cover of book

The Sorrow Psalms: A Book of Twentieth-Century Elegy
edited by Lynn Strongin
University of Iowa Press, 2006
Paper: 978-0-87745-986-6
Library of Congress Classification PR8861.E5S67 2006

Like the pilot in W. B. Yeats's “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death,” each of us is challenged to “balance with this life, this death.” As we share a common fate, we also share loss and sorrow. At their most mournful, with praise and love and raw emotion, poets throughout time have put their grief to paper. The elegy and its inherent drama---the inevitable struggle between love and death---are showcased in The Sorrow Psalms, a collection of twentieth-century elegies edited by poet Lynn Strongin. Divided into five thematic sections, the elegies convey the impact of death and its aftermath; focus on the loss of family, lovers, and dear friends; contend with the loss of a child; deal with violent death; and seek to look beyond death to find some kind of resolution. The traditional stages of grieving---denial, anger, depression, and acceptance---are evident, either singly in the expression of one profound emotion or all at once, in these elegies. Strongin's introduction on the origins of the elegy and its evolution through the twentieth century explains what elegy has been and what it can be. “There is a river of sorrows that flows, which our creative spirits have mapped,” she writes. As they evoke and exalt the dead and give expression to the deepest emotions, the resonant elegies collected here offer comfort to those who personally or collectively grieve the passing of loved ones. Contributors includeJohn Berryman, Elizabeth Bishop, Lucille Clifton, Billy Collins, e. e. cummings, James Dickey, Donald Hall, Jane Kenyon, Denise Levertov, Sandra McPherson, Joyce Peseroff, Robert Peters, Stan Rice, Adrienne Rich, Carl Sandburg, Anne Sexton, Ruth Stone, Mark Strand, Dylan Thomas, William Carlos Williams, C. D. Wright
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