One Art Poem Essays

This is a crafted poem with simple language and mostly full end rhymes such as master/disaster, fluster/master, last or/master, gesture/master/disaster. As you read through, note the almost conversational, tongue-in-cheek tone, with some irony to spice it up. It's as if the poet initially is reminding herself of just what it means to lose something; it's no big deal we're told, certainly not a disaster?

First Stanza

The speaker chooses to turn the idea of loss into an art form and tries to convince the reader (and herself) that certain things inherently want to be lost and that, when they do get lost, it's nothing to cry about because it was bound to happen in the first place. This is a fateful approach, gracefully accepted by the speaker.

Second Stanza

Following on in logical fashion, if fate dictates and things want to get lost, then why not lose something on a daily basis? Seems a tad wacky, an offbeat statement. Who wants to lose a thing and then not get emotional about it? Each and every day?

The speaker is suggesting that things, keys, and even time equate to the same thing - they're capable of being lost, absent from your life for no other reason other than they are. Some people are better at it than others. The absent minded perhaps? Those individuas who are in some way fated, who have a talent for losing things.

So far, so impersonal. Emotion is being held in as the poem builds; the reader is being reminded that losing control within the poem's tight form is not possible - but you are allowed to get in a fluster (agitated, confused).

Third Stanza

Now the reader is being told to consciously lose something, to practice the art. Irony sets in, as does the idea that the mind is a central focus here, for what we're told to lose is abstract - places and names, perhaps on a personal map. Time is being squeezed too as life gets busier and our minds become full and stretched. But in the end we can handle the losses, no problem.

Fourth Stanza

Again, the emphasis is on time, specifically family time, with the mother's watch being lost, surely symbolic of a profound personal experience for the poet. And note that the speaker is in the here and now when the words And look! appear in the first line, telling the reader that three loved houses went. Went where? We're not sure, we only know they were definitely lost, never having been called a home.

Fifth Stanza

The build up continues. Emotional tension is still not apparent as the reader is now confronted with the speaker's loss of not only the cities where they used to live but the whole continent. This seems drastic. To go from a set of house keys to a whopping continent is absurd - how much more can the speaker endure? Disaster still hasn't happened, but she does miss what she had and possibly took for granted.

Sixth Stanza


The opening dash in the final stanza gives it the feel of almost an afterthought. And the use of adverbs, even and too in connection with a loved one, reveals something quite painfully rational. The personal gives way to the impersonal, the form dictating, despite the last attempt (Write it!) to avoid admission.

In conclusion, there is always the possibility of disaster when we lose something but life teaches us that more often than not, we come out of certain precarious situations with a smile, a cool detachment, the benefit of hindsight.

The poet infers we might become masters of the art of losing and in so doing, find ourselves?

The poem begins rather boldly with the curious claim that "the art of losing isn’t hard to master" (1.1). The speaker suggests that some things are basically made to be lost, and that losing them therefore isn’t a big deal. She suggests that we get used to loss by practicing with little things, like house keys or a little bit of wasted time here and there; the idea is that if you’re comfortable with the insignificant losses, you’ll be ready to cope when the big ones come along.

The losses mentioned in the poem grow more and more significant. First it’s the things we try to remember, like names and places, then more specific items, such as a mother’s watch or homes one has loved in the past. As these things begin to pile up, we wonder how much the speaker has actually mastered this so-called "art of losing." Is she really as glib (that is to say, smart-alecky) as she sounds, or does she still have deep feelings about all of these things? We’re not so sure.

However, the last stanza reveals a whole lot to us. We discover that the loss that really bothers her is that of a beloved person (friend, family, or lover, we don’t know). She attempts rather feebly to claim that even this loss isn’t a "disaster," though it appears to be one; at this point, though, we see that she really is still sad about the loss, and hasn’t truly gotten over it.

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