Read To Me — Day Eight

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 disaster.

Two official University Poetry classes, dozens of poetry anthologies, and years of pursuing online poetry websites, and today is the first I’ve every encountered Elizabeth Bishop. Sometimes, I just feel cheated. This anxious, brooding, witty villanelle will very likely be a piece I read over and over.

Bishop was Poet Laureate of the United States, 1949-1950, and won the Pulitzer in 1956. Sadly, though, she remained an obscure figure in the literary world until after her death in 1979.

I discovered this poem, and thus, Ms. Bishop, today while doing a search online for villanelles. Exploring this form is an act of self-torture to which I return only once a year — reading these works of precision just make me feel like a total fraud. Will I ever be able to master such precision?

Pardon me while I go brood.

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