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The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief and Healing Hardcover – March 16, 2010

20 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1608190331 ISBN-10: 1608190331 Edition: 1st

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Young (Dear Darkness) is not only a prolific and acclaimed poet, but also the editor of several anthologies of poems, by African-American poets, inspired by the blues and jazz, and from the body of work by John Berryman. This latest anthology is his most topical, and, perhaps, his most useful, gathering poems about suffering and overcoming loss. Organized around subjects such as Regret, Remembrance, and Ritual, this book includes poets both canonical and contemporary, with perhaps a refreshingly larger helping of the latter: poets like Marianne More, Philip Larkin, and Elizabeth Bishop join newer names like D.A. Powell, Matthew Dickman, and Meghan O'Rourke; there are also plenty of reigning masters, like Louise Glück. Death is nature's way/ of telling you to be quiet, writes Franz Wright, somewhat harshly. With calmer acceptance, Theodore Roethke reminds us of the need to wake to sleep, and take my waking slow. While these poems won't offer easy answers to grief, they will keep the kind of company that only poetry can, because only poetry can convincingly say, as Ruth Stone does in the last poem of this book, All things come to an end./ No, they go on forever. (Mar.)
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From Booklist

Poet Young, author of six vividly imagined collections, puts on his editor’s hat, one he wears well in previous anthologies dedicated to blues and jazz poems as well as here in this unique and invaluable gathering of contemporary poems of grief and healing. This effort stems from his memorializing his late father in Dear Darkness (2008), a loss that sharpened his perceptions of what Young cites as “a poetry of necessity.” As he observes, “No one wants to write an elegy.” But “we simply must.” And in writing, reading, and listening to elegies, understanding, solidarity, and solace are found. Young offers an original and personal analysis of the modern elegy, and uses his own experience with the cycle of mourning to structure the book in sections titled “Reckoning,” “Regret,” “Remembrance,” “Ritual,” “Recovery,” and “Redemption.” And the poems are as diverse and universal as the emotions of loss. Poems by Dylan Thomas, Sharon Olds, Mary Jo Bang, Nick Flynn, Natasha Trethewey, Cornelius Eady, Gerald Stern, Lucille Clifton, and many others exquisitely and empathically translate pain into beauty, sorrow into catharsis. --Donna Seaman
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1 edition (March 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1608190331
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608190331
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #368,999 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Kevin Young is the author of six books of poetry, most recently Dear Darkness, named one of the Best Books of 2008 by National Public Radio's All Things Considered, and winner of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance Award in poetry. His book Jelly Roll: A Blues was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and won the Paterson Poetry Prize. He is the editor of four other volumes, including Blues Poems, Jazz Poems, and the Library of America's John Berryman: Selected Poems. The curator of literary collections and the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library and Atticus Haygood Professor of English and Creative Writing at Emory University, Young lives in Boston and Atlanta.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

60 of 61 people found the following review helpful By C. O. Aptowicz on March 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I wasn't surprised when I heard that Bloomsbury had asked poet Kevin Young to edit an anthology of "poems of grief and healing." After all, his book, "Dear Darkness" (written following the death of the poet's father) was filled with nuanced and human poems tackling his grief & celebrating the life of his father in surprising and honest ways.

Still, "The Art of Losing" exceeded my expectations of what this collection would be.

Firstly, I had to admire the wide range of poets: works by old standards like Emily Dickson, Dylan Thomas and Robert Frost, sit next to works newly minted legends Anne Sexton, John Berryman and Frank O'Hara, which are found next to contemporary favorites like Billy Collins, Sharon Olds and Mary Oliver, which are published next to young modern poets Nick Flynn, Elizabeth Alexander and Terrance Hayes.

Next, I was grateful for the full spectrum of grief that this book showcased. The book isn't filled only with poems politely eulogizing the newly sainted dead. No: there are poems which unapologetically wrestle sadness, frustration and anger. There are poems which celebrate, which brighten, which make us laugh. There are poems about the long dead, the newly passed and the people who are fading in front of us. It's not a book reserved only for the newly grieving, but a book for anyone who has experienced a loss at any time... in other words, a book for everyone.

And lastly, I was impressed by the structure of the anthology. Young did a great job of placing the pieces together in a way that made sense, but that wasn't blatant. The poems are divided into six sections: "Reckoning," "Regret," "Remembrance," Ritual," Recovery" and "Redemption.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By unoriginal on March 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This book is a beautiful and diverse anthology that is well deserving of any praise it is sure to receive. I would especially recommend it to anyone trying to find comfort in grieving the loss of loved one. Often grief feels solitary: no one else knows what this feels like, no one has been through it before. This book will prove to any reader that loss and pain is universal... and why not learn that lesson by reading these words and emotions so exquisitely expressed?
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Nan on January 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This is an exceptional book. I am a physician whose father recently died. A friend gave me this book to help with my grief. A sentence in the introduction consoled me first: "Indeed, it is too often that death clarifies a love that was there all along." Then I read "The Race" by Sharon Olds about a woman who races to get on a flight to reach her dying father after the first flight is cancelled. I sobbed, knowing how she ached to be there with him and to feel the relief of having "walked into his room and watched his chest rise slowly and sink again, all night I watched him breathe." I am buying a copy of this book for my nurse who just lost her mother and will do this for the many behind us who will lose someone dear. I was interested to see how many poems there were on losing a father (twice as many as for the loss of a mother). Perhaps Kevin Young, having lost his father, was particularly drawn to these....or perhaps fathers are so perplexing that we need the "poetry of necessity" to guide us. Many thanks to Kevin Young for this book. (Hint to Kevin: have a place on your website for people to express their thanks.)
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By nan on June 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I wanted to read this collection of poems after hearing the author on a NPR broadcast. He was sincere without being sentimental, His thoughts went directly to the feelings you feel and can't express.I suffered the loss of a loved one and it's hard enough to deal with your emotions and then try to convey to those near you what you are thinking and feeling. It's enormous. This book carefully and sensitively puts into words what many of us need to release as we struggle through this common experience.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Thomas E. Defreitas on June 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This book is, I would venture to say, as necessary as breathing. Kevin Young has done a superlative job of gathering the elegiac poetry of some of the finest practitioners of the art. There are the "iconic" poets: Elizabeth Bishop, Dylan Thomas, Theodore Roethke, and Edna St Vincent Millay ("I do not approve. And I am not resigned"). There is Jane Kenyon's solemn yet luminous "Let Evening Come." And there are poems that are new to me, notably: Mary Jo Salter's elegant and eloquent sequence "Dead Letters"; Matthew Rohrer's "Incensation at the Funeral," echoing the ancient liturgy; Arnold J. Kemp's profoundly felt and gracefully crafted "Elegy"; Afaa Michael Weaver's heart-rending poem "Abiku," in memory of his late son. I recommend this volume with the utmost urgency, and without qualm or qualification. It shows the defiantly life-affirming power of poetry in the face of grief and bereavement.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By KR Lawson Bennett on March 4, 2015
Format: Hardcover
I found this book browsing the shelf at a bookstore (the old fashioned way?), and have since given it as a gift twice. To sit with poetry in times of grief is such a gift: to argue with a poem, to let this poem guide you, to feel the awakening when that poem lets you in on how you've been feeling, to hear the poem speak in sentences you don't understand, but you nod along... Kevin Young has compiled a truly wonderful collection of mostly contemporary poems without overlooking the classics, and organized them around various experiences of grief. This is a book I read straight through, with tears often on the page, but it could serve you equally well as a reference book or a book to sit on the end table for occasional reading. I highly recommend this for anyone who enjoys poetry.
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