Grief-related Poems on the Web

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Poetry editor Karina Lutz comments on three poems published elsewhere for your inspiration.  We hope you will read them and share them in workshops.

Recorded by Karina Lutz

Jeff Conant’s “Bestiary for the End Times”
There’s a new bestiary on the block. Most of you know “The Bestiary” as Joanna Macy’s poem and the Honoring Our Pain ritual that uses the poem as both a liturgy of mourning and a prompt for a group’s own public grieving. The ritual is described in Coming Back to Life and here:  The poem can be found in the book’s Appendix or heard read aloud online here: 

Inspired by the poem and the ritual, Jeff Conant has written an extensive new bestiary: a poem sequence with most poems focusing on one endangered or extinct species. “Bestiary for the End Times” can be read  here:

Remember to breathe through, and revive the love that lies beneath grief.

Ugandan artist Maya Adams’s work focuses on climate justice. Her visual poem “Climate Changed,” online at, illustrates destructive, devouring systems in angular, abstracted figures inverted in self-consumption. The figures of humanoid bodies appear disjointed and riveted in on themselves at the same time. The motif and metaphor of eating recurs throughout the series of images and the stanzas of poetry that link them. Strikingly, and in contrast, the metaphor of eating appears in several poems and articles in this issue of Deep Times on metabolizing grief. In this visual poem, though, the pain of being devoured does not seem to be transformed like compost but self-perpetuates: the devouring of Earth is destructive, and not redeemed into new life, as denial of the effects of our actions does not allow us to feel our grief, to honor our pain. And yet, the poem bears witness to denial.

Maya offers a free “Roots and Resilience” climate cafe for people who self-identify as Black, Indigenous, People of Colour.

In Natalie Diaz’s poem, “Alchemy Horse” (, grief is a central current of history, it is the proper response to current and historical indigenous colonialism and genocide, but it is also grossly misused and insufficient. From her indigenous perspective of a Mohave tribal member, her people’s collective grief is barely washed through when its systemic causes repeat, generating a funereal drumbeat syncopated by fierce and necessary resistance and revival. Yet this is not within the circle of the tribe alone. The dominant, industrial growth/colonist culture likes to watch.

“We professional mourners + + /crying for our lives + for hire + + +/From dark-colonies +” Diaz writes, invoking Hollywood caricatures and true life at once. She reminds us that to be used as entertainment by the dominant culture is to have one’s most personal and private griefs telegraphed, mimimized, and externalized, that is, re-colonized and commercialized. 

And yet, there is beauty: “We weep the saguaros to bloom + Eastward/+ and moonwhite + + soft-petaled wounds +/circling their night-wrists and crowns + + +/Grief is our lush and luxury—” Tears are water, and water is life. But it is not enough to grieve or to have one’s grief observed to be free of the causes and conditions of continued oppression. Diaz’s surrealism reflects the absurdity and contradictions of the current historical moment. And her sardonic voice, so central to her alchemical and horsepower-y book Post-Colonial Love Poem as well as this poem, seems to express anger simmering on a heat low enough to avoid inviting even more violence (hopefully), but simmering steadily enough to keep her passion for justice alive and engaged in the world. If grief is our lush and luxury, it is also our love poem to a just, life-sustaining world. A world once known and sometimes still glimpsed, as when the saguaro blooms, and a world we must reclaim and relive to be relieved from constant grief and further degradation. 

To truly honor this pain would be to stop the perpetration and perpetuation: for dominator cultures to honor the treaties, honor the rights, honor the inherent dignity and sovereignty of indigenous people worldwide, to make reparations, in short, to stop dominating–to step out of the power-over paradigm.




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