Study Guide

One Art Transience

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In "One Art," Elizabeth Bishop focuses upon one of the eternal truths of our world: that nothing is eternal. The "art" she mentions in the title is in fact "the art of losing" (1.1), something familiar to us all. This poem reminds readers that we lose things all the time in our everyday lives, both significant and insignificant, and that no matter how much we love something, it won’t be around forever. The poem asks us to reflect upon the losses we’ve experienced in our own lives, and to stop and think for a moment about the way in which our worlds constantly change.

Questions About Transience

  1. Loss and transition are everywhere in this poem. Does anything remain constant in the world the poet depicts?
  2. What is the significance of the loss of small things, like a door key or an hour?
  3. Is it necessary to master the art of losing in order to get through life?

Chew on This

The rapid accumulation of lost objects in "One Art" comments upon the ephemeral and impermanent nature of human relationships.

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