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One Art

One Art

by Elizabeth Bishop

Analysis: Sound Check

If you’ve ever seen any of those schlocky movies in which an older narrator looks back at the events of his or her past (classic examples include Stand by Me and A River Runs Through It), you might recognize a similar tone of retrospective contemplation in this poem. Take away the schlock factor, and all of a sudden there’s something reminiscent of the inner monologues that dominate movies like this about this poem, despite the fact that it’s overtly a written work (as acknowledged in the last line – "Write it!" [6.19]).

Though we find out in the final stanza that it’s kind of addressed to a mysterious beloved that she lost, we get the feeling that this poem was never intended to be sent to said beloved. Instead, it’s a sort of self-directed address, perhaps intended to help the poet make sense of her own losses. She attempts to convince herself that she can cope with all the things she’s left behind, but this tactic only partially works; by trying to get used to loss, she only covers up her true feelings of sorrow and longing. Though her voice might sound optimistic, she almost loses it in that last line – after all, some losses really are disasters.

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