I found “One Art” to be an immensely sad poem. Elizabeth Bishop begins the poem by saying “The art of losing isn’t hard to master”. I’m sure this first line is something we can all agree with. I know I have lost many times in life whether it’s a material object, a basketball game, or something bigger like friends or loved ones.
Bishop starts with small things that don’t seem to have a huge impact if lost such as door keys. They’re frustrating to lose, but life will go on. She moves on to bigger things as the stanzas progress. Next is “places and names”-- A little bigger than a set of keys, but still not a disaster if you lose them. “Houses”, “cities”, “a continent”—she has lost these things by moving. Many people find it sad to leave the house they grew up in or make a big move to a different place, but with time they learn that it isn’t such a big deal. Then finally, Bishop hits us with the big one—a person. She loses someone close to her, yet is trying to convince us (as well as herself) that although it may look like a disaster at the time, life will go on. We can see Bishop clearly has a hard time accepting the loss when she writes “(Write it!)”. She is forcing herself to accept the loss and move on. She uses the first 5 stanzas to build up to this loss, to try and belittle the feelings of great loss.
I just found it depressing that Bishop deals with the pain of a loss by comparing it to other less significant losses in her life. I guess everyone deals with pain differently… a lot like the Bundren family.