Poems About Loss

emily-dickinsonSome of us aren’t very good about talking about loss. In many of our modern, sophisticated cultures, we’ve forgotten how to deal with loss — grieving is a underdeveloped concept. We are actually too busy to grieve and deal with loss.
Mostly when we talk about ‘loss’ our thoughts go to the death of family members or friends or people we knew somewhere in life. But loss also deals with changes in life that aren’t directly related to death. In the difficult economic times throughout history, people have lost jobs, their homes, their way of life, and that too is a situation that causes a form of grief. Even just having a long-time friend move away can be a difficult experience — the loss of a true friend can be just as painful as if that person had passed away.
Thankfully, there are many poets in our world, past and present, who have taken the time to express what is it like to lose someone or something that we have cherished throughout our lives. Poems about loss have been expressed since the beginning of time, for it is a natural and unavoidable part of the life experience.
When I think of poets who have written about the topic of death, my first thoughts go to Emily Dickinson and her account of a carriage ride with death as her companion. Dickenson was born in 1830 in Massachusetts and lived a rather reclusive life. She penned thousands of poems which went undiscovered until after her death in 1886. Even then, much of her poetry remained unknown until 1955 when The Poems of Emily Dickenson was published, containing a significant number of her original works. Below is Dickinson’s tale Because I Could Not Stop for Death.

Because I Could Not Stop for Death
by Emily Dickinson

Much like Dickenson, the poetry of William Blake also went unnoticed until after his death. Blake was an English poet and painter who lived most of his life in London. He produced a variety of poems, but he is known mostly for his illuminated works which he did collectively with his wife, Catherine Boucher.

On Another’s Sorrow
By William Blake

Since the topic is about loss, I think it’s fitting that the final poet I discuss is someone we lost just one year ago. Adrienne Rich passed from this world on March 27, 2012. She was a well known and respected writer and was considered extremely influential among 20th century poets. Rich was heavily involved in civil rights, anti-war protests, and the feminist movement. Unlike Dickinson and Blake, Rich was recognized throughout her life as a gifted poet and was the recipient of many awards during her life. She taught at several universities and was often sought out for her insight.

Stepping Backward
by Adrienne Rich

As poetry is one of the most powerful tools one can use to express emotion, it is not surprising that we find death and loss as prominent topics. What better means to show ones feelings regarding the passing of a loved one than in a few well-stated verses.



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