In our lifetime we deal with a constant loss: the loss of time at the grocery line, in traffic, a bad relationship, and loss of things important to us, worldly possessions, loss of people dear to us, and those we never met, loss of love and finally loss of life. Perhaps there is nobody better to describe emotions associated with a loss but poets themselves. They are kind of people that dwell on emotions, write about them and make their livelihood off of them.
In “I felt a Funeral, in My Brain” by Emily Dickinson and “One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop, the two noted American, female poets portray their own loss of a friend and sanity. In “I Felt a Funeral, in My Brain”, Dickinson uses structure and grammar to emphasize progression of the speakers’ mental breakdown. This is a five stanza poem, with a rhyme scheme of ABCB. The second and fourth lines in each stanza rhyme with an exception of the final stanza which does not rhyme at all; illustrating the breakdown.
Throughout the poem the meter alternates between iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter.Her use of the punctuations are structured and organized at first, but as the speaker is losing her sanity the punctuations turn chaotic, more frequent commas and dashes. Dickinson lived in isolation, surrounded by her poetry and letters.
Her lifestyle plays out in her poetry. She uses physical things and sounds she hears as metaphors to describe speakers’ emotional distress. Using repetition “treading – treading”, “beating – beating”, Dickinson influences readers’ ear with steady progression of sounds heard by the speaker like mourners footsteps.
In a ritual of the funeral the poet is metaphorically describing stages and progression of speakers’ mental illness. “Funeral” used as a metaphor to describe a dying mind under enormous mental distress. Dickinson is placing herself in the role of a speaker, describing to us readers stages of her suffering under mental stress until she is no longer capable to cope with her emotions and goes numb. She is left with a feeling the words cannot describe “Mind” grows “numb”, and with that she stops mid-sentence; as she is in loss for words.The event that the “funeral” is used to describe doesn’t have to be interpreted solely as a mental breakdown, it can simply describe minds’ inability to cope with the pressure that was imposed by the outside world.
Knowing poets life was surrounded with great privacy and solitude, inability of speaker to deal with outside influences to the point of numbness, can almost be understandable. She is describing the situation, far too familiar to most of us: when we worry, analyze, reanalyze, and rationalize things with our mind with fear and pressure, shortage and limit on time.We reach a point of no return, when our brain starts to hurt and our mind goes blank (Just remember when you tried to complete the test with a very short time limit) and it is all over and we lay our mind at rest just as our speaker does at the end of the poem. In “One Art”, Elizabeth Bishop uses villanelle structure and content to describe emotions she’s attempting to pass on. It’s a six stanza poem. The first three stanzas are written in the second person and the other three in first except for the first line in the last stanza where she’s addressing her beloved one with “you”.Using meter and a complex rhyme scheme, she keeps the poems’ form to illustrate a void which she tries to demonstrate in her words.
In the beginning tercets, she starts off talking about the loss of small object and progresses to larger items. Don’t be fooled by the title of the poem. It is most certainly not about “art” but more of a guide for acquiring the skill, like an “art of losing”. Bishop suggests that mastering of losing everyday things such as “door keys” doesn’t prepare one for a loss of someone dear.
It is as if she’s trying to demonstrate to us how losing a person dear to us is a separate suffering all together. This would indeed make it “One Art” and everything else, like losing our possessions and fortune is just plain secondary or of no particular importance, therefore, it is not “too hard to master”. She says to us you’ll get used to it, encourages us to lose things, urges us to practice “lose something every day” as to get better at it to master it. She promises us that through repetition of “loss” we will gain mastery.Speaking as a survivor, Bishop does not want our pity as she has none for herself. She builds up a pressure with repetitive use of words “loss” and “master” and at the end with the loss of the loved one she loses her “art” and gains self-understanding and closure. She’s reliving private sorrow and one could just feel extreme energy needed for her to say the word “disaster”, so much so, that she needs to write it down as to avoid saying it out loud.
In alternating game of words throughout the poem, “master” and “disaster”, “disaster” seems to have the last word.It is true then “the art of losing is not hard to master” because losing is all we do. Both poems appear to be autobiographical in one form or the others, both poets being somewhat eccentric for their time have also faced personal suffering and loss. Language and verse form show “One Art” how the losses increase importance as the poem progresses. The loss in lines one through fifteen, is mostly not very important to the speaker or to us readers who see it as trivial in comparison to the great “loss” in lines sixteen through nineteen.
Bishop builds pressure with loss till her attitude suddenly shifts at the very end, similar to Dickinson’s poem which engages reader with repetitive use of words and abruptly changes her tone and attitude at the end. They both talk about loss and pressure with dealing with it. Speakers gradual suffering throughout the both poems, leads to self realization at the very end. Dickinson’s content with her thoughts, and bishop with her loss.
They are both fighting internal turmoil.Dickinson caught up with the progress of her mind loss while Bishop is mastering progress in loss and taking charge of it, unlike Dickinson who is submitting to it. Bishop is hopeful, objective at times ironic and Dickinson is withdrawn and depressing.
Dickinson radiates terror throughout her poem, spreading it onto the reader while Bishop engages her reader, encourages, and urges him to master the “art”. While Dickinson’s writing appears to be very personal and she is sharing her emotions willingly, Bishop tends to distant herself. She is willing to a teacher yet she’s not sharing her emotions with her readers.