Loss is an inevitable event that everyone has to deal with at some point in their lives. Loss is prominent in life. It can range from something as trivial as misplacing your keys and finding them shortly thereafter to an occurrence as transformative as the loss of a loved one. It affects people in varied ways and just how it does is dependent upon the person’s perspective. Attending college is a transitional period in many peoples’ lives. By this age students start getting familiarized with the brevity of life and just how they take these experiences in their stride will shape their future. Due to the universal nature of the idea that the poem,’ One Art’ by Elizabeth Bishop is based upon, especially as it relates to a transitional period of life such as this, it’s inclusion in a college level literature course such as this would be beneficial on many fronts as it would help students to address this fundamental issue of life.
‘One Art’ is a poem which delves into the fundamental affair of loss which is so commonplace that one comes across it multiple times during the day. At times it is inconspicuous and trivial but at other times it leaves deeper, irrevocable scars. Bishop opens with acquainting the reader with the idea of loss, or even temporary loss of items that carry such an importance at the time, even though they pale in comparison to many other items in life that can be lost. Losing keys is a frequent occurrence which people fret over initially, but soon transcend with the recovery of them. Through instances such as this, people become accustomed to the concept of loss to the extent that it is “no disaster” when some possessions mysteriously disappear. Bishop increases the scope and significance of the item being lost with each stanza. After misplacing keys, people start to lose sight of ideas: “places, and names, and where it was you were meant to travel.” Such loss is not felt as heavily because it is not tangible or quantifiable and can be frequently overlooked. Following this though, items of more personal significance are lost, such as a “mother’s watch” or the “next-to-last of three loved houses” or even an entire city. Yet despite the significance in scale of these items, their loss is nearly meaningless due to the sheer frequency of experiences with loss. Where there is a discontinuity of this monotonous treatment of loss for Bishop though, is in relation to the loss of a friend or a loved one. Bishop separates this type of loss from a materialistic kind by changing the number of lines in the stanza from three to four. While experiencing the loss of a