One art

One art

In 1956 Elizabeth Bishop won the Pulitzer Price for Poetry. A great honour for a writer who had been struggling to get around. The poem One art is Bishop’s view on life; not to lose.

About the poet

When reading the biography about the early life of Bishop, one can only conclude that she didn’t went through a happy period. Soon after she was born on February 8 1911 her father died. Her mother suffered from a depression and was admitted into an institute. Bishop was left in the care of her grandparents, where she would stay until she was six years old. Then she was under the protection of her family in Worcester. This family was having a hard time financially. The impact of her grandparents separating and the development of asthma made her childhood very hard. In later life, she would still be suffering from asthma attacks.

A small heritage of her father and the financial aid of her grandparents allowed her to study. At Vassar College in New York she began her study and in 1934 she graduated. Together with Mary McCarthy she began the magazine Con Spirito during the time she studied.

She became friends with Marianne Moore and Robert Lowell, who turned out to be a great inspiration for her.

After she graduated, she travelled to Brazil. She met the architect Lota de Macedo Soares, with whom she romantically got involved. In this country, she was inspired by the Latin-American poets, like Octavio Paz. The long stay in Brazil didn’t do her good. She became depressed and tried to end her life in 1967. After the unsuccessful suicide attempt, she returned to the United States. She died at the age of 68 years in 1979.


One art

By Elizabeth Bishop

One art

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.

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