Imagery and Meaning in One Art by Elizabeth Bishop

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Imagery and Meaning in One Art by Elizabeth Bishop

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Bishop uses imagery throughout her poem using a 6-line stanza. The first 5 stanzas exist in 3 line forms and are rhymed aba, while the last stanza is four lines and is rhymed abab. Bishop uses rhyme schemes to portray the meaning behind her words. The use of rhythmic pattern is done through using words such as “master”, “disaster” or “fluster”. The repetition of the words is used as a stylistic choice throughout the poem to emphasize to the reader the importance of these words as they pertain to the rest of the poem.

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One Art draws upon the idea of missing things that are meant to be lost as a way of showing control in difficult situations.

Bishop opens up the first stanza by stating that losing objects is not very difficult to do. Art can be imperfect and losing material objects is inevitable. The first 2 stanzas draw on the idea that losing things is not a concern and is a daily experience. The objects that are lost for the purpose of being lost are not worth pondering upon as if they were never really needed or are meant to be lost.

The poem continues and brings up another running theme between time and disaster as though it is a race and asks a question of when is the loss of a loved one expected.

Bishop shifts focus in the latter three stanzas as she goes from talking about losing objects to trying to get the reader to practice losing things. Bishop is requiring this request in order to perhaps make things seem easier to lose later on and will not feel like a disaster. She starts by asking the reader to practice losing things that are kept in the mind like names and places as if preparing us for the loss of someone or something that is bigger. She draws on the irony that art is imperfect but as time goes on and with practice it becomes better.

She goes on in the fourth stanza to explain that she had lost her mothers watch, three houses and a beloved city, perhaps these items symbolize the lost time that she could have had with her mother and the memories that will continue to live in her mind. Now the idea of losing has become a bigger more abstract thing than when we started in the first stanza.

From stanza 1 to stanza 5, the objects that Bishop loses seem to be getting bigger and are of greater value to her. It seems as though she had endured many loses and that she valued the time she did get to spend in the places she loved with her loved ones.

In the last stanza it seems as though the race has finally ended with the final loss. Bishop struggles to write it, the inevitable loss of a loved one has happened and it brings up feelings of damage inside of her that make her seem to have lost all control.

From the beginning of the poem, it seemed as though Bishop was addressing this poem to someone else. However, by the end of the poem it becomes clear that Bishop is not talking to someone else but rather talking to herself, trying to convince herself that although losing objects is not a disaster, losing loved ones is very painful and is the true disaster. Despite the fact that we are bound to lose things and people, we will always have a memory or a recollection in our mind of the times we had with them.

Bishop uses simple, poetic language to convey many different themes in this poem. The theme of loss and pain and how although it is inevitable it will always be agonizing and will affect us in more ways that we can imagine. The way Bishop writes this poem is very much related to her lived experiences and although this is how she felt going through a loss, it will relate to the readers in the sense that we have all lost someone or something that we cared so deeply about. Bishop uses rhythmic form throughout the poem in order to express the conflicts she's had throughout her life with grief and learning how to deal with it. Bishop takes the reader on a poetic journey as they go through each stanza, it is like a rollercoaster of emotions as they experience with her the losses that they have encountered. It signifies the importance of the journeys that Bishop as well as the readers have endured. 

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