The Art of Losing, Elizabeth Bishop

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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10 thoughts on “The Art of Losing, Elizabeth Bishop

  1. pvreader

    I agree: perfect. Let me guess. You were trying to decide what books to pack (because we all know you couldn’t possibly have been procrastinating) and came across Bishop. But you only read this one poem, which reminded you that you’d been meaning to post it for ages. (No, I’m not speaking from experience, I don’t remember at all what it’s like to pack for a move :-)!).

  2. musingsfromthesofa Post author

    As you know, I don’t read much poetry but I do love this one.

    Emily, I’d like more Bishop but in fact I only have this in the sort of cheesy collection designed to introduce poetry to the masses. I am keeping the books I take with me to the absolute minimum: P&P and Autumn Journal. I left a Trollope behind on my last visit, too. So if you happen to be in CT and want to borrow anything, you should stop by – the collection is all there!

  3. Nicola

    Elizabeth Bishop’s been on my mind to and I posted the same poem! I’ve just bought a collection of her poetry because I want to read more of her work.

  4. musingsfromthesofa Post author

    Nicola – I almost bought a collection today and then settled with fiction instead. I have such a hard time with poetry that I’m reluctant to buy it. I should get over that!

  5. Rosemary

    I found it interesting how much this heartbreaking poem really lost with the word ‘write’ in the last stanza not being italicised as it normally is.

  6. Pingback: One Art – Elizabeth Bishop | મોરપીંછ

  7. Sonia A. Mascaro

    I found your blog when I was searching for the Braziliam film “Reaching for the Moon”, directed by Bruno Barreto based on a real story about the American poet, Elizabeth Bishop. I hope that this film will be nominate to Best Foreign Film to The Oscars.
    The Art of Losing is a beautiful poem. I don’t read much poetry too.
    Love so much the photo of your header, it looks so comfortable and cozy with the cat on the sofa, many books and a warm fireplace.
    I am glad I found your blog. 🙂
    PS: I am Brazilian, from São Paulo.

  8. Dean Feldmeyer

    Thanks for sharing “The Art of Losing.” Having just attained my 65th year I am beginning to feel, very dearly, the losses she so beautifully expresses. There is so much bad poetry on the internet that we really need to help each other find the good stuff, like this, and share it.

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