What is the significance of the title: "One Art?" Why is it called "one" art?
In the poem, "One Art," the speaker (Bishop) describes losing as an art. Since we lose things every day (keys, names, etc.), it is an easy art to master. However, as the poem progresses, the speaker notes things that are increasingly more valuable, but she continues the phrase that losing is not hard to master. In the first stanza, she says that "so many things seem filled with the intent / to be lost that their loss is no disaster." That is, we are destined to lose things (and people); therefore, we should be ready for that eventuality. Of course, in real life, knowledge that we will lose things does not help assuage the pain of loss when it happens (certainly when considering the loss of a loved one).
While losing itself is an art that is easy to master, dealing with loss is an art that requires skill: patience, reflection, perspective, support, etc. Dealing with loss and poetry are both arts that require skill. The speaker, in the last stanza, is conflicted about whether or not she can treat losing her lover as an art easy to master or as 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.
It is as if the speaker must write the command "Write it!" in order to prompt her to actually write that losing someone looks like (or is) "disaster." The other implication of this command is that poetry is a way (an art) of dealing with loss which, in this poem, is also an art.
One Art: Letters is a posthumous compilation of Bishop's letters written throughout her lifetime. While her poems never provided clear intimate details about her life, these letters do just that. The letters reveal her relationships, notably her relationship with Lota de Macedo Soares, of whom the "you" in the last stanza of "One Art" likely refers. Using the poem's title "One Art" for the name of the collection of letters links Bishop's poetry (her art) with insights to her real life as presented in her letters. The letters also provide insight about how she dealt with her art (writing) and how she dealt with loss in her own life.
As a brasilian person I am 99% sure that the title "One Art" is a reference of Bishop brasilian lover, Lota de Macedo Soares, who has commited suicide.
I will explain: In portuguese we have the same word for "a" (article) and "one" (number) that is "um (male)/ uma (female)". We say it this way: "perder é uma arte".
As it is known that Bishop use to make puns in portuguese, translating them literally to english making jokes, it has become clearly for me.
As if she was dedicatind the poem for her lover, making the pun in the title. For the poem maybe be "recognized", as if she was saying "its for you".