Friday, June 19, 2015

Poetry Friday: The Art of Losing

I guess this must be one of my favorite poems, since this is the third time I have posted it on my blog.  I shared it in May 2010 and again in May 2013.  The art of losing and the art of living are almost synonymous.  When I posted this in 2013, Mary Lee (who is hosting today's roundup - check it out!) commented: "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)?"  She's right.  Love is what shores us up.  But it's also why loss hurts so much.

Thinking about Mary Lee's question, I came to this conclusion: having experienced many losses in the past teaches us that life does go on.  It teaches us that we can survive losses we didn't think were survivable.  In that sense, maybe we make a little progress towards the art of losing.

But I think Elizabeth Bishop is trying to convince herself here.  She is facing a loss that feels like disaster to her.  She is facing it, bravely, not turning away.  She isn't numbing it or pretending it isn't there.  "Write it!" she urges herself.  In saying the art of losing isn't too hard to master, she's saying that it is terribly hard, the hardest.  Frankly, I often want to stop the loving because the losing hurts so much.  I don't want to reach out and attach and care.  But if I didn't, I wouldn't be mastering the art of living.

It's all one.

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.


Margaret Simon said...

I agree with your comments about this poem. She writes because it is so hard to master. And how she mastered the form in the process!

Tabatha said...

It is two sides of the same coin, Ruth. It's funny, this poem came up yesterday on a long car ride. (Not the topic of it; we needed someone whose last name started with B.)

Mary Lee said...

I remember writing that.

I agree with your new conclusion. It IS all one, and it IS about the art of living.