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.
More By This Poet
Oh, but it is dirty!
—this little filling station,
to a disturbing, over-all
Be careful with that match!
Father wears a dirty,
oil-soaked monkey suit
that cuts him under the arms,
and several quick and saucy
and greasy sons assist him
(it’s a family filling station),
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...