Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art”, the poetry of loss, and bereavement

The poetry magazine Magma has a call for submissions for a special issue on Loss. The deadline is April 30th – so you better get writing if you want to enter (or dust off a poem you’ve prepared earlier…) The Call For Submissions is itself a nice little essay on the poetry of loss, and features Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art”, new to me:

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

The essay/call is worth reading, although I would dispute that “Grief following bereavement is one of western society’s last taboos. ” I am not a fan of the last taboo trope. And surely rather than being “one of western society’s last taboos” it is a fairly recent taboo. Think of all the rituals of bereavement such as wearing black for a period of time, various religious services. Certainly in Ireland much of this is intact. Often people from other countries remark on the social, even celebratory nature of Irish wakes and funerals. And the body itself is very much a presence at these. In so far as grief after a bereavement is a taboo it is quite a new one and a product of a particular historical and social circumstances.

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