Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Elizabeth Bishop / One Art

Photography by Alejandro Zenker

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.

Elizabeth Bishop

One Art is another villanelle. It was written by Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979) after the death of her partner Lota de Macedo Soares. The two women lived together in Brazil for 15 years, and Soares committed suicide after Bishop left her and returned to America.
Bishop was a slow, meticulous writer, and some poems took more than 20 years to finishI’ve seen the original drafts of this poem (by a professor who snuck photocopies out of Vassar’s library where Bishop’s papers are kept). The first draft was a journal entry. By the second draft, it was beginning to take shape as a villanelle. The final product came 22 drafts later.

No comments:

Post a Comment