Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Poem of the Week : 'One Art'

The second Poem of the Week is Elizabeth Bishop's villanelle 'One Art' - for the full text, click here. For a previous post on Bishop and the book Edgar Allan Poe & the Juke-Box, go here.

In the Washington Post, Robert Hass presents 'One Art' with Theodore Roethke's 'The Waking' and comments on the form of the villanelle :-

"A very old Italian folk song form brought into medieval French poetry and then brought into English by poets at the end of the 19th century. It is based on an intricate rhyme scheme and a schematic repetition of key lines. The effect is mesmerizing; it makes of the music of the poem a kind of haunted waltz."

In Ploughshares, Lloyd Schwartz has an article about Bishop's poetry (reviewing her book Geography III) under the title 'One Art', which looks in some detail at the poem 'In the Waiting Room', which is part of the Leaving Certificate selection, and then at our Poem of the Week. He comments on the ambiguity of the opening remark, "the art of losing can mean two things, both learning not to mind, and learning to lose more" and goes on to point out that the use of the villanelle form is -

"one of Elizabeth Bishop's rare excursions into a complex, pre-existent verse pattern (only her two sestinas and the double sonnet of 'The Prodigal' come to mind). Perhaps the framework of a formal pattern was a necessary structure for the use of so many personal details."

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