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One Art

One Art

by Elizabeth Bishop

Sadness Theme

Sadness is like the big, fat, mopey elephant in this room. In "One Art," Bishop never comes right out and says she’s sad about the many losses mentioned in this poem – in fact, she insists upon the opposite (see "Lies and Deceit" for more on that). Rather than dwell upon the moment of loss or its aftermath, the poem consciously pushes sadness off to the sidelines of the reader’s mind. However, by summoning up our own memories of lost things and people, the poet reminds us that Sadness plays a very significant but unarticulated role here.

Questions About Sadness

  1. If we take the poem at face value, what role does sadness play in it?
  2. Does the poet admit her own sadness at any point in the poem?
  3. What is the poet sad about here?
  4. When do you begin to realize that the poem is, at its core, a sad one?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The glib tone of "One Art" and the smoothness with which it glosses over the events of the poet’s life both contribute to the growing sense of sadness and resignation that dominate the last stanza.

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