Who Said “Poetry Is about Grief?"

Probably half of all initiates who’ve taken up the poetic pen, but today we’ll give the credit to Robert Frost, who reportedly said in 1962, “poetry is about grief, and politics is about grievance.” Have the twain now met?, I’d like to ask him. But seriously, there is great satisfaction in a poem that takes raw grief and remakes it, however sausage-factory-like it is behind the scenes.

This past summer, a very dear friend passed away. Six months prior to that, we spent the day together, discussing her decision to continue chemotherapy, but to refuse a probably necessary stem cell transplant. She noticed a handwritten sign on my desk, “If justice be the law of the universe, Lord, I pray for mercy” and loved it. We shared an affinity for the quirky, and this prayer of snarky faithfulness, which I’d written in a moment of contained fury, seemed to resonate for her, in her precarious health situation. I wrote out another copy for her, on the spot, and a flicker of her future might have passed between us.  

She appears only glancingly in “Revelation.” How many times can I rail directly at loss? But she is at the heart of it, she who died at 61, still in her prime. I’m happy to say that this poem concluding with “our prayer” has just been published in The Windhover 21.1, 2017. “Revelation” affirms my belief, that no matter what happens in poetry, politics, in life itself, that Love is at the heart of all creation. 

I am grateful, once again, to Nate Hansen, editor of The Windhover, for choosing to publish this poem and for placing it between Paul Willis’ and Richard Spilman’s excellent poems, in meaningful conversation. That’s what good editors do, I guess, and as I’ve already written in this blog, Nate is doing great work. 

Privately, reading the poem again, I say, “This one’s for you, April! May you live always in the eternal heart of Love.”