Friday, January 13, 2017

One Art

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.

  • Elizabeth Bishop, “One Art” from The Complete Poems 1926-1979(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1983)

My word for 2017 is Peace, and this poem seems intimately connected somehow. I came upon it last week, and have read and thought about it countless times since then. 

I am not a master of the art of losing. I keep thinking about how much I hold on to ... stuff, yarn, books, words, and emotions. The fact is, I don’t just hold on to things; I desperately clutch them close. Holding on does have a time and place. Holding on to truth, love, and wisdom are all good. For the sake of Peace, I need to search my heart and try to hold loosely whatever it is I’m clutching on to for dear life. We can continue to hold on to hope, while never forgetting about release and letting go. The prospect of loss may feel like an impending cataclysm, but none of my losses so far have brought disaster. Recognizing this may be the first step towards Peace for me. 


  1. Letting Go is an important part of my 2017 journey, too. and this poem says why so perfectly. I just wish it weren't so counter-intuitive. (isn't it funny how much of life turns out to be like that.)

  2. I always love it when I stumble across a poem that just . . . speaks to my soul. Letting go . . . getting lost . . . finding peace. What an exciting journey you have ahead of you! XO

  3. Love this post and this poem. It causes me to ponder: are losing and letting go the same thing. Letting go seems to be an intentional act. Losing happens to us without intention. I am not good at either of these things, but letting go is easier for me to deal with than losing something. It's the control freak in my nature.

  4. This poem illustrates so well how letting can of stuff and feelings can actually bring peace and freedom. Thanks for sharing it.

  5. Agreed - recognizing, accepting, understanding oneself . . . these are all difficult when one is near loss.
    It's always an up-and-down kind of emotional roller coaster. Better to not go to the carnival, or go and have the experience?
    A poem to keep, thank you.

  6. lovely poem! I remember loving intently my house in MI and never ever thought I could love living somewhere else just as much. I was wrong. I've loved each and every home I've lived in and letting go to something and saying yes to something else is wonderful!!

  7. What a lovely poem, it gives me a lot to ponder. I know that from time to time I have struggled with letting go and moving ahead. Thanks for sharing!

  8. This poem and your profound sentiments have struck me deeply. Thank you so much for sharing such beauty - the photo, the poem, and you! Happy Friday my dear dear friend! XO

  9. We hold the fear of change closely, tightly, unyieldingly and at the moment of loss it feels like disaster, until it doesn't. How do we survive? And yet, we do. Beautiful, Bonny, and thank you.

  10. Thank-you so much for that beautiful poem. I found that hope was my biggest downfall last year but looking back at it and much good, so much learned. And to you my friend I wish a peaceful year ahead. xo


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