General Information

“One Art” is a villanelle written in 1976 by Elizabeth Bishop.  It can be found in The Complete Poems: 1927-1979 (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1983).

In this poem, Bishop expresses the condition of loss by describing it as a learned practice, beginning with the loss of smaller items but building to a climax where she discusses the loss of a relationship.

Instructors’ Teaching Experience

I’m a big fan of this poem; I’ve taught it now for several semesters (usually on a day where I also teach two or three other poems, as well) and students respond to it positively. Its hyper-structured format combined with its really affecting subject matter make it a particularly good poem to use to talk about the relationship between form and content. [Lindsey Row-Heyveld,]

Classroom Strategies

I usually use this poem as a way to get students to begin to identify and articulate tone (which, for all their familiarity with it, they often have trouble doing). I do this through a “tone mapping” exercise and with help from the 2005 film In Her Shoes, which features a scene where a character played by Cameron Diaz reads and interprets “One Art.” [Lindsey Row-Heyveld,]