April is National Poetry Month, and PBS is airing season two of its series "Poetry in America," which includes guests like John Kerry, Nas, Maxine Hong Kingston and Katie Couric, talking about favorite American poems.
Click here to read "One Art" by Elizabeth Bishop.
On what this poem means to her
“When Lisa New approached me and wanted me to participate in a project celebrating poetry, I said I would love to because I think poetry is an important and wonderful art form. And there are many, many poems that I love. But for some reason, I selected "One Art" by Elizabeth Bishop. I think it's because I've had so much personal loss in my own life, and that this poem is so complex and so fascinating. It's really the poet herself trying to convince herself that something is true, which just isn't the truth — and that is that the art of losing isn't hard to master.”
On the grief many people are feeling right now and how she would describe what we're losing in this crisis
“I think this poem could not be more relevant than it is right now. Because there are so many different kinds of loss and there are so many different kinds of grief, and I think that we've lost a lot right now. Hopefully, it's temporary, but I'm sure that this experience is going to leave scars for months, if not years to come on a lot of people. Because they've lost people they love, they've lost huge milestones in their lives — the chance to celebrate them. I think of all the people who've lost an opportunity to celebrate their high school years or celebrate a college graduation. I think there's so many different degrees of loss that are going on, people are experiencing collective and individual grief.”
On what she would tell people who are coping with loss right now
“Well, the whole premise of the poem, I think, is that she's convincing herself it's not. And of course, I think actually accepting disappointment, accepting loss is really important. You know, I lost my husband when I was 41 and we had a 6-year-old and a 2-year-old. And I had to rebuild and recreate the life I had envisioned for us going forward. I'm not a psychiatrist or psychologist, but I imagine processing the loss, what it means, and how you move forward is the most important thing. Whether it's losing a job and trying to figure out what you're going to do, losing someone you love and trying to figure out how you're going to live without that person, or losing an experience and trying to figure out other experiences that will hopefully not replace it, but perhaps make up for it in different ways. But what the hell do I know, Jeremy?”
On whether this moment is going to be a bigger deal for the world than 9/11 was
“I don't like to compare tragedies necessarily. I think every tragedy has a huge impact, but I think because this has had such a global impact and that the enemy is even more invisible than, quote-unquote terrorism, and that people are learning about the aforementioned enemy in real time. And it's changed the way we live. You know, the way we responded to 9/11 was to keep on going, to not acquiesce to the fear that terrorists try to engender in a population. But in this case, the only way to respond is really to stop everything. So I think it's had such a chilling effect and a paralyzing effect on life as we knew it. And because the reentry period is so uncertain, I think it will probably have a bigger impact because of the implications, which are still very much unknown.”
This segment aired on April 24, 2020.