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Reading “One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop



Poetry Lunch S4E8

Reading “One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop from Geography III, FSG Classics.


I love the rush of this poem, headlong into admitting terrible feeling and failure, all the while in convincing tones of mastering the thing at hand — something of course that’s impossible to master, loss. So many poems deal with loss, I think in large part because it’s a topic that’s hard to assign words to. This take makes light of an awful heavy that hits you full square at the end. It bears a depth of honesty you couldn’t get by just coming out with it in the beginning — the avoidance, the downplaying, the reassuring, all intensified as more ridiculous claims mount — it’s a beautiful piece of language allowing discovery, putting the inside out, even unwilling as it is till the last moment.

And how the lines flow! If I knew more I could talk about the form and structure but I don’t so I’ll leave at delight with how the form holds the feeling, and how the words roll off the tongue and call to each other across the line breaks. Masterful indeed.


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Get the book: Geography III.