Axis of Logic
Finding Clarity in the 21st Century Mediaplex

Venerable Verse
One Art
By Elizabeth Bishop. Axis of Logic.
Elizabeth Bishop. The Complete Poems. Axis of Logic
Thursday, Jun 27, 2013

In the end
these things matter most:

How well did you love?
How fully did you live?
How deeply did you let go?

 ~ Guatama Buddha

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 to hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

~ Elizabeth Bishop

Elizabeth Bishop was born in Worcester, MA in 1911 and her father died when she was only 8 months old and her mother was institutionalized for mental problems 5 years later.  Her mother remained in the mental hospital until her death in 1934 and she and Elizabeth were never reunited. The orphaned Elizabeth was taken in by her maternal grandparents at their farm in Nova Scotia.  Thereafter, she was moved about between Nova Scotia and Massachusetts among members of both her mother's and father's families. It was an aunt who first introduced her to the Victorian poets, among them Alfred Lord Tennyson, Thomas Carlyle, Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. She attended high school in Massachusetts where her first poems were published in a school magazine by her friend, Frani Blough. After high school, she entered Vassar College in 1929, just before the crash of the stock market, where she studied music, wanting to become a composer, but later changed her major to English because of her fear of performing in public and her passion for writing. Elizabeth was not totally dependent on her writing for income because her father who had been a successful builder left her some money. She traveled extensively, visiting and living in many different countries, a few years in France and much longer in South America, 15 years in Brazil alone. Her writing often reflects the places she lived and the people she came to know. Elizabeth Bishop died in Boston in 1979 at 88 years of age.

- Axis of Logic

(Photo: Alice Helen Methfessel, courtesy of Frank Bidart)

Source of the poem:

Elizabeth Bishop.
The Complete Poems

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
New York