Exploring the world one word…and one mile…at a time

Posts tagged “Elizabeth Bishop

The Art of Losing

Before and after the garage sale...

We’ve been losing a lot of things lately: weight, earrings, and the lottery, among others.  We’ve even been losing track of time, spending hours in a dusty basement sorting through boxes of stuff we’ve been lugging around for years.  Last weekend, we took a break from purging to attend the Massachusetts Poetry Festival in Salem.  This weekend, we held our first (and only!) yard sale to rid ourselves of extraneous possessions.  How are all of these events related?

One of the sessions at the festival featured a reading of a favorite poem we hadn’t heard or read in a while.  The poem is “One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop, and the opening stanza goes like this:

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.

Bishop goes on to suggest that we should all “practice losing farther, losing faster”…and that seems to be the theme of our April this year.  We started the month staring down a houseful of stuff, wondering how we would decide what to keep when we moved into our next  place…a much smaller, cooler, easier to handle space, by design.  Sometimes those keep-or-ditch decisions were easy, but often they were difficult, getting caught up in memories and emotions and absurd hangups on financial value or sunk costs.

But as the month progressed, we seemed to get better at losing.  Every box we touched became easier to go through, every letter we read became easier to recycle, and every possession we evaluated became easier to part with.  We sent hundreds of items home with new owners yesterday, with the intent that their useful lives be extended in someone else’s  care.  We then took most of the remaining items to a local non-profit with the same outcome in mind.  A handful of leftovers wait patiently in our garage to meet their fate at our town’s recycling center.

It turns out that the art of losing is difficult to begin, but with a little practice (Write it!) it isn’t hard to master. –J&M

In honor of the festival and national poetry month, we suggest you check out Bishop’s entire poem, available on the Poetry Foundation’s website here:  http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/176996