Poetry Sundays: Elizabeth Bishop

lost keys

Image by atache on flickr.

One Art

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.

(circa 1976)

One of my favorite poets in all the world is Elizabeth Bishop. And this piece of hers is resonating with me and my many anxieties lately (some of which I expressed in my comment on the last Poetry Sundays post). Every time I come back to this poem, I love it more. I love its clear-cut rhymes and easy rhythms—that it feels a lot like a free verse poem in the way it flows without effort—but it is actually following the very strict rules of a poetic form called the villanelle. I can only say that the form of this poem about quadruples my admiration for it.

Please feel free to share your own thoughts in the comments. If you don’t know where to start I have a couple of questions that came to mind as I read “One Art” this time around. When she says “the art of losing,” what exactly does that mean to you? And why do you think she doesn’t ever mention looking for or finding things that are lost?

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20+ Great Picture Books for Girls

Choosing a list of book recommendations is a difficult thing. There are too many good books to choose from! Even after narrowing the criteria for what goes on the list, it can still be too long and overwhelming for some (this one has 20 items but I sneak more than one title in whenever I can–I personally prefer much shorter lists). So, for this post, I chose only picture books, and only books currently in my personal library or those I hope to add someday. That means I really like them. I also (mostly) limited myself to choosing books with girls as the main characters, which is of course not to say that I think girls should only read books about girls–it was just helpful in narrowing the list down. Since this post started as an email discussion where multiple women were suggesting children’s books, I discovered (or re-discovered) some great books. I love love the fact that this kind of discovery always always happens, no matter what, even though I’m completely surrounded by books at work.

One other thing about book recommendations is that every book doesn’t necessarily appeal to every person. So if you take this list as a “if you are looking for picture books that have girls as main characters and that are overall just good children’s books, check these out” kind of list, you might find something you love. I hope!

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Grape Hyacinth


Small blue bottle on a shelf in the kitchen
holds one grape hyacinth
I plucked from a neighbor’s lawn.
Each day I watch the tiny thing die.
This is what I do when I come to the sink.
This is my document of observation.
First the little purple poufs at the bottom fade slightly
then slowly collapse like balloons running out of air
at an excruciating, slow pace.
I can almost hear the air whistling out
a miniscule breath, imperceptible.

The process moves up the stem
row by row of inedible miniature grapes:
the fading color
indigo to pale periwinkle
invisible pinprick that makes no pop but lets out the air
and withering carries on
until the lowermost grapes become raisins
so tight you think they cannot curl into themselves
even a tiny bit more but they do
the whole while an inaudible wheeze–
This gradual dying.

{Image by Jana Remy}

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Information overwhelm

by Brooke


Exercise in Draining

I am training
to squeeze (absorb?)
from where it
is plenty
or scarce.

Sometimes it
will build up
so that I
almost burst
and I would
for certain
if you caught
me off guard.

So I get
I hold it,
and then learn
to drain it

What do you do when it feels like there’s too much information coming at you?

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Circle soap


A plain looking thing
fat disk
of oil and lye
forced to sit and cure

something permanent
it may not have chosen
for itself

but holding it
between my palms
feels right
subtle thing

under warm water
bumpy rotation
awkward lather
it becomes ethereal.

by Brooke

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