Caitlin Jeffery

Exploring the depths of digital literature

The Art of Loss

on February 22, 2013

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“The One Art” is simply about loss. The writer suggests that by losing small things here and there, you will start to get used to loss and won’t be as affected when a bigger one happens. She starts with losing small things like keys, then names, and the losses keep escalating in importance. By the end you find out she lost a person and it isn’t quite as easy as she thought.

When she writes “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” you feel she is having a hard time forcing herself to pretend it is no big thing. She is forcing herself to finish the poem.

As someone who just lost one of the most important people in my life, this poem hit a chord. Losing people is not easy and I feel like for other people’s sake you have to force yourself to move on and pretend it is easy to get over. People keep asking me how I am doing and am I alright. They really don’t want to know I feel broken inside and cry randomly. They want to hear I am better or fine because they don’t want to think of loss as difficult. They want to pretend, like the writer, that it is something fairly easy to get past because they hope it is so. But the loss of a person isn’t the same as losing keys. Keys, names, objects, etc. are all replaceable losses. A person isn’t.

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5 responses to “The Art of Loss

  1. theblume says:

    I can certainly see how a poem like this would really hit home for you, since the loss of your grandmother. One of my pet-peeves is when I am really upset about something and someone tells me “everything will be alright.” When something so heartbreaking happens, I think your entitles to let yourself fall apart for awhile. Its true that someday you will feel better, but that day doesn’t have to be now or tomorrow or the next day. I lost my grandma many years ago and I still miss her all the time.

    What you said about societies view on loss is very true. Like in the poem, in our culture we tend to try and pretend like we always have things totally together. Others often say things to push us to get over it, because it makes them uncomfortable to see someone grieving. By all means be upset and act crazy and cry as randomly as you want, thats how you start to heal…not by pushing those feelings away.

  2. carrieglovka says:

    This poem is a poignant reminder of the things which truly are losses in our live and helps us put our lives into perspective. Since the experience of losing both my brother and father, I am able to really put my life’s prioities in order. Little annoyances like losing your keys still irritate me, but now I am able to realize its not a big deal in the scheme of things. I think when you experience significant loss, you treat others a little more kindly and realize the fragility of life. What a beautiful poem!

  3. kbehre says:

    “They want to pretend, like the writer, that it is something fairly easy to get past because they hope it is so. But the loss of a person isn’t the same as losing keys. Keys, names, objects, etc. are all replaceable losses. A person isn’t.”

    This is just lovely, Caitlin. Thank you for sharing your personal connection with this poem.

    I wonder if your experience gives you insight on the way that the subject matter interacts with the villanelle form. Villanelles are a strangely cacophonous poetic genre, with their careful but irregular precision and odd, disorienting pattern. Can you posit why Bishop might have chosen this form for her subject of loss?

  4. vonepho says:

    This is a lovely poem. The last stanza took me by surprise. It gave the poem in its entirety a more poignant gravity. I initially thought of cell phones and computers, and the loss of intimacy with communication in the first few stanzas, but the last one made me think of the people I’ve recently lost as well. Carrie makes a great point when she says that the value of losing someone makes us prioritize our life. This poem compares the value of loss with “things”, but rightfully acknowledges the significance of losing someone.

  5. I was particularly struck by Bishop’s choice of words in this poem. It seems so deliberate, almost forced. She seems to be pushing through and glossing over the loss of things that seem important (her mother’s watch). She is pretending it doesn’t matter when it is clear that she laments the loss of every one of the things she introduces in the poem (minus maybe the car keys).

    Thank you for sharing your feelings about the poem in regard to your grandmother. I almost lost my grandmother to breast cancer this last year, and that almost killed me. I don’t know what I would do if I was standing in your shoes. You have every right to feel your feelings and you should definitely not say you are fine just to make others more comfortable. On the other hand, being conscious of the fact that nearly everyone is scared of death is one way to keep your sanity when well-meaning people inevitably say the wrong thing. I wish for healing and peace for you and your family.

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