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The Art of Losing—Three Poems for the COVID-19 Pandemic

Educational Objective
To identify the key insights or developments described in this article
1 Credit CME

In the chaos of the past year we’ve found ourselves—one of us a physician and poet, the other a professor of literature and filmmaker—drawn to the alchemy of language as a way to make sense of what’s happening in our medical centers, our communities, and the world. Here we present 3 poems we recommend for their wisdom and the hope they inspire as we witness the loss, suffering, and resilience brought about by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

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.

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CME Disclosure Statement: Unless noted, all individuals in control of content reported no relevant financial relationships. If applicable, all relevant financial relationships have been mitigated.

Article Information

Corresponding Author: Rafael Campo, MA, MD, Division of General Internal Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, 330 Brookline Ave, Boston, MA 02215 (rcampo@bidmc.harvard.edu).

Published Online: December 11, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.24699

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Dr New reported receiving grants from The Dalio Foundation, The Poetry Foundation, and The Sloan Foundation outside the submitted work. No other disclosures were reported.

Permission Information: “One Art” from The Complete Poems 1927-1979 by Elizabeth Bishop. copyright 1979, 1983 by Alice Helen Methfessel. Used with permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Published in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth by Jonathan Cape and reproduced by permission of the Random House Group Ltd.

“Hospital in Oregon” from A Portrait of the Self as Nation: New and Selected Poems copyright 2018 by Marilyn Chin. Used with permission of W. W. Norton & Co.

“What the Last Evening Will Be Like” from The Living Fire: New and Selected Poems by Edward Hirsch, ©2010 by Edward Hirsch. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.

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