“One Art” was written by the American poet Elizabeth Bishop. The poem is a villanelle, a traditional form that involves a fixed number of lines and stanzas and an intricate pattern of repetition and rhyme. Through this form, the poem explores loss as an inevitable part of life. The speaker considers what it means to experience loss over and over again, and whether it is truly possible to “master” the experience of loss and grief. “One Art” was included in Bishop’s final collection of poetry, Geography III, which was published in 1976.
The art of ... hard to master;
so many things ...
... is no disaster.
Lose something every ...
... hard to master.
Then practice losing ...
... will bring disaster.
I lost my ...
... hard to master.
I lost two ...
... wasn’t a disaster.
—Even losing you ...
... shan’t have lied.
It’s evident ...
... it!) like disaster.
Select any word below to get its definition in the context of the poem. The words are listed in the order in which they appear in the poem.
The Bishop Archives at Vassar College — Elizabeth Bishop attended Vassar College and her papers are now stored in Vassar’s Special Collections. Visit the Vassar Archives & Special Collections website to learn more about Bishop’s papers stored at the library.
Audio of “One Art” in Reaching for the Moon — A 2013 Brazilian film, Reaching for the Moon, explores Bishop’s life in Brazil and her relationship with the architect Lota de Macedo Soares. Although the movie misinterprets the poem “One Art” as about Bishop’s relationship with Soares—the poem was, in fact, about Bishop’s last partner, Alice Methfessel—the movie includes a recitation of the poem by the actress Miranda Otto, who played Bishop. In the scene, Bishop reads the poem to her friend Robert Lowell.
Biography of Elizabeth Bishop — Learn more about the poet's life and work.
The Drafts of “One Art” — Read more about Bishop’s writing process and how “One Art” changed over the course of 17 drafts in this essay at Modern American Poetry.
"Elizabeth Bishop's Art of Losing" — Read this article from The New Yorker to learn more about Bishop’s life, including the circumstances that gave rise to the poem “One Art.”
1The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
2so many things seem filled with the intent
3to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
4Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
5of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
6The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
7Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
8places, and names, and where it was you meant
9to travel. None of these will bring disaster.
10I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
11next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
12The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
13I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
14some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
15I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.
16—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
17I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
18the art of losing’s not too hard to master
19though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.