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Tishani Doshi is an Indian English poet born to a Gujarati father and an English mother. This intermixing of two different worlds can be seen in her works. The Art of Losing is a poem that tells us about embracing loss. It is a poignant and evocative exploration of loss and its transformative power. Through evocative images and metaphors, the poem delves into the complexities of grief, resilience, and the search for meaning in the face of adversity. The title, The Art of Losing, immediately sets the tone for the poem. “Art” suggests a skill or craft, indicating that losing can be mastered or refined. This hints at the poem’s exploration of loss’s various facets and nuances.

We all face loss, whether in one form or the other, and we always tend to grieve about the loss. A similar thing happened to the poet when her pet dog refused to eat one day and then died in the following days. Like all of us would do, the poet mourned his death and grieved for her loss. But then she realized that if she could understand her loss better, then she would be able to embrace it better. She says that we should learn to accept our loss and embrace it because all of us know that everything is not permanent and will get lost eventually.

Death is inevitable, and there is nobody who can escape from death. It all begins with birds and fishes dying every day. The sorrows in this universe are so deep and cannot be rectified. Everybody ages and parts, and there is a time when people will be missed by their relatives. We will get to feel their touch or hear their voice. Build courage to face your death. No one is aware when their time comes.

The poet describes death as ‘only the start of an endless litany of betrayals’. Betrayal is the most devastating loss a person can experience. Loss can also involve things that are less tangible, such as trust. When someone betrays an individual, they lose trust in that person. You can’t be betrayed if you do not trust the individual in the first place. We understand that when someone dies, we experience loss and grief, but frequently, we don’t recognize the other forms of loss that we may share in life.

Sometimes, the loss can be the loss of an illusion. Frequently, we develop in our minds the way we think things should be. However, reality doesn’t always correspond with our demands on life, ourselves, and others. Therefore, we are sometimes hurt when we face this reality. Even if the betrayal is the loss of the illusion, the grief is genuine and needs to be dealt with. Given that betrayal is a loss, it is necessary to understand the process of grief to deal with having been betrayed.

Death may not be the end of this life. It can be a life-altering experience. There is only one art that needs to be mastered- it is the art of losing. We must learn to let go. Everybody holds on to their external materials and people, but these are often intended to be lost. The grief process is a healing process. It was built into our systems to help us cope with the numerous losses we experience in life. If we trust the process entirely, we will heal. Trusting the process means allowing the feelings to be what they are, whatever they are. When life forces us to release our grip, we must understand what we value. The poet advocates not only the art of losing but also speaks about the art of being lost.

This poem explores the theme of loss and how it is intrinsically tied to the human experience. Intriguingly, Doshi casts loss as an “art”, suggesting loss is not merely a sad eventuality but something requiring skill, practice, and resilience to navigate and reckon with. The poet employs a conversational tone to guide the reader through the various instances of loss, infusing a sense of universality in terms of the experiences she portrays. The losses detailed in her poem range from the mundane -like misplacing keys -to profound experiences, such as the death of loved ones.

Doshi’s imagery is quite powerful, imbuing mundane objects such as keys with emotional value as symbols of loss. The contrast between trivial material loss and profound emotional or spiritual loss effectively portrays the spectrum of human experiences concerning loss and how people are affected. The poem also illuminates the connection between loss and gain. Every loss comes an opportunity for growth, resilience, and connection, a theme Doshi subtly touches upon.

Tishani Doshi

Imagery and Symbolism

Doshi employs vivid and evocative imagery to convey the intensity of loss. The “empty suit” and “suitcase that carries a whole year” are potent symbols that encapsulate the emptiness and weight of the losses experienced. These images resonate with readers, making the emotional impact more profound.

Repetition and Anaphora

The repetition of the phrase “The art of losing” throughout the poem serves as a powerful refrain. This anaphoric technique emphasizes the central theme and underscores the idea that losing is an art one can learn. The repetition creates a rhythmic quality that adds to the poem’s musicality.

Tone and Mood

The tone of the poem is reflective and contemplative. It captures the reflective nature of grappling with loss and the emotional aftermath. The mood shifts from sombre reflection to a sense of acceptance, highlighting the complexity of the speaker’s relationship with loss.

Personal and Universal Themes

While the poem is deeply personal, exploring the speaker’s individual experiences of loss, its themes are universal. Readers can relate to the sentiments expressed as everyone encounters loss and navigates the challenging emotions accompanying it. This universality enhances the poem’s impact.

Use of Enjambment

Doshi’s use of enjambment, the continuation of a sentence without a pause beyond the end of a line, contributes to the poem’s fluidity. This technique mirrors loss’s unpredictable and continuous nature, as if the emotions are spilling over from one line to the next.

Philosophical Undercurrent

The poem delves into the philosophical aspect of loss, portraying it not merely as an absence but as an integral part of the human experience. The speaker grapples with the paradox that losing, in a sense, is an art that shapes and defines our lives.

Structural Elements

The poem is structured in free verse with varying line lengths. This lack of a strict rhyme scheme or meter enhances the natural and unrestrained flow of the emotions expressed in the poem. The absence of a prescribed structure reflects the unpredictable nature of loss.

The Art of Losing by Tishani Doshi is a skillfully crafted poem that captures the complexities of loss. Through its evocative language, vivid imagery, and universal themes, the poem resonates with readers emotionally and intellectually, inviting contemplation on the nature of loss and its role in the human journey.

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Devika Panikar
δάσκαλος (dáskalos) means the teacher in Greek. Devika Panikar has been teaching English Language and Literature since 2006. She is an Assistant Professor with the Directorate of Collegiate Education under the Government of Kerala. She teaches at the Government Colleges under this directorate and is now posted at the Government Law College, Thiruvananthapuram. This website is a collection of lecture notes she prepared by referencing various sources for her students’ perusal. It has been compiled here for the sake of future generations.