The poem One Art by Elizabeth Bishop has a conversational tone conveying an obvious particular notion--at first. The first refrain serves to declare victoriously an opening statement that, "The art of losing isn't hard to master" (Bishop Line 1). As the poem advances, repetitions of the first and second refrains reveal themselves as helpful incantations. At first, this villanelle appears as a no-nonsense tutorial equipped with literary imagery on how to get over losing things, places, opportunities and persons in life. Having theoretically mastered the list of losses seems to somehow qualify the speaker to give such recommendations. Each stanza explores how Bishop, the main character, may have arrived at her "loss is no disaster" (second refrain) approach to grief mastery. By the last stanza though, she is no longer perceived as apathetically reciting incantations perhaps for our learning, but as coping with personal losses and evolving through resulting stages of grief. By the end, we witness an ironic exposure of the speaker's true emotional self behind the mask.
Bishop’s word choice offer the impression that she has overcome the burden of experiencing negative emotions associated with loss. The specific scheme that is adhered to throughout this poem is a two-rhymer, ABA, in that all the lines rhyme with either "aster" or "ent". In the first stanza, a rationale emerges that "so many things seem filled with the intent/ to be lost” (Bishop 1.2). She personifies inanimate objects even giving them intentions. This seems a way for Bishop to exude control while removing self from responsibility perhaps to assign blame for her role in the crisis. This though, is the first clue that the speaker may be experiencing a degree of denial. Bishop symbolically presents her "no disaster" formula for everyday losses arranged from lost keys, to time spent looking for them. The speaker must give the illusion that this advice is attainable. She reasons that to some this loss may...
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