When a co-worker moves on, some poems to help mark the occasion include Elizabeth Bishop's "One Art," Ted Kooser's "Porch Swing in September," and Jack Gilbert's "Failing and Flying." These three poems deal with the theme of loss tempered with opportunity in different ways.Continue Reading
Of these three poems, Elizabeth Bishop's "One Art" addresses the theme of loss most directly. Her title alludes to the art of accepting loss moving on. She begins with lost keys, but moves on to lost names, lost houses, and even lost continents. Throughout the poem, she tries to downplay the difficulty of loss, but in the final line must force herself to write that losing the "you" to whom the poem is addressed seems like "a disaster."
Ted Kooser's "Porch Swing in September" focuses on a spider that has connected her web to the porch swing, as if to say "it's time that the swinging were done with." This is the moment when the speaker realizes that summer, a period that symbolizes happiness and satisfaction, has ended. Note, however, that this poem does not depict the coming autumn as a time of sadness. It bursts with life and sound, and whole worlds accumulate on the spider's web every morning.
Jack Gilbert's "Failing and Flying" seems to be about a marriage but is really about the nature of failure and triumph. It focuses on the Greek myth of Icarus, who took to the skies on wings that his father had constructed out of wax. Icarus flew too close to the sun, which melted his wings and sent him plummeting back to Earth. Gilbert's take on this cautionary tale reminds us that "Icarus was not failing as he fell, but just coming to the end of his triumph." In certain instances, this may be just what a co-worker needs to hear.Learn more about Poetry