Mutlu Konuk Blasing: On "One Art"

"One Art" not only effects such poetic reversals but exposes them as affected. Bishop's choice of a villanelle, a traditional form of repetition that promises to make "art" out of "losing," seems to support the opening assertion, but the negatives cast doubt on the project at the outset:

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.

Yet the title tells us that the art of writing and the art of losing are one, and the requirements of the form serve to render loss certain from the start. The third line already gives us the last word of the poem-the word she means to deny but is fated to write:

—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.

Writing and losing are one art because the formal repetition of loss, which promises mastery, simultaneously finalizes disaster: "(Write it!) like disaster." Repetition duplicates and divides, both masters and loses, and thus makes for "disaster." The division-by-duplication of the "aster" is the ill star that governs poets.

from American Poetry: The Rhetoric of Its Forms. New Haven: Yale UP, 1987. Copyright © 1987.


Title Mutlu Konuk Blasing: On "One Art" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Mutlu Konuk Blasing Criticism Target Elizabeth Bishop
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 04 Jan 2015
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication American Poetry: The Rhetoric of Its Forms
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