As part of the Poetry Coalition’s programming, the Academy of American Poets asked five renowned poets to reflect on poems that helped them better understand or process grief. 

The seventh annual programming initiative’s theme “and so much lost      you’d think / beauty had left a lesson: Poetry & Grief,” is from the poem “once the magnolia has blossomed” by Ed Roberson

In the third installment, poet Victoria Chang reflects on “There, There, Grieving” by Zeina Hashem Beck

I chose to write about Zeina Hashem Beck’s poem, “There, There, Grieving” because of its beautiful combination of song and detail. The poem explores faith, as well as grief, as stated by the title and the epigraph of the poem, yet somehow this poem also sings. It sings through its repetitive alternating architecture of “Little brother” and “Little christ” from stanza to stanza, as well as through the repetition of “we are all” grieving, praying, or humming. This poem is also filled with beautiful particulars such as fathers, brothers, a “daughter on a swing,” and all the details in the last stanza, such as “blue awnings, “corn carts,” and “clotheslines.” In some ways, this poem is celebrating the wingspan of grief and how it traverses family, generations, and memory. The speaker travels through time and generations: “More & more, as I read, I sound / like my father with his book of prayers….” and also across the landscape of guilt: “Little christ of our hearts, forgive me, / for I loved eating the birds with lemon, / & the sound of their tiny bones.” It’s beautiful to think that finding a dead bird in a clock tower could open up and expand into a poem that explores faith, time, memory, love, guilt, and grief, as if to say that grief is everything mixed together.