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One Art Elizabeth Bishop Essay

"One Art" By Elizabeth Bishop Essay

The ultimate sorrow of loss is deftly described in the poem "One Art" by Elizabeth Bishop. The speaker manages, through vehement self-denial of needing her loved one, to convey to an awesome extent the depth of her sense of loss without that person. The irony of this"¦"¦..

The title of the poem gives away the inability to focus on anything but the person you've lost. "One Art" can be read as the one function she is able to perform in the wake of her loss, that is, missing that person terribly. Losing is the one art she has managed to conquer. Also, the idea of "one" could translate to mean that she is all alone now, so that the art she performs is the art of being a solitary woman. In either case, the voice of a human suffering terrible pain is evident. By using the term "art," the speaker attempts to raise her plight to a certain level of cold sophistication, indicating her disregard for the loss she has endured. However, the abject loneliness of the statement "one art" cues the reader in to the notion that this lonely art is all she has left in the world.

(villanelle=controlled structure) Structure plays a huge role in the development of this poem, following the speaker's gradually more and more fragmented justifications with a progressively disrupted design. Rhyme scheme contributes to the repetition of the piece, with an ABA pattern that serves to beat into the mind of the reader the mantra-esque quality of the poem. The speaker reminds herself of her contentment with her loss continually with words that rhyme with either "master" or "intent." In the two cases where the rhyme is slightly off, "fluster" and "gesture," it seems that the speaker is giving vent to the secret feelings she tries very hard to conceal through the rest of the poem. "Fluster" is a good word to describe her current state as she blatantly denies her loss, and "gesture" is a fragmentary thought of her lost love that sneaks through in the last stanza of the poem, as she grows more and more erratic.

The overall design of the lines, five tercets and a quatrain, is a broad view of the speaker's descent into a more chaotic confusion over how she feels. Five gradually more random tercets lead to a jumbled quatrain, consummating the speaker's uncertainty. The structure of each individual stanza also adds to the impending crisis. The sentences in each stanza are gradually more...

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In her poem, “One Art,” Elizabeth Bishop constructs a poem that reveals a struggle with mastering the issue of loss. Through the use of a villanelle, Bishop utilizes the significance of structure and word choice to further the meaning of her work. Bishop crescendos each stanza to create a firm foundation for the dramatic conclusion, and incorporates expressive words throughout the poem to illuminate the last stanza’s attitude shift from that of carelessness to seriousness.

The villanelle form is a type of love poem and Elizabeth Bishop’s use of this is appropriate for her poem about lost love. The first five tercets (three lined stanzas) begin by speaking of small objects (keys) then grow to large items (continents). The final stanza is a quatrain (four lined stanza) that contains the occasion and attitude shift of the poem. The poem’s first line “the art of losing isn’t hard to master” resurfaces throughout the text to reiterate the speaker’s opinion on the mastery of loss. And the repetition of the third line’s final word “disaster” is a key to the meaning of the poem.

Bishop’s word choice furthers the significance of loss and love throughout the poem. Since the first and third lines repeat within the text the middle lines of each stanza remain different from each other. The endings of each middle line have the same rhyme pattern and collectively they spell out an ultimate loss-” intent”/ “spent”/ “meant”/ and “went.” The speaker, in the beginning, is impersonal and does not mention any valuable item which was lost. In the second stanza the speaker explains how to master the art of loss, and urges the readers to practice, making it a habit: “Lose something every day (line 4).” The “lost door keys, the hour badly spent (line 5)” become materialistic entities and lost time. The third stanza contains a dynamic list of uncontrollable loss.

By choosing the phrase “losing farther, losing faster (line 7),” Bishop illustrates movement in time, ultimately symbolizing loss. The simple shift from the third stanza to the fourth allow for a more personal touch to the poem with the addition of the word “I.” Bishop chooses the “mother’s watch” to symbolize time and the link between generations. The lost watch makes tangible the feeling of inevitable loss. The speaker also sequences her losses- “my last”/ “next-to-last.” Stanza five is the final tercet that includes materialistic items lost by the speaker. The loss of spacious and lavishing objects such as “cities”/ “realms,” “rivers,” and “continents” can not compare to the feelings the speaker acquires from the loss of love in stanza six.

The final stanza, the quatrain, contains an attitude shift from that of invincibility to somberness. By implementing “you,” Bishop transformed the poem into a personal piece by breaking away from the pattern of inanimate objects and incorporating an actual being. Although the tone is of a more personal nature the details are still muffled. The parenthesis around “(the joking voice, a gesture/ I love)” creates a caesura for the reader, allowing a pause before confronting the uncertainty of the last lines. The first line refrain varies its form in line eighteen with the addition of the word “too” which seems to second-guess the original assertion that loss “isn’t hard to master.” And in the closing line the repetition of “likes” postpones the final word that the speaker is so hesitant to admit-“disaster.” The parenthetical statement “(Write it)” is a self-prompt that conveys the energy needed to actually allow the word “disaster” to be recognized. By putting it in writing the speaker is accepting the fact that they have not yet mastered the art of loss.

Bishop’s use of the villanelle form and strong word choice collectively work together to illustrate the speaker’s private sorrows over a lost love without including a self-pitied tone. The poem reveals a struggle for mastery that will never be attained. One does attempt to master loss but the recognition of powerlessness may be a more efficient method to tame loss.

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