Chapter 14 Mourning Someone You Never Knew: A Gesture of Civilization

In: Grief, Identity, and the Arts
Lizet Duyvendak
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Every year across Europe, an increasing number of people are buried or cremated without anybody caring or mourning: homeless people, illegal immigrants, elderly people, junkies. All of them people on whom society has turned its back. At their funerals there is no one present, except some pallbearers, civil servants, and the funeral officiant. Since 2002 in the Netherlands, and in Flanders since 2009, there is a project called The Lonely Funeral (Eenzame uitvaart). Poets involved in this project write poems based on what can be found out about the lives of the deceased. The poet is paid to write a poem, just as the other “officials” at the funeral are paid for their duty. The poet reads this poem at the graveside. The poems, together with a story about the deceased and about the funeral ceremony, are published on a website. The aim of the project is that there is a poet at the funeral who can show respect for the existence of a fellow human being. F. Starik, the poet who started the project in Amsterdam after an idea by Bart F.M. Droog calls it “a social statue, or a long-time art work, whereby every deceased person writes a new chapter in the big book of oblivion.” Why do poets bring a salutation to someone they never knew? Is it possible to weep for the death of someone you never met? What kind of poetry is written for this project? Is this a new function for poetry?

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Grief, Identity, and the Arts

A Multidisciplinary Perspective on Expressions of Grief

Series:  Death in History, Culture, and Society, Volume: 1


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