edited by Kara Dorris
contributions by Jane Wong, Naomi Ortiz, Denise Leto, Carol Berg, Kristy Bowen, Floydd Michael Elliot, Jehanne Dubrow, Carl Phillips, Bruce Bond, Kevin Prufer, Teresa Leo, Rusane Morrison, Sheila Black, Lauren Shellberg, Anne Kaier, TC Tolbert, Raymond Luczak, Stephanie Heit, Juliet Cook, Tanaya Winder, Jennifer McCauley, John Chavez, Katherine C. Jueds, Catherine Kyle, Adam Crittenden, Rigoberto Gonzalez and Kyle McCord
Southern Illinois University Press, 2023
Paper: 978-0-8093-3906-8 | eISBN: 978-0-8093-3907-5
Library of Congress Classification PS509.S375 2023
Dewey Decimal Classification 808.80384

An innovative roadmap to facing our past and present selves
Honest, aching, and intimate, self-elegies are unique poems focusing on loss rather than death, mourning versions of the self that are forgotten or that never existed. Within their lyrical frame, multiple selves can coexist—wise and naïve, angry and resigned—along with multiple timelines, each possible path stemming from one small choice that both creates new selves and negates potential selves. Giving voice to pain while complicating personal truths, self-elegies are an ideal poetic form for our time, compelling us to question our close-minded certainties, heal divides, and rethink our relation to others.
In Writing the Self-Elegy, poet Kara Dorris introduces us to this prismatic tradition and its potential to forge new worlds. The self-elegies she includes in this anthology mix autobiography and poetics, blending craft with race, gender, sexuality, ability and disability, and place—all of the private and public elements that build individual and social identity. These poems reflect our complicated present while connecting us to our past, acting as lenses for understanding, and defining the self while facilitating reinvention. The twenty-eight poets included in this volume each practice self-elegy differently, realizing the full range of the form. In addition to a short essay that encapsulates the core value of the genre and its structural power, each poet’s contribution concludes with writing prompts that will be an inspiration inside the classroom and out. This is an anthology readers will keep close and share, exemplifying a style of writing that is as playful as it is interrogative and that restores the self in its confrontation with grief.