I know that poetry reading isn't the most popular pastime in America, but one time when most people seem to turn to poetry is for funerals or for comfort in grief. Back in May I wrote about the pleasure of receiving my copy of Holy Cow! Press's fantastic new collection, Beloved on the Earth: 150 Poems of Grief and Gratitude. I want to come back to it now. I had the privilege of taking part in the publication reading at the Loft in Minneapolis on September 11th. Here is what surprised me, and here is why I'm recommending this book: you'd think that a reading of poems about death would be depressing. You'd think after an evening of hearing those poems of "grief and gratitude" read, you'd feel like you'd been stuck listening to the same notes for far too long. Not so. True, several of the poems by famous and lesser-known authors alike brought tears to my eyes. But the poems I heard read by my fellow poets that night were gracious, original, beautifully crafted, and ultimately life-affirming. Consider the note struck Ted Kooser's poem "Father:" "Today you would be ninety-seven/ if you ahd lieved, and we would all be/ miserable, you and your children..." Or how, pages later, Mary Oliver concludes her series of metaphors describing how death comes with the sudden and beautiful call to life, "I don't want to end up simply having visited this world." There was such a warm and loving feeling in the audience that evening, and it was a full house, too. A highly recommended anthology.
On a related note, here is the epitaph on Ruth Bell Graham (wife of Billy Graham)'s tombstone:
"End of construction. Thank you for your patience."
If we're all works-in-progress...