In the Unwalled City takes its title from Epicurus, who wrote: "Against other things it is possible to obtain security, but when it comes to death, we human beings all live in an unwalled city." This affecting book-which weaves prose memoir with poetry-explores that feeling of being open to attack-in this case the pain of grief after Robert Cording's thirty-one-year-old son Daniel died.
To borrow a phrase from C.S. Lewis, here is "a grief observed," encompassing not only the big questions but also the impact of grief on daily life. For a poet like Cording, one form that grief takes is that of speaking to his son. In "Afterlife," Cording has a vision of his son replying: "let the emptiness remain empty . . . Stop writing down / everything you think I'm telling you. / This is your afterlife, not mine."
At the heart of In the Unwalled City is a series of questions: How does loss change a person? How does one chart a new life that both acknowledges a son's death and still finds a way back to delight? How does one now live fully in the unwalled city?
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