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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.


Elizabeth Bishop, “One Art” from The Complete Poems 1926-1979. Copyright © 1979, 1983 by Alice Helen Methfessel. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC, http://us.macmillan.com/fsg. All rights reserved.

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Source: The Complete Poems 1926-1979 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1983)

  • Living

Poet Bio

Elizabeth Bishop
Elizabeth Bishop is a poet’s poet, much admired for the powerful emotions that pulse beneath her lines’ perfected surface and the unerring accuracy of her eye (she was also a painter.) Like her mentor Marianne Moore, Bishop moved from idiosyncratic observations of nature and its denizens—a “tremendous fish,” a “glistening armadillo”—to quiet, wise, and sad conclusions about humans’ place and prospects. Marked from the start by displacement—her father died soon after her birth, and her mother was institutionalized for mental derangement— Bishop traveled restlessly as an adult, writing often about voyages and of Brazil where she settled for a time. See More By This Poet

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