‘One Art’ and ‘Forgetfulness’

Does practice really make perfect? Upon reading ‘One Art’ by Elizabeth Bishop and ‘Forgetfulness’ by Billy Collins this theory is challenged. Elizabeth Bishop, born February 8th, 1911, shortly thereafter losing her father to the casket and her mother to a mental institution by the age of five, despite this tragedy, Bishop matured into a respected pillar in the art of literature, publishing many poems prior to ‘One Art’ in 1976, nine years following the untimely suicide of her lover Lota de Macedo Soares.

Billy Collins on the other hand was born March 22nd, 1941and during his appointment as Poet Laureate of the United states he then published ‘Forgetfulness’ at the well ripe age of sixty-one in 2002, closer than ever to the age range of memory loss. In these

In the opening scenes of One Art, Bishop makes the bold statement “The art of losing isn’t hard to master;” (1.1); this signature line reoccurs several times throughout the poem, four times to be exact, each time with a less convincing tone, suggesting that bishop is trying to reassure herself that she is content with losing, but is this the case? The first stanza continues “so many things seem filled with the intent / to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

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” (1.2-3); here Bishop indicates that because things have a reason to be lost, ‘their loss in no disaster’, she uses this statement interchangeably at the ending of every other stanza to provide herself with evidence that she is strong enough to accept loses.

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The following stanzas addresses how to master losing, beginning; “Lose something every day. Accept the fluster / of lost keys, the hour badly spent.” (2.1-2); these lines explain the process, which involves losing daily and accepting the losses, in small steps giving an example of misplacing keys to portray the loss of something miniscule, encouraging the growth of a habit. Bishop then directs the reader to push further and loose more in lines 7 and 9 “Then practice losing farther, losing faster: / places, and names, and where it was you meant / to travel. None of these will bring disaster.” (3.1-3); making it clear that the reader needs to increase their scope and make greater losses to fully master losing.

Bishop analyses her greater losses for example, in the fourth paragraph “I lost my mother’s watch. And look! My last or / next to last of three loved houses went.” (4.1-2); seeing that Bishop’s mother was committed to a mental institution when she was at the age of five, this is the only memory bishop has of her mother and should be a huge loss in her life. Hyperbolically Bishop goes onto rank her loses, stating she misses them, but they still have caused no disaster. In the final stanza Bishop finds it difficult coping with the most recent loss of a loved one which is speculated to be Lota de Macedo Soares, who passed away to suicide in 1967. The huge difference in the last two lines in comparison to the others are the fact that she admits the loss looks like a disaster and that she thinks the art of losing may be a little hard to master losing after this loss.

On the other hand, Collins introduces the reader to the theme of the poem, “The name of the author is the first to go / followed obediently by the title, the plot, / the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel / which suddenly becomes one you have never read, never even heard of,”(1.1-3); the structure in which a novel is written, is completely reversed and Collins cunningly contrasts this to memory loss, the new things that are learnt or crammed into the brain evict the older memories. At the beginning of stanza one, Collin states “as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor /. decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain, / to a little fishing village where there are no phones.” (2.1-3); here he uses personification to reference older people and memory loss, by saying that the memories ‘retire’ to the southern hemisphere, but who retires? Older people. He continues with the use of personification in stanza to, beginning with “and watched the quadratic equations pack it’s bag,”(3.2); the quadratic equation packing its bag, refers to children packing their bags for school, where they learn about quadratic equations implying to the reader that the information learnt and work done at school are being forgotten as well.

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‘One Art’ and ‘Forgetfulness’. (2022, Feb 10). Retrieved from http://studymoose.com/one-art-and-forgetfulness-essay

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