Poetry played a large role in Calvin Coolidge’s funeral. The former president was remembered and honored in a short ceremony that lasted a brief 22 minutes and featured all of two hymns, prayers, and reading of Scripture, which included more poetry in Psalms 46 and 121.
At the grave site, a few brief words and a poem by Robert Richardson, and that was all. The funeral featured little pomp and circumstance, and it was not held in Washington, Boston, or New York but rather in his adopted home town of Northampton.
The death of a dear friend or loved one is not only a time for grief and mourning; it is also a time for remembrance. It is a time, as William Shakespeare put it in Sonnet 30, for “sessions of sweet silent thought” in which we “summon up remembrance of things past.” The joys of companionship, shared experience, and fond memories are perfectly captured and contrasted with sadness and grief in Shakespeare’s beautiful sonnet on the passing of a treasured friend. Continue reading Funeral Poem for a Friend: When to the Sessions (Sonnet 30)
Sometimes regular words are not enough. A recitation of the departed loved one’s life and accomplishments is important, but rarely captures the poetic vitality of a beautiful life. Composing your own memorial poetry is a wonderful excercise which helps you work through and express your grief and love, but rare is the person who can craft words to say exactly what they want to say.
Clive James, renowned Australian journalist and essayist, published this poem entitled “Japanese Maple” a few days ago in the New Yorker. A whistful meditation on a tree planted in the backyard garden by his daughter, the poignance of the poem is intensified knowing that the author is in the final stages of terminal cancer. Continue reading Japanese Maple, a poem by Clive James