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The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief and Healing

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  506 ratings  ·  80 reviews
Poetry serves a unique role in our lives, distilling human experience and emotion down to truths as potent as they are brief. There are two times most people turn to it: for love and loss. The Art of Losing will be the first anthology of its kind, delivering poetry with a purpose. Editor Kevin Young has introduced and selected 150 devastatingly beautiful poems that embrace ...more
Hardcover, 311 pages
Published March 16th 2010 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
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Emer (A Little Haze)
As an avid reader when you've just lost someone you love it's hard to know what to read when you find yourself alone in the days after their death and the funeral. Well at least that's how I felt these past few days. I feel very strange if I don't have a book in my hands, in my handbag or on my nightstand etc. But every book that I had on loan from the library just didn't appeal to me. I wanted something easy to read yet something that felt deep and meaningful. Something contemplative... So I so ...more
Jan 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I loved this death and grief-related collection of poems. Though not going through a grief right now, this suited my somewhat melancholy state of mind. Grief- and losses- take many forms, not all of them death though that is the predominant theme here. I loved the infinite variety of quality poems. Too many to mention without feeling I might leave someone out. The quote by Faulkner: "I would rather feel grief, than feel nothing" really stays with me. I think I agree with it.
Oct 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
There are some hauntingly beautiful poems in this collection. The classics, like Emily Dickinson and Auden are represented as well as some lesser knowns. Those are the unexpected poems that express your emotions allowing you to surrender to your feelings of loss. You might want to seek out some silence, read on and find those that grab you. Read and reflect. Sit for awhile in your silence. The death of someone you know, the death of a family member and even the death of a stranger may raise ques ...more
Dec 01, 2012 rated it liked it
~Between grief and nothing, I will take grief.~ William Faulkner

This collection started off promising, but overall was ok, I didn't love it. I wonder if the editor, being a male losing a father, was just attracted to these poems versus others that might have been more meaningful for me, a woman who lost her mother. For example, he has some nice Mary Oliver ones, but where is Oxygen or In Blackwater Woods?


Everything needs it: bone, muscles, and even,
while it calls the earth its home, the
Apr 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
““After great pain, a formal feeling comes—”
A Wooden way
Regardless grown,
A Quartz contentment, like a stone—
This is the Hour of Lead—
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow—
First— Chill— then Stupor— then the letting go—‘

“Or the wind shakes a ravel of light
Over the dead-black river,
Or last night’s echoings
Make the daybreak shiver:
I feel the silence waiting
To sip them all up again,
In its last completeness drinking
Down the noise of me
Aug 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Daisy by: Lara's shelf
Shelves: poems
I have about 47 slips of paper marking all the poems I like in this collection. If this weren't a library book, I'd have marked it up well. Divided into six sections: Reckoning, Regret, Remembrance, Ritual, Recovery, Redemption, there's, well, something for everyone, depending on, uh, what you're looking for. Only this isn't a self-help book of course. In here I found poets I hadn't heard of before whose work I'll investigate and poets I studied in school whose poems I was glad to read again. So ...more
Sep 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful collection that has taken me months to wander through, to savor. Poetry seems to be read by fewer and fewer, that surmise supported by the shrinking shelf space dedicated to it in most bookstores (and the quizzical looks from friends as I mention I read it!). And that's a shame, because Poetry hits you on an emotional level that Prose often doesn't, at least in so many words. Who can read "Otherwise" by Jane Kenyon and not be surprised by a sucker punch to the gut? Many say t ...more
Jun 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
What a wonderful condolence gift this book would be. These poems should be shared at funerals and wakes or read privately through the months of heartache. Poetry lovers will want this book on their home shelf to enjoy again and again. Kevin Young’s Book of Hours showed the world his gift for putting eulogy and grief on paper, and he used that insight in editing this collection. At the best funerals, we remember our loved ones with both tears and laughter, and these poems contain that wholeness o ...more
Feb 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
No doubt about it: these poems were hard to get through. So many tears cried while reading them but it was cathartic, in a way, to read what is in my heart, captured just so.

...I miss you every day--the heartbeat
under your necktie, the hand cupped
on the back of my neck, Old Spice
in the air, your voice delighted with stories.
--"Father" by Ted Kooser

...gone now, after the months of scanning, medication, nausea, hair loss
and weight loss;
remission, partial remission, gratitude, hope, lost hope, anx
Marilyn McEntyre
May 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Grief recurs. Though it may help to recognize "stages" of grieving, many of us have been surprised by tears long after the first anguish of loss has receded. Not only anniversaries of deaths and other losses but small triggers--a smell, a song, a familiar laugh--can reawaken old sorrow. At those times it is a great gift to be able to receive and recite words that provide a place to put the pain. The poems in this beautifully arranged collection are a rich offering of language found and formed by ...more
Nov 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I properly finished this book today, going through a huge part of more than half the book at one go, and it was an intensive experience - I kept tearing up; the poems were so heartfelt, so necessary. And it stood out to me, how arbitrary life is, and utterly powerless - that all we can ever do is get through it, dealing with things as they come along, losing and recovering sensation over and over again. The cyclic nature of this is sometimes so overwhelming that you want to call life out on its ...more
Sep 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: any thinking griever who wants to avoid cliches
Recommended to Claire by: accidental find in a bookstore
Too many books given to a griever are full of platitudes or very bad poetry. This is the exception. It is poetry, but good poetry, and arranged from "reckoning," through "regret" and "remembrance," through other sections, and finally to "redemption." The poets include Dylan Thomas, Anne Sexton,
Ted Hughes, Emily Dickinson, and many other classic and contemporary poets. As a giever, I found it comforting in a sad way, simply seeing that someone else understood and, on top of that, had the talent t
Jun 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, grief
A decent collection of poems about loss and grief. As others have noted, it starts out promisingly but doesn't quite follow through.

I also found the title a bit of an odd nod to Elizabeth's Bishop's One Art, which is not about grief (although it is about loss) and famously opens with 'the art of losing isn't hard to master'; as someone who lost their father over a decade ago, if there's an art to losing, it's not one I've mastered yet.

No collection can be comprehensive, but there were quite a
Jan 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
I didn't love the last section, but overall it's a really good anthology.

"When grief comes to you like a purple gorilla,
you must count yourself lucky.
You must offer her what's left
of your dinner, the book you were trying to finish
you must put aside
and make her a place at the foot of your bed,
her eyes moving from the clock
to the television and back again."
Matthew Dickman
Vivienne Strauss
Aug 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I love a sad poem, but probably would have enjoyed this more if I had my own copy. Reading this many sad poems all at once so I could get it back to the library - it was too much :(
Sarah Routledge
Jan 10, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry
eh, I was disappointed with this. There were some gems and some poets I will follow up but as anthologies go I thought it was pretty weak
Oct 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"... one emerges from grief not just with emptiness, but wisdom-though of a kind you'd gladly unlearn for your loved one to return."

I started reading the book earlier this year while I was still grieving the loss of a loved one. It was cathartic but quite overwhelming. In some ways, reading makes one relive some of the trauma, they'd already thought they'd healed from.

I couldn't finish the book. Only with a healed mind and heart, could I read it again, and savor the words with less pain, but
David Schaafsma
Sep 30, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, grief
My friend Andrew M sent me this book in the mail as a gift, the first thing of any kind he had given me for years, and I was grateful, don't get me wrong, but as I am now close to 60, I wondered what he had in mind, and still don't know. All he said was, " I just thought it was the kind of book you would like." A themed book on the subject of grieving I like better is Naomi Shihab Nye's poetry collection, "What Have I lost?" which is not necessarily as much about death as Young's book is, but bo ...more
Jul 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
Kevin Young turned to poetry after his father’s sudden death, and, unable to find a comprehensive collection, put together this anthology. The book is divided into 6 sections, and the poets included are classic as well as contemporary. Young labelled the sections with titles reminiscent of Kubler-Ross and her stages of grief. I was at first annoyed by this, because it seems to perpetuate the myth that there are orderly stages to grieving. The poems, however, mirror the unpredictable nature of gr ...more
Jun 28, 2010 rated it liked it
An interesting collection -- the arrangement follows the stages of grieving, which is clever. The index also provides access to the poems by topic, and the selections are quite varied. I don't know that I would recommend this for casual reading, as it gets a little dark -- after all, these are all poems about death, in one way or another. But if you are someone who is moved by poetry, as I am, then this would've been a nice collection to have, to dip in and out of, after my father died.
Sep 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, asu-library
I'm ordering a copy to keep.
Matt Layne
Feb 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Great anthology of poetry on grief, loss and healing.
Mar 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It turns out that this is actually the book I was looking for when I read Poems of Mourning about a month before. While that book was alright, it relied heavily on classic poems, some even dating back to the Middle Ages, making them difficult for a modern reader without academic knowledge to appreciate. Young's anthology, on the other hand, is made up of more modern poetry that is for the most part very accessible, and also incredibly moving. I may have been biased by the inclusion of poems by m ...more
Dorothy Mahoney
Dec 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The best book to gift to those grieving. The editor, Kevin Young, has compiled the best contemporary poems (by Sharon Olds, Jane Kenyon, Ted Kooser, Seamus Heaney, Mary Oliver, Louise Gluck, Billy Collins...) as well as traditional favourites ( like Dylan Thomas' "Do not go gentle into that good night"). He has organized them into segments: Reckoning, Regret, Remembrance, Ritual, Recovery.
The back of the book also contains an Index by subject including poems suitable for a funeral service. A boo
Martin G.
May 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Many exquisite and thoughtful poems to express sorrow and joys of life

I read this book of poetry following the tragic loss of my son. I highlighted and bookmarked twenty or more poems that moved me. Many poems I had to read three or more times to really let the concepts sink in. None of the poems are trite or simplistic, and none would be suitable for quoting in cursive and plastering on memes. They are deep and genuinely moving, but take time and focus to understand.
Jan 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, poetry
This is a collection of poems relating to grief. As an anthology, not all of the poems spoke to me, nor did I expect them to. But over all, there were many that it, and it was rather lovely to be able to immerse myself in a collection of other people's loss. There was something very communal about it, which I appreciated, given how isolating grief tends to be. Oh the whole, I think a solid poetic resource and I will be keeping my hands on quite a number of these poems for my poetry files.
Jul 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
from "Freedom, New Hampshire" by Galway Kinnell

... It is true
That only flesh dies, and spirit flowers without stop
For men, cows, dung, for all dead things; and it is good, yes--
But an incarnation is in particular flesh
And the dust that is swirled into a shape
And crumbles and is swirled again had but one shape
That was this man. When he is dead the grass
Heals what he suffered, but he remains dead,
And the few who loved him know this until they die.
Nov 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
A great book to have in your hands while grieving.

Some of the writers, like Cornelius Eady and Marie Howe, already have a book of poetry dealing with death and grief but it was definitely nice to see more poems in one place about this subject.
Aug 06, 2018 rated it liked it
This was a decent anthology of poems. Some were fantastic, many were mediocre, and some I didn't like at all. Overall, worth reading, but I could imagine a better collection of poems on this subject.
Apr 18, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2018, grief
My favorite poems from this collection were:

"Nothing Gold Can Stay" By Robert Frost

"Grief" by Stephen Dobyns

"Those Winter Sundays" by Robert Hayden

"One Art" by Elizabeth Bishop

"Otherwise" by Jane Kenyon
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Kevin Young is an American poet heavily influenced by the poet Langston Hughes and the art of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Young graduated from Harvard College in 1992, was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University (1992-1994), and received his MFA from Brown University. While in Boston and Providence, he was part of the African-American poetry group, The Dark Room Collective.

Born in Lincoln, Nebraska, You

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