I lost two cities, lovely ones

Saturday, October 24

In July I read a poem every day. I picked most of them at random: either choosing a title I liked from one of the poetry books around the house, or asking friends for a suggestion. Once or twice I just stumbled upon a poem online (like Anya Silver’s 'Doing Laundry in Budapest' which then led to an afternoon reminiscing about a childhood summer in Hungary).

Although, as I say, I found most of the poems that month by accident, it was interesting (and also a little unsettling at the time) how so many of the poems seemed to speak to the theme of loss. Poems about the meaning of it, the inevitability of it. Loss of certainty, loss of love, loss of objects and people and a clear sense of self. I wasn’t sure if that meant anything. Maybe I was just hyper-sensitive to that theme – being worried in July about losing, about being lost – or if it was just a strange coincidence. Maybe it’s just the case that all writing grows out of a sense of loss; whether it mentions the word or not, the shadow of it lingers somewhere nearby.

Anyway – I write all that as a lead in to say that I’m going to try and go back to reading a poem every morning. The one that I read today was ‘One Art’ by Elizabeth Bishop, a poem that starts with the line: ‘The art of losing isn’t hard to master...’ I've read it before, and I like the rhythm of it. It also reminds me a little of something I wrote back in April actually, about losing buttons. I thought I’d share it with you (read it twice. Read it aloud): 

One Art
by Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

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.

(Pictures are by illustrator Alice Ferrow.)

1 comment:

  1. I've lost quite a lot the past month - time, chances, and some other important things. Loss is ingrained in our lives. As I write this comment, I am losing something, something big, something small. But perhaps what consoles us with this loss are the memories attached to the things we've lost. Perhaps that's why we write so much about an experience, we take photographs, make films of a summer trip. . .and then we share it to people so they too may at least remember. Having these memories reminds us that we lose some but we gain some. Anyway, that's a beautiful poem ♡ ♡ Thanks for sharing!


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