Sunday, October 11, 2009

Poem #4--Poetry Experiment

This is a poetry experiment. The poet's identity is unknown and the poem is out of context. I think that, by not even knowing the writer's gender or race or age, it helps to decontextualize the poem. The poem stands for itself and is free from any subjectivity that might come from knowing the identity or biography of the poet. This was what the Formalist Critics wanted to do, to strip away any timeliness or bias and to let the poem speak for itself. The Formalists were all about "Close Reading", balance, and the close marriage between form and content. This is the poem, and below is my immediate reaction and observations:
"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 love 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."
Right off the bat, I noticed the ABA ABA rhyming structure: Master, Intent Disaster:Fluster, Spent, Master:Faster, Meant, Disaster, and so on. The rhythm in the beginning seems a bit awkward, but the later stanzas reveal a more easy flow. There's an average of 10-11 syllables in each line, and once you notice this, you get a steady rhythm going, and it starts to make sense. Up until the end, where it breaks the established structure, but not severely. The last stanza has 4 lines, with an ABAA rhyming scheme. Also it seems a bit out of form because it includes parentheses, and because it addresses someone (possibly us, the reader), and offers a direct commandment ("Write it!"). ***

The story of the poem is obviously one of loss, but it's not one of total tragedy. It's of every day loss, the kind that is unavoidable, and the kind that makes us human. The first stanza is the mission statement. The next lines follow the theme, and are a progression of the building sense of "vaster" and disastrous loss. What starts as "the fluster of lost door keys", becomes forgetting "places and names", culminating in the loss of a continent. Just as the form becomes more easy to read, the losses mentioned here, carried by the form, leads into a greater understanding.

The first line is a kind of mantra that is repeated throughout: "The art of losing isn't hard to master". Usually, there is a belief that art is reserved for those with true talent, but it's not hard to learn this craft. It's a humbling idea, that suggests anybody can perform this art, it's as easy as losing something/someone, but it's a painful process not all are willing to go though.

An interesting line is also in the first stanza: "So many things seem filled with the intent to be lost that their loss is no disaster". This makes me think about the disposability of our society. So many things are made not to last, that's why warranties are invented. I bought a brand new Macbook two years ago. It was beautiful. I used it every day, and it of course it got busted up and scratched. Finally one day last month, it wouldn't turn on and I learned that the hard-drive just up and died! I took it to the store and, because I had the warranty, they gave me a new hard-drive. It sucked! But it certainly was no disaster. I don't know if this was the actual meaning the poet meant, but it's one I take to heart. Once we accept that things in this world are only finite--even us--we realize that the show must go on.

I'm thinking that this poem is a story about poetry itself, but the new kind of poetry that is depersonalized, decontextualized, and less revealing of the poet, as admired by the New Critics. "The ART of losing isn't hard to master". The Art-of-Losing is the act of Writing Poetry, in the sense that the writer must lose everything about the personal experience that traps the poem in a context--of women's poetry, or black poetry, or old white male poetry, etc--and transfer it to page. Something is lost in this process, but its necessary for it to be considered Art.

The final stanza addresses us, but also, that which is personal: "Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture/I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident/the art of losing's not hard to master/though it may look like (Write it) like disaster". For art to be great, it has to be divorced from anything personal, this is the "joking voice" and whatever it is that is "loved". Another message that comes to light by the end of them poem is directly stated, jarringly: "Write it!". As places and names are lost, one could say that it is because of a faulty memory. As a writer myself, I like to record things down, the moment, and my reactions to those moments, because I don't want to forget them. The poet is telling other poets to "Write it", so that all things that are lost are not entirely gone.

The tone is humbling, but accepting. It's a sad surrender, but not in a tragic sense, it's the kind of loss that everyone inevitably goes through. It seems like it's from the position of one who is wise and weathered. I can imagine that the poet would agree with the same sense of concession one feels with the phrase "well, it's not the end of the world", even when it is the end of the world. The message here is to accept the loss, to realize that it "wasn't a disaster".

***as my own personal experiment, I tried to keep the first paragraph as a critique, solely on the Form alone, but I found (as I was hoping) that you can't talk about the Form without talking about the Content.

1 comment:

  1. Howdy!!!!!!!!! Im checkin in...its 1201 Monday morning! Why am I up?? Ok well the poem is by Elizabeth Bishop written in 76! I KNEW IT! Not the date of course but that it was a female! (Wow such talent huh?) I'm going to further analyze the poem and write more. Pat maybe we can compile it all and staple our papers to hand in Tuesday? What do you think? SWEETDREAMS!