Notes toward a syllabus on grief

Totally historically unrepresentative and dictated solely by my life as a reader.

Poetry collections:

  • Anne Carson, Glass, Irony, and God
  • Mark Doty, Atlantis
  • Jack Gilbert, The Great Fires (and everything else, really)
  • Allen Ginsberg, Kaddish
  • Marie Howe, What the Living Do
  • Ted Hughes, Birthday Letters (with reservations! I can’t not mention that)
  • Matt Rasmussen, Black Aperture
  • Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno, Slamming Open the Door
  • Ruth Stone, What Love Comes To: New & Selected Poems
  • Natasha Tretheway, Native Guard

Individual poems:

  • Elizabeth Bishop, “One Art”
  • Jorie Graham, “At Luca Signorelli’s Resurrection of the Body”
  • Robert Hayden, “Those Winter Sundays”
  • Seamus Heaney, “Mid-Term Break”
  • Tracy K. Smith, “The Speed of Belief”
  • Derek Walcott, “Love After Love”

There are, of course, hundreds of other poems that I could list, and other books I could recommend. But these are some of the ones that, whether new to me or dogeared from constant use, have affected how I articulate my own experience of grief. I’ve also stuck to contemporary (post-WWII) poetry, though I feel I must nod to my late mom and say that she would have recommended John Donne and Anne Bradstreet to you. Also, poems obviously affect us differently; I can imagine a reader who would prefer an Ashbery-like exploration of absence and distortion as being more appropriate to loss. To that reader: godspeed! Let’s team teach a class someday.


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