Elizabeth Bishop (Video)

  • Hello, this is Brian Edwards,
  • dean of the School
  • of Liberal Arts at Tulane,
  • and I'm pleased to join you
  • to help celebrate National Poetry Month.
  • The month of April 2020 has, of course,
  • been a particularly unusual month
  • for us as we struggle with loss
  • and so much that is different
  • from our normal routine.
  • When the library asked
  • if I would record a poem to help
  • celebrate the month,
  • my mind went immediately
  • to a poem by Elizabeth Bishop,
  • one of my favorite poets.
  • I'm going to read to you
  • "One Art" by Elizabeth Bishop.
  • Elizabeth Bishop was born
  • in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1911,
  • and she's someone
  • who learned at an early age
  • something about loss.
  • Her father passed away
  • when she was only eight months old,
  • and her mother,
  • who struggled with mental health issues,
  • was institutionalized
  • when she was only five.
  • Elizabeth Bishop was raised
  • by her grandparents in Nova Scotia,
  • which figures frequently in her poetry.
  • She's one of our great American poets
  • of the 20th century,
  • the winner of the Pulitzer Prize
  • and National Book Award,
  • and "One Art" is one of her best known
  • and most loved poems.
  • It's written in the form of a Villanelle,
  • a 19 line form
  • which is particularly intricate
  • and uses repeated words and lines.
  • So this is "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.