Today, I have two poems by another poet who also has roots in Massachusetts but traveled far and wide (stayed in NYC, Key West, France, and Brazil for many years). Like yesterday's poet, Robert Lowell (with whom she shared a special friendship, maintained over the years mostly through letters), she is also renowned as one of the leading American poets of the 20th century. Although I have not read much of her poetry, the few poems by Elizabeth Bishop that I have read have stayed with me.

'One Art' especially moves me interminably. It is in a form - villanelle - which consists of five 3-line stanzas followed by a quatrain and having only two rhymes. In the stanzas following the first stanza, the first and third lines of the first stanza are repeated alternately as refrains. They are the final two lines of the concluding quatrain. (Another one of my favorite poems - Do not go gentle into that good night by Dylan Thomas - is also a villanelle.) You can read more about the poem 'One Art' here. (And trying to find a link to the poem, I found that there is a book about Art and memory in the work of Elizabeth Bishop! Maybe some day I will try to find it at the library and read it!)


http://www.poets.org/images/authors/ebishop.jpg
Elizabeth Bishop (Born: 8 February 1911, Worcester, MA - Died: 6 October 1979, Boston, MA)



...art “copying from life” and life itself,
life and the memory of it so compressed
they’ve turned into each other. Which is which?
   - Elizabeth Bishop (Poem

One Art
by Elizabeth Bishop


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.

Note: See the short commentary by Octavio Paz about this poem and hear the poem being read aloud.



The second poem for today is one I read just last week. I need to re-read the poem a few times to fully absorb it but something about this appealed a lot to me; maybe because like this poem I celebrate life and think of traveling as an essential part of exploring life. Anyways, I am by no means qualified to analyze this poem and will leave you to the experts for their thoughts about this poem. Onto the poem...


Questions of Travel
- Elizabeth Bishop
There are too many waterfalls here; the crowded streams
hurry too rapidly down to the sea,
and the pressure of so many clouds on the mountaintops
makes them spill over the sides in soft slow-motion,
turning to waterfalls under our very eyes.
--For if those streaks, those mile-long, shiny, tearstains,
aren't waterfalls yet,
in a quick age or so, as ages go here,
they probably will be.
But if the streams and clouds keep travelling, travelling,
the mountains look like the hulls of capsized ships,
slime-hung and barnacled.

Think of the long trip home.
Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?
Where should we be today?
Is it right to be watching strangers in a play
in this strangest of theatres?
What childishness is it that while there's a breath of life
in our bodies, we are determined to rush
to see the sun the other way around?
The tiniest green hummingbird in the world?
To stare at some inexplicable old stonework,
inexplicable and impenetrable,
at any view,
instantly seen and always, always delightful?
Oh, must we dream our dreams
and have them, too?
And have we room
for one more folded sunset, still quite warm?

But surely it would have been a pity
not to have seen the trees along this road,
really exaggerated in their beauty,
not to have seen them gesturing
like noble pantomimists, robed in pink.
--Not to have had to stop for gas and heard
the sad, two-noted, wooden tune
of disparate wooden clogs
carelessly clacking over
a grease-stained filling-station floor.
(In another country the clogs would all be tested.
Each pair there would have identical pitch.)
--A pity not to have heard
the other, less primitive music of the fat brown bird
who sings above the broken gasoline pump
in a bamboo church of Jesuit baroque:
three towers, five silver crosses.
--Yes, a pity not to have pondered,
blurr'dly and inconclusively,
on what connection can exist for centuries
between the crudest wooden footwear
and, careful and finicky,
the whittled fantasies of wooden footwear
and, careful and finicky,
the whittled fantasies of wooden cages.
--Never to have studied history in
the weak calligraphy of songbirds' cages.
--And never to have had to listen to rain
so much like politicians' speeches:
two hours of unrelenting oratory
and then a sudden golden silence
in which the traveller takes a notebook, writes:

"Is it lack of imagination that makes us come
to imagined places, not just stay at home?
Or could Pascal have been not entirely right
about just sitting quietly in one's room?


Continent, city, country, society:
the choice is never wide and never free.
And here, or there . . . No. Should we have stayed at home,
wherever that may be?"


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