Kevin Young


The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief and Healing

  • 2010
  • Bloomsbury
  • Hardcover, Paperback
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  • An Indie Next Top 10

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. Although collections of love poetry abound, there are very few anthologies for the grieving. In The Art of Losing, editor Kevin Young has introduced and selected 150 devastatingly beautiful poems that embrace the pain and heartbreak of mourning. Divided into five sections ("Reckoning," "Remembrance," "Rituals," "Recovery," and "Redemption"), with poems by some of our most beloved poets as well as the best of the current generation of poets, The Art of Losing is the ideal a gift for a loved one in a time of need and for use by ministers, rabbis, and palliative care workers who tend to those who are experiencing loss.

Among the poets included: Elizabeth Alexander, W.H. Auden, Amy Clampitt, Billy Collins, Emily Dickinson, Louise Gluck, Ted Hughes, Galway Kinnell, Kenneth Koch, Philip Larkin, Li-Young Lee, Philip Levine, Marianne Moore, Sharon Olds Mary Oliver, Robert Pinsky, Adrienne Rich, Theodore Roethke, Anne Sexton, Wallace Stevens, Dylan Thomas, Derek Walcott, and James Wright.

Reviews & Praise

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, Booklist

[Young's] latest anthology is his most topical, and, perhaps, his most useful, gathering poems about suffering and overcoming loss.... 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.' Publishers Weekly