Paris Review: Elizabeth Bishop

As many blogs have already mentioned, April is National Poetry Month.

Interviewer: Have you ever had any poems that were gifts? Poems that seemed to write themselves?

Bishop: Oh, yes. Once in a while it happens. I wanted to write a villanelle all my life but I never could. I’d start them but for some reason I could never finish them. And one day I couldn’t believe it–it was like writing a letter.* There was one rhyme I couldn’t get that ended in e-n-t and a friend of mine, the poet Frank Bidart, came to see me and I said, Frank, give me a rhyme. He gave me a word offhand and I put it in. But neither he nor I can remember which word it was. But that kind of thing doesn’t happen very often. Maybe some poets always write that way. I don’t know.

*Bishop was referring to her poem “One Art.”

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.

Poem and photo source: poets.org

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