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Day 12: Villanelle

April 16, 2013

                “One Art,” by Elizabeth Bishop is a poem about how it is easy to lose things and that it “isn’t hard to master.” In the first fifteen lines of the poem, Bishop throws out things like they are easy to lose. She describes how it is easy to lose things such as keys. However, in lines 16-19, the poem takes a dramatic shift. Bishop begins throwing things out that shouldn’t be easy to lose. The reader begins to think that Bishop actually cares about the things she says she doesn’t care if she loses. The Villanelle form of the poem, along with diction, contributes to this change.

                The Villanelle form of this poem greatly contributes to the shift in attitude after line fifteen. Throughout the poem, Bishop uses the refrain, “The art of losing isn’t hard to master.” Bishop describes how things such as keys are very easy to lose. However, Bishop later describes losing more serious things such as three houses, cities, and a family heirloom. Bishop continues to say that losing these things “is no disaster,” and she returns to the refrain. In the final stanza, the reader begins to see the shift in Bishop’s attitude. She describes losing more serious things such as a loved one. She begins to use her refrain a little more weakly and shows that she can’t hide her pain anymore.

                Diction also plays a large role in the shift between the first five stanzas and the last stanza. Bishop starts off by using things that people lose everyday such as keys and names. However, in line ten, Bishop begins talking about losing more serious things such as a house or an heirloom. This change in diction indicates an upcoming shift in attitude. In line 16 Bishop talks about losing her lover and forces herself to continue writing the refrain when she puts in the parenthesis, “(Write it!).”

                So, “One Art,” by Elizabeth Bishop is a poem with a major attitude shift. It starts off describing how it is easy to lose things. The Villanelle form, along with Bishop’s diction further emphasizes this point. However, in line sixteen the attitude along with the diction takes a large turn. The reader begins to realize that Bishop actually cares about these things she says are easy to lose. She must force herself to continue to write the refrain and the reader realizes that she hasn’t truly recovered from her losses.

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