The AVBOB Poetry Competition | Poems About Death and How to Breathe Life into Yours

Poems About Death and How to Breathe Life into Yours

Poems about death need not always be sorrowful or despairing. Throughout history, writers have penned verses about death under the guise of beautiful metaphors or used their words to exultantly celebrate a life well-lived. When grieving the loss of someone near, it is not mere sadness that one experiences.

Grief is that all-encompassing journey of laughing at a happy memory, even while mournful tears stream, you have anger at a beloved being taken so soon, or you have a fear of the future. Poems about death are filled with love and the bereavement of those still living.

Perhaps you have been crafting poems about death to pay your last respects, to say something you wish you had said. It is not unusual to feel as though your words simply are not doing the journey justice. However, you need not impress anyone. In the end, just writing what you really feel might be enough to bring comfort to another or give wings to the anguish in your own soul. Below, we take a look at four, simple exercises you can do to bring authenticity and life to the poems you write.

1. Sit a While in Nature

Nature is unrepentant in its ability to keep moving. It remains fiercely unafraid of forward momentum. We see this in weeds flourishing in the cracks of sidewalks or a species adapting to accommodate their changing environment. Nature finds a way and life goes on. For the one in grieving, this might feel unfair.

Life should at least halt a moment in the face of such great loss. In another way, though, it is comforting. Nature, in all its brutality is still relentlessly beautiful. Death and life coexist, hanging in the greater balance. Utilising lessons from nature to inform your poems about death means that your readers are privy to this unique perspective – that it is natural to grieve, and that beauty, growth, and picking up the pieces are still possible. If you are seeking to improve your writing, nature makes for a splendid teacher.

2. Find Magic in the Ordinary

When writing of a loved one who has passed on, it can be hard to know what aspects upon which to place one’s focus. Should it be their life’s greatest works and achievements? Perhaps the impact they have had on this world? While such poetry has a place in eulogies, it is most often those ordinary, mundane moments people tend to remember.

Examples include reading the paper while sipping the morning coffee, taking a walk together, or sharing a meal. Poems about death that contain such imagery create a story for the listeners, who are suddenly invited into an intimate memory and might relate to this moment in their own grief. Never be afraid of writing about the uneventful humdrum, as much of the magic of human life is contained in our daily routines.

3. Listen to the Grief Around You

If you have lost someone dear, there will be a surge of conversations that take place around you. After a while, all the condolences might meld into a single reminder of something painful. For writers, however, this is another place wherein we find life. Beyond the platitudes and sympathy cards, we see the golden thread of human connection.

People recounting stories and memories of the one who passed, their weeping – it is all speaking. As a writer, listening to this surrounding grief and putting it to paper can broaden your worldview and bring you one step closer to the unified heartbeat of humanity.

4. Explore Poetry that Tackles Similar Themes

Loss and bereavement are universal, and there is no shortage of art forms that embody this theme. The AVBOB Poetry Project, for example, is a superb way for South African poets, both professional and amateur, to draw inspiration from the authenticity of local writers. While our library contains works under the overarching theme of, “I Wish I’d Said”, thousands of writers have submitted and continue to submit poems about birth, death, love, and hope. The best part is that writers are free to explore poems in any one of the country’s 11 official languages and discover the cultural topics to which they most relate.

Today, write fearlessly and authentically about real life, then share, if you wish, your gift with the world. In the words of the late Leonard Cohen, “Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.”

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