Loss Poems

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Telling the Bees

by Lizette Woodworth Reese

‘Telling the Bees’ by Lizette Woodworth Reese describes how one speaker finds out about the loss of her mother from “Bathsheba / Telling the bees.”

Ten Little Soldiers (And Then There Were None)

by Agatha Christie

‘Ten Little Soldiers’ was included in Agatha Christie’s classic mystery novel, ‘And Then There Were None.’ It iserves as an epigraph, appearing at the beginning of the book, and is connected with all ten deaths that occur on the island. It is unclear who wrote the first version of this nursery rhyme.

The Broken Heart

by William Barnes

‘The Broken Heart’ by William Barnes describes a kind and selfless Fanny whose heart was broken by a selfish and cruel man. 

The Bustle in a House

by Emily Dickinson

‘The Bustle in a House’ by Emily Dickinson is a short poem about the effects of death. It describes the “bustle” in a home the morning after an important loss.

The Bustle in a House

The Morning after Death

Is solemnest of industries

Enacted opon Earth –

The Charge of the Light Brigade

by Alfred Lord Tennyson

‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ by Alfred Lord Tennyson is a historically important poem that tells of the incredible bravery of the British cavalry during the Battle of Balaclava.

Theirs not to reason why,

Theirs but to do and die:

Into the valley of Death

Rode the six hundred.

The Climate

by Annelyse Gelman

‘The Climate’ by Annelyse Gelman is a powerful piece about the climate crisis. It is seen through an approaching wave and metaphorical beachgoers’ negligence.

It was like watching a wave approach

from a great distance, so great


that at first it is not a wave at all, but

a mere horizon, static and singular,

The Day Lady Died

by Frank O’Hara

Frank O’Hara wrote ‘The Day Lady Died’ in memory of the jazz singer Billie Holiday. She passed away from complications due to liver diseases in July 1959.

The Force of Prayer; Or, the Founding of Bolton Priory

by William Wordsworth

Willam Wordsworth’s ‘The Force of Prayer; Or, the Founding of Bolton Priory’ depicts the tragic death of a young man and the creation of a priory in his honor. 

“WHAT is good for a bootless bene?”

With these dark words begins my tale;

And their meaning is, whence can comfort spring

When prayer is of no avail?

The Forsaken Merman

by Matthew Arnold

‘The Forsaken Merman’ by Matthew Arnold is a melancholy poem in which the speaker, a merman, grieves the loss of his human wife. He’s left alone with their children without the woman he loves.

The Ghazal ‘By Exiles’

by Agha Shahid Ali

‘The Ghazal ‘By Exiles”’ by Agha Shahid Ali is a painful piece of poetry. In it, the poet reveals how hard it is to leave the place where one spent one’s golden times.

The Hill

by Edgar Lee Masters

‘The Hill’ by Edgar Lee Masters describes the lives and deaths of some of the residents of Spoon River—the community that features in much of his verse.

The Lost Woman

by Patricia Beer

‘The Lost Woman’ by Patricia Beer is a poem about the relationship between a daughter and her mother; examining the life and death of her.

The Man He Killed

by Thomas Hardy

"Had he and I but met

            By some old ancient inn,

We should have sat us down to wet

            Right many a nipperkin!

The Meeting

by Katherine Mansfield

‘The Meeting’ by Katherine Mansfield is a short and image-rich poem that depicts a speaker’s reaction to a permanent separation from her lover. 

The Old Fools

by Philip Larkin

‘The Old Fools’ by Philip Larkin is a poem about what happens when one grows older and begins to forget about their life.

What do they think has happened, the old fools,

To make them like this? Do they somehow suppose

It’s more grown-up when your mouth hangs open and drools,

And you keep on pissing yourself, and can’t remember

The Old Tongue

by Herbert Williams

Herbert Williams’ ‘The Old Tongue’ is a poem about the gradual waning of traditional language and culture in Wales.

The Orchard

by Robert A. Ayres

Robert A. Ayres’s ‘The Orchard’ depicts a desolate garden that the speaker visited in the past. This image-rich poem explores the theme of the transience of life.

The Poplar Field

by William Cowper

‘The Poplar Field’ describes the destruction of a field of poplar trees and how its loss allows a speaker to reflect on his death. 

The River

by Sara Teasdale

‘The River’ by Sara Teasdale is a short and effective poem. It uses a river as a narrator and describes its journey towards the ocean.

The Slave Auction

by Frances Harper

Have you ever imagined what it felt like observing innocent lives being traded at the slave auction? It is vividly portrayed through the eyes of Frances Harper in her poem ‘The Slave Auction’.

The Starry Night

by Anne Sexton

‘The Starry Night’ by Anne Sexton is an ekphrastic that explores Van Gogh’s The Starry Night. It delves into the emotions that a speaker interprets in the painted elements.

The Summer of Lost Rachel

by Seamus Heaney

‘The Summer of Lost Rachel’ by Seamus Heaney was written after the death of the poet’s young niece. The poem uses nine quatrains with a ballad rhyme scheme. 

Potato crops are flowering,

Hard green plums appear

On damson trees at your back door

And every berried briar

The Tantrum

by A. E. Stallings

‘The Tantrum’ by A.E. Stallings is an compelling poem about loss. The speaker describes what a specific listener did when they saw their mother’s newly cut hair.

Struck with grief you were, though only four,

The day your mother cut her mermaid hair

And stood, a stranger, smiling at the door.

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