Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Literary Look #5

Literary Look #5

Elizabeth Bishop is my absolute favourite poet. I became hooked after we analysed her most famous villanelle, One Art, in a poetry workshop I took last year. Not only is this poem extremely understated, it delicately builds to a poignant crescendo of meaning, leaving you feeling vulnerable yet defiantly reinforced with her wisdom. Here it is...

One Art

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.

I bought her Complete Poems as part of my reading list for this year and I would wholeheartedly recommend it. It's a beautifully published book with lovely substancial paper and a pretty, oriental style watercolour painted front cover. And of course the poems are incredible. She wrote extremely evocatively about travel and so it's the perfect book to have on your bedside table, patiently waiting to offer you a stanza or two of escapism on glum November mornings.

Let me know how you like the new blog layout. It's very much a work in progress but I already feel like I'm making better use of the space. And I may be able to slip in some sponsors now...


  1. I would absolutely wear this. ABSOLUTELY!

  2. Wow, what a beautiful poem. Thanks for sharing it, I definitely was able to place some personal meaning to it, which is what's so wonderful about poetry.

  3. Wonderful post and I adore the new layout xxx