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Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art” Poem Analysis

Poets and writers use numerous literary devices, ways of building rhyme, and rhythm to convey the message of their compositions to readers. Elizabeth Bishop is also one of these authors as her poetry is filled with various elements to create form and context for sharing her personal experience and ideas. This paper will analyze the poem “One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop to demonstrate the appropriateness of using all of the author’s literary techniques to convey the message.

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The poem “One Art” is a personal story of the author, which can be familiar to many people. Bishop talks about the belongings and people she has lost in her life, from the small items in early childhood to important things like home and loved ones. In real life, Bishop experienced the death of her mother and father, a commitment to a mental facility, and constant relocation that deprived her of a home, which is reflected in her poem.

For this reason, the protagonist in the verse is the author himself, and her antagonist is the loss that she repeatedly overcome. At the same time, five short verses fully reveal the plot of the story. The rising action manifested in listing losses from small to significant. The climax describes the narrator’s loss of a loved one, which is the most painful for her (Bishop line 17). However, the following lines indicate that she has coped with feelings, which is the falling action. Thus, the author reveals her experience and forms a story that the reader can understand without even knowing the details of her life.

Moreover, the poem’s form is one of the features that allows the author to convey emotions to the reader. The poem consists of four verses of three lines and the final verse of four lines, while it has all two rhymes repeated through the text. These lines are meaningfully divided into three parts, each of which speaks of losses of varying degrees. In the first part, Bishop talks about small things that are easy to replace, in the second about more significant material values, and in the third about a loved person.

This structure is characteristic of the villanelle form of poetry, which is most often used to convey strong emotions as it has repetition that emphasizes the problem. Bishop most often repeats the phrase “The art of losing isn’t hard to master” in the first, sixth, twelfth, and eighteenth lines. Simultaneously, the repetition of the words “is not a disaster” that follows this phrase emphasizes that loss is a painful experience each time, but it can be overcome. Therefore, this form of verse is an accurate way to amplify the message and convey emotion to the readers.

Moreover, Bishop uses several other literary devices to enhance the message of the poem. Firstly, although the verse is written in the first person, it sounds like the author’s desire to provide support to readers but not only share experiences with them. This feature is expressed by such impersonal appeals as “lose” and “practice,” as well as the pronoun “you,” which in this verse creates the feeling that the author is speaking directly to the reader (Bishop lines 3, 7). In addition, the strong emphasis is on the bracketed phrase on the last line “(Write this!)” (Bishop line 19). This phrase sounds like a piece of advice that readers must remember to avoid the feeling of doom and hopelessness that the author faced when perceiving loss as a disaster.

Furthermore, Bishop uses images that are understandable and close to the reader to convey the rising action and convey the growing pain of loss. The author begins with the loss of keys or an hour of time, which is an only unpleasant trifle for everyone. Bishop moves on to more personal and sensitive issues such as places, names, cities, and countries that once mattered in a person’s life (line 7). Losing valuable material or sentimental things is more sensitive for most people, so Bishop puts them to the next level. Consequently, readers can easily match the narrator’s experience with their own and, at the climax, feel the emotions that the author has put into it. Thus, such features of the plot construction and almost imperceptible details allow Bishop to fill her poem with meaning and feelings that are deep but understandable to readers.

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In conclusion, the analysis of “One Art” poem by Elizabeth Bishop demonstrates that the author skillfully uses literary techniques to convey the message of the verse. The main feature is the villanelle form of poetry, which allows the author to emphasize the problem using repetition and three parts of building a story like an essay. In addition, Bishop uses familiar images and phrases for readers that make them feel the described experience as if it was their own. Thus, although Bishop brings her personal struggle to this poem, a reader can understand and feel its message even without knowing the details of the author’s biography.

Work Cited

Bishop, Elizabeth. “One Art.” Web.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, June 7). Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art” Poem Analysis. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/elizabeth-bishops-one-art-poem-analysis/

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StudyCorgi. (2022, June 7). Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art” Poem Analysis. https://studycorgi.com/elizabeth-bishops-one-art-poem-analysis/

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art” Poem Analysis." June 7, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/elizabeth-bishops-one-art-poem-analysis/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art” Poem Analysis'. 7 June.

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