Accepting Loss in One Art and Looking for the Gulf Motel

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Updated: Jun 26, 2022
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Poetry has a different purpose, whether for the poet who wrote it or the audience it is being read to, or those reading it. The purpose for the poetry for the poet could be to communicate events that have gone on or to express a certain emotion the poet maybe having. For the audience, the purpose could be relating to these emotions or events written about by the author. The purpose of the writing in the poems “One Art” by American poet and short story writer Elizabeth Bishop and “Looking for the Gulf Motel” by author, American poet, public speaker and civil engineer Richard Blanco is to express the emotion and personal events of accepting loss.

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Bishop did die from a brain aneurysm but she had lived a very eventful life. At a young age she had lost both of her parents and did not have the best health (The New York Review of Books). While living with her aunt and uncle, her uncle molested and abused Bishop, then when she lived on her own one of her partners Lota had committed suicide (The New York Review of Books). Even with all of these events, her legacy of poetry and short stories live on today. Unlike Bishop Blanco is still alive today, but his family is exiled from Cuba and then Blanco’s family moved to Madrid where he was born then eventually to New York (Poetry Foundation). He is not just a poet but did major and get a bachelors degree in civil engineering (Poetry Foundation). One of Blanco’s greatest achievements is reading one of his poems at Obama’s presidential inaugural ceremony (Poetry Foundation). Blanco still is creating a legacy for himself today. While both Bishop and Blanco delve into the theme of accepting loss, only “One Art” best uses a specific word choices, whereas “Looking for the Gulf Motel” uses imagery.

While these poets on the outside might look like they do not have much in common, their similarities come out in personal events, emotions and who the poets have lost. These poets both were not close with their father and both lost them at a younger age. Bishop’s father did pass away due to a kidney disease right after Bishop was born according to The New York Review of Books by writer Gabrielle Bellot. According the article “My Father, My Hands” it states that, Blanco’s father passed away when he was an early adult. Blanco talks about the way his father acted when Blanco was younger in the article “My Father, My Hands”;

My father was a quiet man, and largely emotionally absent. I suspect partly because of his exile… he had to abandon his whole way of live and his dreams when he left Cuba. I’m not sure he every fully recovered from that. … he died when I was 22 years old, so I never really had the chance to develop a mature, loving adult relationship with him. In light of all this, I’ve tried to get to know my father, so to speak, though my poetry, rendering small glimpses of him… (“My Father, My Hands”)

Blanco is not close with his father due to the fact Blanco’s father did not open up his emotions or talk much to Blanco. Similarly, according to the source “Alone with Elizabeth Bishop” writer Bellot talks about how Bishop did not know her father due to him dying when she was young (“Alone with Elizabeth Bishop”). In the same way, Bishop and Blanco are both into the same sex, which mean Blanco is gay and Bishop was a lesbian. These poets were both shy about exposing themselves about being gay and a lesbian. Bishop kept hers a secret most of her life, but now Blanco is open and writes poems about being gay. In the article, “Alone with Elizabeth Bishop” Bellot states “As an only child who was frequently by herself and who was also, for many years, deep in the closet…Bishop wrote about the quiet ecstasy of being kissed in bed and waking up next to someone beloved—but never published these more revealing poems”(“Alone with Elizabeth Bishop”). This quote tells she may not have been comfortable being out about being a lesbian and would prefer to keep her love life to herself. Having these similarities paves the way to their poems to have a similar theme of accepting loss but with one of the poems it does use word choice and the other poem uses imagery.

In the poem “One Art,” Bishop uses specific word choices to explain the theme of accepting the loss of a person object or place. The loss Bishop is accepting in this poem could be the loss of her grandmother. In an interview with Word Press, she tells them, “I am very fond on painting and this may account for some of my interest in observing things closely. My aunts sketched and painted watercolor and this may have subtly influenced me” (“Conversations with Elizabeth Bishop”). Bishop uses the word art throughout her poem, “One Art” and Bishop writes, “The art of losing isn’t hard to master” (line 1). Bishop repeats this word in most of her stanzas throughout the poem. The reason for Bishop to use the word art instead of another word is to relate to her grandmother and how her grandmother influenced her art and poetry. When her grandmother passed away, Bishop could have written this poem to accept the loss of her grandmother who she was very close with. Also, using this word choice shows how learning to accept loss is not impossible but can happen. Bishop also uses the word “lost” in her poem “One Art” instead of other, more complicated words to show how she has accepted the loss of different objects and places in this poem. The speaker in the poem “One Art” says “I lost my mother’s watch. And look! My last, or / next-to-last, of three loved houses went” (10-11). Bishop explains that having a smaller loss like an object is the first step to accepting loss. The loss of something much smaller will help when a more serious loss enters the picture. For Bishop, it is the loss of her grandmother. Another specific word choice Bishop uses in her poem “One Art” is “master”. As the speaker in “One Art” states “The art of losing isn’t hard to master” (1,6,12,18). To accept the loss of a person or object means to master it and that is why she uses this word choice. Bishop does clearly show through a certain word choice the theme of accepting loss of an object or person throughout her poem “One Art”.

In contrast to Bishop’s poem that uses clever word choice, Blanco’s poem “Looking for the Gulf Motel”, uses imagery to show the theme of accepting loss of a place. While Bishop mostly talks about the loss of a person or an object in her poem “One Art”, Blanco on the other hand, mainly discusses the loss of place in his poem “Looking for the Gulf Motel”. In Blanco’s poem, he uses imagery to show his accepting of the loss of places he knew in Marco Island, Florida. Blanco’s poem “Looking for the Gulf Motel” gives vivid details about the area lost from his memory:

I am thirty-eight, driving up Collier Boulevard,

Looking for The Gulf Motel, for everything

That should still be, but isn’t. I want to blame

the condos, their shadows for ruining the beach

and my past, I want to chase the snowbirds away

with their tacky mansions and yachts, I want

to turn the golf course back into mangroves. (lines 47-55)

Using the imagery of what Blanco saw when he was older verses, what he sees when he was younger, shows a place he once knew, is forever gone. Blanco knows the place has been lost and he accepts it but wants to change what has happened. On the contrary, Bishop does not write about wanting to change the loss she was facing. In the interview “New memoir: Coming of age and coming out with Richard Blanco” by American novelist and journalist Johnny Diaz, Blanco states in this interview, “I’d like people to see the way things used to be, not necessarily for better or worse, just the way they used to be”( New memoir: Coming of age and coming out with Richard Blanco). As Blanco states in this interview, he does not like a place to be lost but does accept when it does happen by wanting to change the loss. Nevertheless, Blanco uses vivid imagery rather than word choice like Bishop, but overall delivering the same theme of accepting loss.

In the final analysis, Blanco and Bishop have many similarities but are also different in their own ways of expressing it. Their poems are even similar with their themes of accepting loss but use different poetry elements such as word choice and imagery convey this theme. Overall Blanco and Bishop poems are still having an impact on poets and even an individual who is not into writing. Also, their legacy will continue to live on.  

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Accepting Loss in One Art and Looking for the Gulf Motel. (2021, Mar 25). Retrieved from