I highly recommend a book of poetry edited by Kevin Young called The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief and Healing.
The title is from Elizabeth Bishop’s poem One Art. I got a hardback version at a book closeouts website through Amazon (forgive me independent bookstore lovers) for about $8 + shipping.
I want to quote Kevin’s opening lines in his introduction as a way to bring you into wanting to also get the book.
“I have begun to believe in, and even preach, a poetry of necessity. This is a recognition not just of the necessity of poetry to our lives, but also the fact that necessity is what drives most of the poetry that matters, or the way that it matters.” And, “a poem must be willing to be unwilled, beckoned by need.”
And this book is filled with poems driven by need: elegies, remembrances, dedications, words that attempt to point towards the things that are often unspeakable, or seemingly feel that way. I love the way I am drawn to think about other forms of art, painting and music, as I read different poems. I thought about Ad Reinhart and his seemingly monochromatic paintings in all black and all red. They beg us to be absorbed into them, by them. They seem to hover around those “almost unspeakable realities” and yet, we keep trying to find the words and images, sounds and visuals to express our ineffable lives.
The Art of Losing is a remarkable compilation of poets living and dead, from W.H. Auden, Emily Dickinson, Anne Sexton to Dean Young, Robert Hass, Lucille Clifton, Adam Zagajewski, just to name a few. And there are so many, many more. For what greater mysteries are there than death, love and living.
As William Faulkner is quoted in the opening section called Reckoning:
Between grief and nothing, I will take grief.
Theodore Roethke says in the section, Recovery:
I learn by going where I have to go.
And finally, Philip Larkin opens the last section, Redemption with:
What will survive of us is love.