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Writing Loss

From losing a precious object to the death of a dear friend, loss is an inspiring topic for poets. In ‘One Art,’ Elizabeth Bishop begins with losing her keys and ends with the loss of a relationship.
Loss has inspired some of our most moving poems, old and new: Denise Levertov’s ‘Talking to Grief,’ Karen McCarthy Woolf’s ‘An Aviary of Small Birds,’ Ocean Vuong’s ‘Telemachus’…
You don’t have to start out with a devastating experience of loss. You might prefer to begin with writing about losing a precious ring, or the day your pet died. Smaller absences and bereavements can give you really useful ways of writing and thinking about greater losses.

Writing Prompt
Objects can tell us so much about their former owners: a battered teddy, an old jacket, an heirloom watch. Check out Fiona Moore’s poem ‘The Shirt,’ Karen McCarthy Woolf’s ‘White Butterflies’ or Tony Harrison’s ‘Turns’ for examples of how objects are used to write about loss. Some objects bring back happy memories; others may remind us of our grief.

Feeling ready to write about loss? Pick an object that you are going to keep, to remind you of a person you have lost. You could even use your poem as a keepsake, to hold your memories of that person.

Make some notes about it, to start you off.

• What does it look like?
• What does it sound like, if it has a sound? Feel like? Smell like?
• Does it have a use?
• Who made it?
• What is its history?
• What memories does it hold for you?

Now, turn your notes into a poem. You can use the examples of poems above for inspiration.

Be kind to yourself! If the loss still feels raw, you can always stop, put your draft away, and come back to it later.

You might like to send your poem in for us to read for Magma: The Loss Issue.

If you’ve been inspired by this writing prompt, get in touch! We’re here on Twitter: @magmapoetry @yvonnereddick


If you would like some more support during bereavement, the following charities can help:

Cruse Bereavement Care:
Dying Matters:
The Loss Foundation:


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