The Poetry Coalition, an alliance of more than 25 independent poetry organizations across the United States, will devote March through May 2023 to exploring the theme “and so much lost you’d think / beauty had left a lesson: Poetry & Grief" in a series of virtual and in-person programs.
The line “and so much lost you’d think / beauty had left a lesson” is from Ed Roberson's poem "once the magnolia has blossomed."
Poetry Coalition members aim to demonstrate how poetry can invite and inspire conversations in their communities about grief—an expansive and rich topic that has become imbued with deeper meaning over the last few years.
This is the seventh year Poetry Coalition members have come together to offer programming on a shared theme. Members presented events and publications on the theme "The future lives in our bodies: Poetry & Disability Justice" in March 2022; “It is burning./ It is dreaming./ It is waking up: Poetry & Environmental Justice” in March 2021; “I am deliberate/ and afraid/ of nothing: Poetry & Protest” in March 2020; “What Is It, Then, Between Us?: Poetry & Democracy” in March 2019; “Where My Dreaming and My Loving Live: Poetry & the Body” in March 2018; and “Because We Come From Everything: Poetry & Migration” in March 2017.
All organizations and others interested are invited to create programs on this theme in 2023 and to share their efforts using the hashtags #PoetryAndGrief and #PoetryCoalition.
The Academy of American Poets, the nation's largest membership-based literary organization, will publish five micro essays from four renowned poets on a specific poem that helped them better understand or process grief. The essays and their subject poems will be featured weekly, in the Academy newsletter, and on Poets.org.
In May, the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers and the National Student Poets Program in New York City will present a virtual reading and panel discussion on youth writing through loss, featuring the Class of 2022 National Student Poets (Jesse Begay, Southwest; Winslow Hastie Jr., Southeast; Emily Igwike, Midwest; Vidhatrie Keetha, Northeast; and Diane Sun, West) and the 2023 Scholastic Awards New York Life Scholarship recipients. New York Life Scholarships are awarded to students for works that focus on grief and healing. National Student Poets serve for one year as youth poetry ambassadors.
In July, the Asian American Writers’ Workshop in New York City will present “Mourning & Making: dedications to loving ghosts & the ancestors who became them,” a workshop with poet Kay Ulanday Barrett. This workshop will be free and will exclusively serve Black, Indigenous, APIDA, and Latine writers who are also sick, disabled, and immunocompromised. Kay will guide the workshop through witness poetry of global majority (BI&POC) writers and map lineages full of tension as well as celebration, loss, and love.
Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center in Venice, California, will organize a reading and community gathering under the theme of Poetry & Grief. The event will take place in May and in collaboration with arts organizations based in Los Angeles.
CantoMundo, a national organization dedicated to supporting Latinx poets, will host an online generative poetry workshop conducted by Aracelis Girmay on the theme of Poetry & Grief that will be free and open to fellows from CantoMundo, Cave Canem, and Kundiman.
Indigenous Nations Poets (In-Na-Po) in Milwaukee will collaborate with the Overpass Light Brigade to create a short poetic film. The film, to be shot on location in northern Wisconsin, will feature the work of In-Na-Poets.
Kundiman, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to nurturing generations of writers and readers of Asian American literature, will present a free virtual workshop and host their annual Postcard Project. The workshop, “Writing Grief: Somatic Rituals for Revision,” led by poet and acupuncturist Rona Luo, will explore somatic exercises as preparation for revising and opening new possibilities for writing. This workshop welcomes both those working through grief and anyone interested in exploring embodied practices for revision. Throughout the month of March, Kundiman Fellows and the community will participate in their annual Postcard Project, which involves writing and mailing postcard poems and engaging with the theme of poetry and grief. Weekly photo recaps of the Postcard Project will be shared on their social media and website.
Letras Latinas at the University of Notre Dame's Institute for Latino Studies and Woodland Pattern Book Center in Milwaukee are partnering to present an online workshop, facilitated by Alexandra Lytton Regalado, author of Relinquenda, winner of the National Poetry Series (Beacon Press, 2022). Titled “Living with Loss—In the House of Relinquenda,” the workshop will include a discussion of selected readings. Following the discussion, participants will be invited to respond to prompts for short writing exercises. Attendees will receive personalized feedback from the instructor as well as the opportunity to be in community with other writers. The session will take place on March 4 from 1:00 p.m. CT to 4:00 p.m. CT.
After COVID-19’s arrival in the Northeast, Mass Poetry in Boston put out a call for poems of witness, asking poets to pay attention to what was happening in the world during these unprecedented times—the horrible and the beautiful—and to make a record of it: the empty grocery store shelves, the conversations across balconies, the stadiums turned hospitals, midnight beach strolls, the sirens, the sirens, the sirens. Two hundred poets were willing to do exactly that, bearing witness to their loss, their grief, their survival, their hope. Mass Poetry will honor these poets and poems by hosting a community event during the Massachusetts Poetry Festival (May 5–7, 2023 at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts), where they will have an installation art piece, an interactive art activity, and hold space for collective grieving.
O, Miami will host “Words in Bloom,” a therapeutic poetry and floral sculpture workshop for individuals personally impacted by gun violence in Miami. This workshop, an activation of their anthology More Than What Happened: The Aftermath of Gun Violence in Miami, edited by Nadege Green, is led by art therapist Deanna Barton, writer Darius Daughtry, and sculptor Amancio Paradela. Participants are guided through writing exercises and the creation of paper flower sculptures, which they use to create lasting memorials for loved ones. The lesson plan from the workshop is then adapted for use with common classroom materials and distributed free to two hundred and fifty Miami-Dade teachers.
On April 8, the Poetry Center at San Francisco State University, in collaboration with Medicine for Nightmares Bookstore & Gallery, will co-present "Poetry & Grief," a reading and conversation featuring Kyle Dacuyan and Mirene Arsanios.
The Poetry Foundation in Chicago will present “Poetry & Grief: Raquel Salas Rivera & Angel Dominguez,” a hybrid event, offered in-person and via livestream, on March 30 from 7:00 p.m. CT to 8:00 p.m. CT.
The Poetry Project in New York City is honored to welcome Maureen Owen and Susie Timmons for a reading on May 10. Maureen Owen’s newest book, Let the heart hold down the breakage or the caregiver’s log, begins “She moves as paper moves / her skin upon the air,” and follows the arc of Owen’s experience living with and caring for her mother at the end of her life. Fanny Howe writes of the text, “This magnificent work dwells in the struggle between death and dying.” Owen will be joined by Susie Timmons, another great poet of detail, connection, love, and remembering.
The Poetry Society of America in New York City will present a web feature with contemporary poets writing brief essays on elegies that have impacted their lives and writing. Featured poets will include Hanif Abdurraqib, Jos Charles, Brian Teare, and Kerri Webster.
Split This Rock in Washington, D.C., will offer a selection of specially curated poems, published through the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day Series during the month of March.
Urban Word, founder of the National Youth Poet Laureate Program, will invite National Youth Poet Laureate finalists to compose and submit poems engaging the theme of Poetry & Grief, and present them at the National Youth Poet Laureate Commencement on Friday, April 28 at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. The event will be live streamed nationally at www.youthlaureate.org.
Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University collaborated with the Peace, Justice, and Human Rights program at John Carroll University to present four events from February 21–23, featuring renowned poet and theologian, Pádraig Ó Tuama, on the theme of Poetry & Grief. Ó Tuama presented two workshops, one on writing “the ordinary” and one on “poetry for troubled times.” He also gave a reading at Kent State University and visited classes with poet Philip Metres at John Carroll University.
In addition to exploring themes of grief and loss, Ó Tuama guided participants in ways poetry can address contemporary dynamics of conflict, polarization, history, and change. Pádraig Ó Tuama is the host of On Being’s Poetry Unbound and the author of (among others) Poetry Unbound; 50 Poems to Open Your Life. He is poet-in-residence for Columbia University’s International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution. Ó Tuama brings insight as an artist and a practitioner to this important field of consideration in the world of peacemaking. From 2014–2019 he was the leader of Corrymeela, Ireland’s oldest reconciliation community.
On May 12, Youth Speaks in San Francisco will present an Under 21 Open Mic focused on poetry and grief. They will be making sacred space to come together and process the incredible loss felt over the last few years, as well as exploring ways we can use our voices to help heal ourselves and each other. This event will showcase the work of the After School Writing Workshops’ spring cohort, featured artists, and make room for anyone age twenty-one and under to take the mic and share in response to the theme as well. Teenagers interested in joining Youth Speaks’ online and hybrid programs, and adults looking to offer support, can find more information at youthspeaks.org.
Zoeglossia, a national literary organization seeking to pioneer a new, inclusive space for poets with disabilities, will center their fellows’ work, as so many in the disability community have experienced grief and loss during the pandemic. Zoeglossia will host a series of generative workshops with their fellows featuring prompts inspired by ideas of grief and loss, provide follow-up support for fellows to refine these poems, create a folio of their work, and share on social media the poems created through this process throughout the month of March.