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Poems about grief (Part 1 of 3): Immediacy

Last year, I happened to read a number of poems that, to me, describe what grief feels like when one is going through it. They speak on other subjects, too, but I saved and organized them around the theme of grief. I’m not going to tell you which lines spoke to me. What matters is that these lines speak to you.

Paige Lewis, “On the train a man snatches my book, reads,” Gulf Coast
Kimberly Grey “Heroic Sentences” The Opposite of Light
Anna Rose Welch “Desire” We, the Almighty Fires
Wislawa Szymborska “Photograph from September 11” (trans. Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Barańczak)
Vievee Francis “White Mountain” Forest Primeval
Adam Zagajewski “Poets are Presocratics” (trans. Clare Cavanagh)
Ada Limón, “After the Fire” The Carrying
Jack Gilbert “Harm and boon in the meetings” The Great Fires
Sharon Olds “I Go Back to May 1937” The Gold Cell
Ayame Whitfield, “too late,” yell/shout/scream
Natasha Trethewey “Soil Horizon”
Carl Phillips, “On Triumph” Paris Review
Diana Arterian, “driving us through a wood” playing monster :: seiche
Amy Lowell “September 1918”
Brigit Pegeen Kelly “Guest Place” Song
Kathy Fagan, “Structural Engineering,” Sycamore
Leila Chatti, “Upon Realizing There are Ghosts In the Water” Tunsiya/Amrikiya
Jennifer Wolkin “the only truth is grief and grief is the sound of silence”
Kristin Garth “Kitten Smitten”
Tracy K. Smith “September” duende
Wanda Coleman, “George Death Anniversary” Hand Dance
Raúl Zurita, “Verónica” The Country of Ice
Joe Nasta, “Fire Main”
Heather Christle “Circumvention” Arkansas International Issue 5
Frederick Pollack “Nationalism”
Mary-Lou Brockett-Devine “Dead Reckoning” Karamu
Alicia Ostriker “Prayer in Autumn” 
Anna Swir, “My friend speaks when dying,” trans. Czeslaw Milosz and Leonard Nathan, Talking to My Body
Czeslaw Milosz “Notebook” Second Space
Ada Limón “The Conditional”
Ada Limón “What I Didn’t Know Before”
Joanna Klink “Elemental”
Brian Turner “Here, Bullet”
Meena Alexander “House” (see page 40) Illiterate Heart
Raymond Carver “Evening”
Danez Smith “acknowledgments”
Dana Curtis, “The Unchosen Twin” The Body’s Response to Famine
M. A. Vizsolyi “the ash leapt in place on our foreheads” The Lamp With Wings
Sam Sax, “New God of an Antique War” bury it
Sharon Olds, “Object Loss”
Polina Barskova “Manuscript found by Natasha Rostova during the fire”
Leah Silvieus “Vision” Season of Dares
Aracelis Girmay “To Waste My Hands”
Kristin Garth “Necropolis”
Javier Zamora “Pump water from the well” Unaccompanied
Brenna Twohy, “A coworker asks me if I am sad, still,” Zig-Zag Girl
Brenna Twohy, “Conversations about Top Chef” Zig-Zag Girl
Hieu Minh Nguyen, “Lesson,” Not Here
Hieu Minh Nguyen, “Still, Somehow,” Not Here
Brenda Hillman “On a Day, In the World”
Natalie Diaz “Monday Aubade”
Anna Akhmatova “[And all those whom my heart won’t forget]” trans. Judith Hemshemeyer
Agha Shahid Ali “Farewell”
“[I used to think silence was beautiful, but now I get why]” Anna Meister
Ruth Awad, “Lessons in Grief”
Joanna Klink “Wonder of Birds” at Length
Donika Kelly “Love Poem: Mermaid” Bestiary
Natasha Tretheway “Repentance”
Richard Siken “The painting that includes all painting”
Rachel McKibbens, “Letter from my heart to my brain,” blud
Rachel McKibbens, oath (blud litany), blud
Rachel McKibbens, “Out house” blud
Rachel McKibbens, “Una oración (bruja’s soliloquy)” blud
Mayuri Singh “lily demons, lurking”


Novelist of matters surreal and magical. Studied philosophy and journalism. Worked in technology and finance. Knows about UX design and life coaching. Helps people write their books. Ask. Don't be shy. Author of TEN PAST NOON, BAD FIRE, PAINTING DRAGONS, and ENKIDU IS DEAD AND NOT DEAD.

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