  • Judy Meibach (2/18/2016 11:13:00 PM)

    This is by far one of the most profound poems I have ever read - it is my favorite - while I find the villanelle to be a little bizarre, this particular piece is extraordinary, in all its best - it was used in an American film last year that talked about Alzheimers - and worked so beautifully in this realm (Report) Reply

  • Mohammed Asim Nehal (1/3/2016 1:25:00 AM)

    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.
    (Report) Reply

  • (12/26/2015 4:24:00 PM)

    What's surprising to me is that so many people interpret the line: 'I lost my mother's watch' as an actual 'wristwatch/pocket watch/timepiece'. I have always wondered if Bishop intended 'watch' as in 'watchful eye/ one that watches over her child' because her mother was gone from Bishop's life when Bishop was only a small child. She lost her mother watching over her- hence, 'lost her mother's watch'. (Report) Reply

  • (12/15/2015 10:14:00 AM)

    There were quotation marks around her -* joking voice, a gesture I love) I shan’t have lied -* that didn't show up in my original post. I wonder why but in the event that they don't show up again I have marked the quote with an asterisk or star. (Report) Reply

  • (12/15/2015 10:02:00 AM)

    When Bishop refers to a loss of her mother's watch it isn't literal. I believe she is referring to the loss of time, time she couldn't have with her mother because her mom was institutionalized when Bishop was a child. Some losses are trivial, keys and poorly spent time but others you might never recover from. The loss of geography could refer to her two week visit to Brazil, in what was supposed to be a step in her South American tour, becoming seventeen years because she fell in love with Lota de Macedo Soares. Lota was a Brazilian woman who became the love of her life. The poems eulogizes the death of Lota, her joking voice, a gesture I love) I shan’t have lied. This loss was a disaster when Lota killed herself while visiting Bishop after being hospitalized in Brazil for a nervous breakdown. After Lota's death Bishop spent most of her time in the states hence the loss of several geographic locations. It is a great poem but the content or meaning behind the words is heartbreaking. (Report) Reply

  • (11/17/2015 2:27:00 AM)

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

  • 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

Read all 57 comments »

# 53 poem on top 500 Poems

User Rating:
4,6 / 5 ( 219 votes ) 54

Read this poem in other languages

This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.

I would like to translate this poem »

word flags

What do you think this poem is about?

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

Poem Submitted: Friday, January 3, 2003

Poem Edited: Thursday, May 23, 2013

[Report Error]