Friday, May 10, 2013

Poetry Friday: The Art of Losing

I've been thinking about the earthquake this week, and the aftermath of it, particularly how it affected people in my life. I learned that people are much closer to falling apart than I had ever realized, and that we have no idea how a huge, unexpected, and completely uncontrollable event will affect us and the people we think we know. I learned that permanence is largely an illusion. I learned many good things, too, and I have shared them on this blog, but right now it is more the negative which are preoccupying me.

I decided to look back at where I was in May 2010, three years ago this week, and to post the poem that spoke to me then.

 Here's that post.

 And here's the poem:


One Art

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 a disaster.  



So much lost.  So little progress towards mastery of that art.

But don't worry! I'm sure most of the people at this week's Poetry Friday roundup are in a better mood this week!

11 comments:

Anastasia Suen said...

Thanks for participating in Poetry Friday!

Linda at teacherdance said...

But do we need to make progress toward the mastery, Ruth. It is a wonderful poem, sharing so many of the feelings, yet I think that each loss is somehow different, and the mastery held differently too. I read your earlier post that seemed almost like you held back because to do otherwise would be too painful. Thank you for the thoughtful post.

jama said...

Sending hugs to you as you reflect on the tragic earthquake. Bishop's poem is one of those to return to again and again, a timeless, albeit painful message.

Liz Steinglass said...

I've been reading this poem this week too.

Tara @ A Teaching Life said...

I guess the key is what is lost - your glasses? your entire city? Th eons you love? Mastering loss is a matter of scale I think....such a wonderful poem, Ruth.

Mary Lee said...

We don't like to remember that loss, whether it is gradual or cataclysmic, is built right into the whole system. It's part of The Plan. It's as necessary as love. They balance each other. They make the other possible.

So why do we need to PRACTICE loss, Ms. Bishop? Why can't we focus on shoring ourselves up for loss with loves (both large and small)?

Tabatha said...

We always need to recharge from the disasters, big and small -- I think the worst part might be when you can't figure out how. Here's hoping you can find a bit of solace in our Poetry Friday camaraderie, Ruth.

Diane Mayr said...

The great thing about poetry is the feeling that someone else has been there before and has come through to write about it. Keep reading. Keep writing.

Doraine Bennett said...

Loss strips away our defenses, makes us vulnerable in ways we would not choose to reveal, gives us the choice to run away from or into the Truth. I'm not sure that art is ever perfected. Blessings and peace to you as you continue to grieve every loss, and sometimes they are not just physical ones.

Author Amok said...

Hi, Ruth. I agree -- we can never know how close a person is to "losing it" emotionally. That's what I love about "One Art," that the narrator (like so many people) tries to fool the reader into thinking she's managing all these losses just fine until the poem's close. I've seen friends survive through unthinkable losses. There are good days and bad. I hope there are more good days ahead for you.

Catherine said...

Thanks for sharing this poem. We've been mourning the loss of a beautiful young woman in my family this week, and Bishop's poem really hits home.