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One Art by Elizabeth Bishop

A casual reading of Elizabeth Bishop’s One Art may lead one to the idea that it is a casual poem and not too deep. But it deserves a deeper reading for better appreciation and understanding. The poetry seems fluid and devoid of the formality and imposed melancholy that other poets show. Yet, the emotional impact of the poem is controlled, hidden and suddenly rushes at the reader toward the end of the poem. Elizabeth Bishop masterfully used structure and related it to this form. The rhyme used by the poet is not the rigid type.

Rather, there are a number of assonance and dissonance throughout the poem. The internal rhyme of the poem also helped create its emotional power. The melancholy of the poem is carefully crafted through the words used and the symbols the poet invoked. By presenting losing as an art, she effectively explored the problem of emotional pain caused by the persona losing an important person in her life. This is evident in the last stanza of the poem and implicit in the first stanzas.

The use of repetition also contributed to the strength of the poem. This was a really effective poetic device. By repeating the phrase “the art of losing isn’t hard to master” in several lines of the poem, the reader is left wandering whether the persona is merely making a statement or is she, in fact, trying to convince herself of what she is saying. The way the poet presented items she lost such as the door keys, hours, places, names, and even houses, she effectively communicates her loss and her feelings in spite of the words being read.

The poem may be an admonition to practice the art of losing, yet, the underlying emotions belie what the words say. The structure of the poem suits it well and gives the reader a chance to revel on the poem while trying to catch the real message of the poet within the poem. The last stanza is particularly curious with its parentheses (Write it! ). It was simply a command to the persona’s self to write the last word of the poem. Such a technique also helps heighten the emotional trauma being felt by the persona.

She even has to tell herself she has to write how losing is like disaster. The structure of the poem, together with the rhyme, the words used, the technique employed, as well as the repetition of certain phrases contribute to the overall effectiveness of the poem. Structure once again proves to be the friend of a poem. Such a villanelle made it appear as if the persona is simple reciting a confession or a piece of advice to herself. But along the process, she discovers the hidden hurt and pain.

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