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One Art, by Elizabeth Bishop

The 1976 poem 'One Art' by American poet Elizabeth Bishop is an unsentimental tribute to loss and speaks to the pervasive disruptions of the coronavirus pandemic in its first year. It's read here by Katie Couric, Gregory Orr, Sheryl Sandberg, Yang Lan, Richard Summers, and Mary Chapin Carpenter.

Click the Related Article link to read a discussion of the relevance of this poem and 2 others to COVID-19 in 'Three Poems For the Coronavirus Pandemic.'“One Art” from The Complete Poems 1927-1979 by Elizabeth Bishop.

Copyright © 1979, 1983 by Alice Helen Methfessel. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Reading courtesy of Poetry in America. Used with permission.

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Transcript

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.

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