The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief and Healing edited by Kevin Young – Book Review

Blurb from Goodreads

Poetry serves a unique role in our lives, distilling human experience and emotion down to truths as potent as they are brief.

There are two times most people turn to it: for love and loss.

The Art of Losing is the first anthology of its kind, delivering poetry with a purpose. Editor Kevin Young has introduced and selected 150 devastatingly beautiful poems that embrace the pain and heartbreak of mourning.

Divided into sections with poems by some of our most beloved poets as well as the best of the current generation of poets, The Art of Losing is the ideal a gift for a loved one in a time of need and for use by ministers, rabbis, and palliative care workers who tend to those who are experiencing loss.

Among the poets included: Elizabeth Alexander, W.H. Auden, Amy Clampitt, Billy Collins, Emily Dickinson, Louise Gluck, Ted Hughes, Galway Kinnell, Kenneth Koch, Philip Larkin, Li-Young Lee, Philip Levine, Marianne Moore, Sharon Olds Mary Oliver, Robert Pinsky, Adrienne Rich, Theodore Roethke, Anne Sexton, Wallace Stevens, Dylan Thomas, Derek Walcott, and James Wright.

My Review

Please note: I read and reviewed this poetry collection on Goodreads in the summer of 2016 and am now cross-posting it to my blog for posterity.

As an avid reader when you’ve just lost someone you love it’s hard to know what to read when you find yourself alone in the days after their death and the funeral.

Well at least that’s how I felt after the unexpected death of a person I loved very much.

I feel very strange if I don’t have a book in my hands, in my handbag or on my nightstand etc. But every book that I had on loan from the library just didn’t appeal to me in those grief-filled days.

I wanted something easy to read yet something that felt deep and meaningful. Something contemplative… So I sought out some poetry and I came across this collection on Goodreads.

Like every collection by various writers I didn’t love every poem. I didn’t understand every emotion… But there were many poems that I did like. That did resonate with me.

Sometimes it was just a line:

“Since I lost you, I am silence-haunted”

from “Silence” by DH Lawrence

And other times it was a whole poem:

“Mourners” by Ted Kooser

After the funeral, the mourners gather
under the rustling churchyard maples
and talk softly, like clusters of leaves.

White shirt cuffs and collars flash in the shade:
highlights on deep green water.

They came this afternoon to say goodbye,
but now they keep saying hello and hello,
peering into each other’s faces,
slow to let go of each other’s hands.

But poetry, much like grief, is a very personal thing.

There are many different styles of poetry in this collection, from classic to modern, and poems that deal with different themes: reckoning, regret, remembrance, ritual, recovery and redemption. In the last few days I have particularly loved and found great comfort in the poems in the recovery section.

But don’t think that this collection is just for anyone who has recently lost a loved one. These poems can definitely be read and appreciated at any time in your life. So for any of those days that you feel you want to be quieter or to be still and calm then I would recommend this collection for then too.

Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.

from “And Death Shall Have No Dominion” by Dylan Thomas

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