From the Publisher
"The subject could be morbid, but these poems from all over the world lift the spirit with their truthful feeling and words that sing." Booklist
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9More than 80 poems explore the universal tragedy of death. "There is no vocabulary for this, the no-language of grief...so the world says it for me." These words, from "The Baffling Dead" by Irene Earis, encompass one emotion and viewpoint presented here. Classic poets such as Emily Dickinson and Anne Sexton are included, as are contemporary poets such as Alice Walker. The words are different; the pain they express rings true. There is a vision in these poems that gives readers a deeper understanding of the impact of loss. Black-and-white sketches, like symbols, provide just enough imagery to enliven the words. The collection is not all grim; there are evocations of paradise, hope, and memory here. Duffy's anthology addresses an often-avoided subject in a conscientious way, and readers will gain from it a healthy understanding of the ways to deal with and move on from loss.Sharon Korbeck, Waupaca Area Public Library, WI
The subject could be morbid, but these poems from all over the world lift the spirit with their truthful feeling and words that sing. The anthology doesn't have the immediate appeal of Duffy's "I Wouldn't Thank You for a Valentine" (1994); some of these poems are difficult, especially a few of the contemporary pieces. In fact, the classics are the most accessible, poems such as W. H. Auden's "Funeral Blues" ("Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone" ), Christina Rossetti's "When I am dead, my dearest," and Wilfred Owen's "Anthem for Doomed Youth." Audre Lorde's "Girlfriend" speaks with an understated natural voice, and Juliette de Bairacli-Levy evokes the archetypal images of grief ("His chair at the table, empty" ). The arrangement is alphabetical, and many readers will enjoy starting with the funny old anonymous piece "The worms crawl out and the worms crawl in," but they'll also be moved by Sykes' poem ("How can you write a poem when you're dying of AIDS?" ), which is a shout of pain.
A fine, imported anthology, subtitled "Poems About Death and Loss," of simple but sophisticated poems about the mystery, grief, fear, and occasional gallows humor that surround death. Duffy, a well-known British poet, closes the book with the only work of her own that she has included, "And Then What," after ushering readers through the works of the familiar W.H. Auden ("Funeral Blues"), Emily Dickinson ("Because I Could Not Stop for Death"), and Dylan Thomas ("Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night"), and less familiar (to young readers) but no less worthy poets, such as James Sykes ("How Can You Write a Poem When You're Dying of AIDS?") and Michael Longley ("Detour").
The selections express many of the attitudes people have felt about death: awe, horror, pain, irreverence. There are some that are reassuring, addressing the imperviousness toward death of children who fail to recognize their own mortality (e.g., "Dead Dog" by Vernon Scannell: "I can't remember any feeling but/a moderate pity, cool, not swollen-eyed/. . . My lump of dog was ordinary as bread"). It's unfortunate that there are so few notes on poets or the poems. Rafferty's black-and-white sketches add a light touch, while also capturing the tone of many of the poems. Fans of Duffy's earlier I Wouldn't Thank You for a Valentine (1994) will be equally satisfied with this collection.