Monday, June 9, 2008

The Bishop

Last summer I bought a book a little bookstore in Northampton, MA entitled Edgar Allan Poe & The Juke-Box: Uncollected Poems, Drafts, and Fragments by Elizabeth Bishop and Alice Quinn. It includes 108 poems and 11 prose pieces, were not previously published, including 16 drafts of one of her most famous (and one of my personal favorite) poems "One Art."

The book in itself is incredible - to have access to unpublished pieces by one of the most prolific writers of a generation is always exciting. But I think one of the things I admire most is seeing the drafts and handwritten notes of "One Art" and the amount of labor spent over its creation. Most times, I'll write something, thinking it sounds great; when I reread it - not so much. Any writer can appreciate the process of creating and revising...and revising until it's just right.

I'm not going to make this posting a biography of Elizabeth Bishop's life, although, as one of my favorite poets, I'm sure I'll write about her from time to time. She died when I was a baby; yet, her impact has resounded throughout generations. I love her imagery, the way she can be intimate and have you see through her eyes without getting overtly personal, and of course her natural flow of words without sounding stuffy.

So, for your reading pleasure - "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.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

I've always loved this poem - and it's exactly the right time for me to see it again.

Thank you!

Sarah, loving your work and reading back slowly.