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Grief takes on many shapes. It can be personal, like losing a mother. Or it can arise from a collective experience - say, a country ravaged by injustice, violence and natural disaster. Surrounded by so much loss, how does one keep going? Saeed Jones tackles this question in his latest poetry collection titled "Alive At The End Of The World." NPR's Jeevika Verma has more.
JEEVIKA VERMA, BYLINE: Saeed Jones' new book of poems came together during the pandemic's lockdown phase.
SAEED JONES: We had no sense of time and scale. How long were we going to go on living that way? I felt very isolated.
VERMA: He was also nearing the 10-year anniversary of his mother's passing. As the poet was working through his own loss, he was also surrounded by a collective experience of it.
JONES: My reckoning with those personal feelings kind of keyed me into what we're kind of going through in, really, a systemic way.
VERMA: Jones' collection is called "Alive At The End Of The World." As he points to climate disaster, gun violence and America's broader systemic failures, he also writes about a new relationship and falling in love.
JONES: And you see Saeed on the page being like, am I allowed to love? Can we do this right now? Like, is this an appropriate time?
VERMA: He says these questions come from an American culture invested in just moving on. And for him, the end of the world is not a one-time event.
JONES: Sorry. It's not going to be like the movie "Deep Impact" or "Armageddon," where there's one dramatic event, and we all come together.
VERMA: Because, he says, the grief that comes after these moments doesn't end. It just changes. Here's an excerpt from one of the book's four title poems.
JONES: (Reading) In America, a gathering of people is called target practice or a funeral, depending on who lives long enough to define the terms. But for now, we are alive at the end of the world, shell shocked by headlines and alarm clocks, burning through what little love we have left.
VERMA: As we enter an era of increasing destabilization, the poet wants to know, what does it mean to love and create amidst that?
JONES: You see, even as there's just total peril and calamity on the page with these poems, that there are still human beings who still have to go about the business of making sense of their lives.
VERMA: And through his poems, Jones reminds us that even though it often feels like the end of the world, we are alive, and we are here.
Jeevika Verma, NPR News.
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