With poems many can recite, such as “Because I could not stop for Death,” Emily Dickinson’s work is rich with poetic contemplation about the end of life. For this annual tribute evening, the renowned poet, author, and feministic literary critic Sandra Gilbert explores this contemplation of death and grief, reading from Dickinson’s poetry and her own. Gilbert has published numerous collections of poetry, including the Patterson Prize winning Ghost Volcano and Kissing the Bread: New and Selected Poems 1969–1999, winner of an American Book Award. Recent collections include Belongings and Aftermath: Poems. In addition to numerous anthologies, other work includes Death’s Door: Modern Dying and the Ways We Grieve, a cultural and literary history of grief, as well as The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination, co-written with Susan Gubar and considered one of the most influential works of contemporary scholarship.
From "Grief: A History"
When you spun away in the whirlwind
my grief followed you
a whimpering spaniel
you were gone your absence
was absolute & my grief
sat on my kitchen table
a vase of bloody roses
my grief sprang from my breastbone
a young birch swaying & scabrous
my grief was a dull pot
at the back of the stove
my grief lashed the windows
a hurricane with your face
my grief sulked & silenced itself
a fog over the harbor
my grief in tatters
my grief in gusts
my grief skulking around the house
ready to kill . . .
Excerpt from “Grief: A History” from Aftermath: Poems by Sandra Gilbert © 2011 by Sandra M. Gilbert, published by W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. Used with permission.
Co-sponsored with The Poetry Society of America