As traditions of mourning wane, women’s role as designated mourners has also vanished. In consequence, the woman elegist must summon her own resources as an artist.
More often writing soliloquies of suffering and consolation than collective songs like the dirge, elegists have discovered that lyric sequences can provide a powerful means of addressing the tensions between grief’s inchoate emotion and social rituals of mourning.
Poets writing in English have long learned to mourn from classical precedents. They have drawn on a tradition of pastoral elegies, which incorporate the dead into the cycles of nature, that runs from Theocritus’ Idylls to John Milton’s ‘Lycidas’ and Percy Shelley’s ‘Adonais.’
The length and shape of the poemetto, like the greater Romantic lyric of English poetry, lends itself to retrospection and commentary.
The most important American love poet in living memory, and certainly one of the most important American poets tout court, Robert Creeley was born in 1926 and raised in eastern Massachusetts.
The power of elegy, even in the face of an unbounded grief, to provide a containing form is vividly embodied by Anne Carson’s ‘Nox,’ a nocturne with carefully controlled visual and tactile properties.
Umberto Poli was born in Trieste in 1883, when the city was at its zenith as the major port of the Habsburgs. The irredentist sympathies of Umberto’s Italian-speaking parents can be detected in their giving him the first name of the Italian emperor.