One Art- Elizabeth Bishop

May 4, 2008



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


when i first read this poem, i thought that bishop was talking about the general things you loose at time progresses.. the loss of a loved one, the loss of time, and just the general process of life. using that, i found that i was able to relate to this poem as a graduating senior, and realizing the whole idea of “loss of innocence.” i am no longer that young girl who went running to her parents at the sign of trouble, but i am able to take care of things on my own and be my own person. i have lost that innocence that comes with being a child, and am now (even legally so) an adult about to enter college. you move through life and people and things come and go, and sometimes when they’re over there is that missing of them, but it is not a disaster that comes from it. you move on through life, and things change. i think that is what bishop is trying to portray, that the importance is not when you lose things, its how you let it affect you and live your life.



3 Responses to “One Art- Elizabeth Bishop”

  1. marcys Says:

    I think Bishop might be being wryly facetious; I read the poem as, it’s devastating. The repetition of “the art…not hard to master” seems sarcastic.Not sure, but that’s how it feels to me. And please, remember, it is LOSE to lose, it’s only LOOSE to keep.

  2. wand777 Says:

    loss isn’t permanent … we are always losing … our cells … our sleep … our memories … a fading existence is what we are … except the spirit goes on … for ever … blessings to you friend

  3. Robert Bixby Says:

    Can’t think of this poem without thinking of Robert Lowell, who remained callowly in love with Bishop, I think, until he died. She was never interested in him but as a friend, and I am confused now whether it was because Bishop was gay or because Lowell was such a towering mess of psychiatric baling wire himself. Watch Lowell come and go as he writes his two versions of Skunk Hour (detailed in Elizabeth Spires’ book). How can you not love him? How can you not be repelled by him? Anyone who’s known a bipolar intimately knows what I mean. What a party on monday, what a settling of accounts on tuesday. In fact, I embarked on this brief google plex just to find out if there was a thread of connection between the poem and Lowell. Maybe it’s just in my imagination.

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