Friday, December 25, 2009

Denial Ain't Just A River In Egypt

Elizabeth Bishop's One Art has been stuck in my head since last night and I figured the only way it would stop haunting me was if I wrote it down here.

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 everyday. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing further, 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 beloved 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!) a disaster.

Its hard to explain why I love Bishop's poem so much. Maybe because losing one's possessions (tangible and otherwise) is a natural phenomenon and each one of us can relate to in some obscure manner. Although, what I love the most about this poem is how the poet is in denial of her suffering over her losses.  She wears a mask of nonchalance and repeatedly tells herself that these losses weren't disastrous in order to move on. The very fact that 'losing' is termed as an 'art' by the poet shows that she's trying hard to mask her grief by pretending to be indifferent about all that she has lost. However, if read carefully you can feel the poet loosing her much worked upon detachment and self control as the poem progresses. The cracks in Bishop's composure are highlighted not just through her words but also through her use of  punctuations. At first the poem flows smoothly but towards the end it has a lot of breaks in it. You can feel Bishop's organized thoughts giving way to fragmented sentences and her non ability of coping with her losses.

There are two lines in this poem that leave a deep impression on me. The first being "so many things seem filled with the intent to be lost that their loss is no disaster" - which just goes to show the non permanency of all material acquisitions as well as relationships. The other line that moves me deeply is Bishop commanding her own self to "Write it!". She tells herself to put her grief down in words. Over here you can almost feel her pain and understand that appearing calm and composed has become a huge burden for her and that she must admit her grief before its too late. And in this way, while pretending to describe her losses casually Bishop leaves behind several clues to the fact that she is silently (and deeply) in  mourning.

A lot of people have analysed and dissected this poem endlessly, debating over the nature of the poet's loss. Whether she's lost a friend or a lover or someone else. Whether her loss occurred due to the said person's death or a break up or an argument. However, I feel that a mark of a good poem is that it ignites a similar sentiment in its readers and makes us re-live/feel the very lines of the poem in a completely different context, a context based on our own life or experience - and One Art does just that for me.


quixotic.knight said...

i'm in complete "denial" over the "loss" of words which I've experienced after reading this entry......Welcome to the next level of writing people,,,(or should I bid "farewell"?? coz we all stand at a lower pedestal)

PS : Awesome pics

The Blonde Duck said...

Popped in to say hello! What a wonderful poem. It's so wonderful to find the blog of a fellow writer!

Blondie said...

What a wonderful poem honey! I love your blog and am following you now! I appreciate your comments on my Marilyn post..I actually haven't seen that movie and will have to check it out! Have a very happy new year, and I hope you can visit again!

Kori xoxo

Persis said...

thank you all for your kind words and appreciation. its so nice to know that what started out as something of a personal online diary for me, now has so many of you wonderful people visiting it.
wishing you all a very happy new year! xo.

Charlene said...

I hadn't heard this poem before but I really like it... and to a large extent can relate. Thanks so much for sharing (and for stopping by my "Balance Beam") . Happy SITS Year!