‘Gacela of Unforseen Love’ explores the relationship between love and despair through a remembered romance which has run its course.
For reasons that are never clearly defined, the narrator cannot be with the one they love. It may be that the person has died, left the narrator or, perhaps, that they never reciprocated the love in the first place. Regardless of the reason, their absence haunts the poem just as it haunts the narrator.
No one understood the perfume
of the dark magnolia of your womb
Nobody knew that you tormented
a hummingbird of love between your teeth.
‘My Grandmother’s Houses’ by Jackie Kay is a thoughtful recollection of youth and a young speaker’s relationship with her eccentric grandmother, who is forced to move homes.
The narrator misses her grandmother, but not just because they are gone. They also miss the person their grandmother was before she moved, when she was happiest.
She is on the second floor of a tenement.
From her front room window you see the cemetery.
Li Bai’s ‘Taking Leave of a Friend’ uses different literary techniques to convey the themes of transience, nature, longing, and friendship.
This poem evokes a strong sense of missing someone through its language and imagery. The blue mountains and white water create a vivid natural landscape that serves as a backdrop for the speaker's emotions, emphasizing the sense of distance and separation. The metaphor of the unrooted water grass and the repeated use of "oh" convey a deep emotional longing and attachment to the departing friend.
Blue mountains lie beyond the north wall;
Round the city's eastern side flows the white water.
Here we part, friend, once forever.
You go ten thousand miles, drifting away
‘The Dancing’ by Gerald Stern is an emotionally complex poem that wrestles with feelings of joy and bittersweetness inspired by a fond memory.
It's clear from the memory the speaker doesn't just miss the music but also their parents themselves. We don't know if their parents are still alive but at the very least it's clear the speaker is unable to really recreate that moment ever again.
In all these rotten shops, in all this broken furniture
and wrinkled ties and baseball trophies and coffee pots
I have never seen a postwar Philco
with the automatic eye
‘Tomorrow, At Dawn’ by Victor Hugo follows the speaker as they journey to the grave of a loved one, capturing all the ways in which grief has become their sole fixation.
The speaker begins the poem by addressing the dead loved one. This is a powerful indication that they've still yet to come to terms with their death and that they're still in the midst of grieving. As a result, this poem is an intensely emotional one in terms of expressing that desperate yearning for someone you'll never see again.
Tomorrow, at dawn, at the hour when the countryside whitens,
I will set out. You see, I know that you wait for me.
I will go by the forest, I will go by the mountain.
I can no longer remain far from you.
‘Beeny Cliff’ by Thomas Hardy examines the disenchantment of a location that was once fondly beloved for its setting as a happy memory.
Hardy's poem also does a phenomenal job of conveying how memory and nostalgia can make grief bittersweet. The poem's detailed imagery in scenery and emotion makes it one of his most touching about his loss. The tension of this yearning gives the poem its poignancy, with the speaker using their memory to transport them momentarily to a moment and place that will never again exist.
O the opal and the sapphire of that wandering western sea,
And the woman riding high above with bright hair flapping free–
The woman whom I loved so, and who loyally loved me.
Jean Bleakney’s ‘Consolidation’ is a deeply personal poem about the act of rearranging the cowry shells that the speaker and her children gathered in the past.
Indeed, the speaker of Bleakney's poem misses the days of togetherness and warmth, yet she tries to figure out a way to live with mental peace untouched by saddening memories.
Some sunny, empty afternoon
I’ll pool our decade’s worth
and more of cowrie shells
gathered from that gravel patch
‘Can life be a blessing’ by John Henry Dryden is a poem devoted to arguing the necessity of love despite the inevitable pain it might cause.
Dryden's poem does remarkably well in voicing the feelings of two lovers who are unsure about maintaining a long-distance relationship. Which more or less is the context of the poem in his play, although it's a separation initiated by war. The speaker is devout in the belief that waiting for a lover is far better than lacking one.
Can life be a blessing,
Or worth the possessing,
Can life be a blessing if love were away?
Ah no! though our love all night keep us waking,
‘A Farewell’ challenges the reader to reflect upon the fleeting nature of human life, especially when compared to nature.
This emotion is most keenly presented in the poem as being experienced by nature itself, which is suggested to feel the loss of the narrator and, presumably others that once walked among it.
Flow down, cold rivulet, to the sea,
Thy tribute wave deliver:
No more by thee my steps shall be,
For ever and for ever.
‘The Jewel Stairs’ Grievance’ (translated by Ezra Pound) by Li Bai captures the lovelorn yearning of a woman waiting for her lover late at night in a picturesque scene of melancholic beauty.
Because of the poem's ambiguity and the limitations of Ezra Pound's translation, it is unclear what emotions, in particular, exist between the speaker and the person they are waiting for. Yet whether it's love or desire, it's clear by the length of time they stand waiting in the cold wetness of the night that they're anxious to see them. The reader might not be privy to the details of their longing, but the unspoken pining is hard to miss.
The jewelled steps are already quite white with dew,
It is so late that the dew soaks my gauze stockings,
And I let down the crystal curtain
And watch the moon through the clear autumn.
‘To a Dead Friend’ by Langston Hughes is a depressing poem about the ways death can permanently alter one’s ability to see or feel joy.
The sadness felt over the death of a loved one boils down essentially to missing someone. Hughes' poem never loses sight of this and as a result it's a powerful poem to read for anyone who has also lost someone or is similarly sundered from the one's they love.
The moon still sends its mellow light
Through the purple blackness of the night;
The morning star is palely bright
Before the dawn.
‘Knee-Deep In June’ by James Whitcomb Riley is a pastoral poem advocating nature’s joys amid the luscious warmth of June as a must-do escape from the daily humdrum.
The speaker in this poem expresses his nostalgia and longing by yearning for past and attached memories. He begins with the recollections of childhood days, with boys climbing the apple trees. He also yearns for an unspecified individual. But mostly, he misses and longs for the simpler uncomplicated days.
Tell you what I like the best --
'Long about knee-deep in June,
'Bout the time strawberries melts
On the vine, -- some afternoon
Explore ‘Death of a Young Woman,’ where Clarke depicts how a loved one’s death lets a person free from their inward, endless suffering.
In this poem, Clarke talks about how one woman's family members miss her after her death and react to her sudden departure at a young age.
He wept for her and for the hard tasks
He had lovingly done, for the short,
Fierce life she had lived in the white bed,
For the burden he had put down for good.