The poem, written by Elizabeth Bishop, begins with a casual tone. Bishop ponders on the art of losing and lists down the losses she has experienced in her life. At first, these losses seem very small such as lost door keys, an hour wasted and her mother’s watch. As the poem, progresses, the poem takes on a despondent tone as Bishop talks about losing her home, land and the one she loved. At first, the poet says that “the art of losing isn’t hard to master” but the poem itself is an act of self-deception. Bishop seems to be mentally wounded by her losses, but outwardly, she dismisses them with indifference (McCabe). However, in the last stanza, it is clear from her tone that losing her loved one is the biggest loss she has suffered from. She tries hard to master the art of losing but accepts that all her losses are indeed disasters.
Language plays an important role in Bishop’s “One Art.” The language and rhythm depict a piece of advice, given by a person, who herself is indulged in self-deception. The rhyming words of “master”, “faster” and “disaster” build a force, preparing the reader for a climax. Bishop insists that her losses are trivial but by penning them down, she invites the question of how to understand these loses and respond to them. The poem repeats certain concepts, as “the art of losing isn’t hard to master” or the act of losing is no disaster. In doing so, Bishop emphasizes that one must “accept the fluster” of losing. However, the grief of loss may never go away until one learns to evade it by writing about it, as she says in the end “Write it!”
McCabe, Susan. Elizabeth Bishop: Her Poetics of Loss. Penn State Press, 2010.