Of all the intellectual surprises my little book on elegy afforded me,
this was the biggest: a book I thought was about dying quietly
evolved into a book about surviving. The story of this subtle shift—
a nearly imperceptible movement from loss to love—names the
very work of elegy, a poetics of loss that does not so much mark
the end of love as put a name to love. The arc of this book spans the
distance from dearly beloved to my beloved, a chasm painfully and
perilously bridged by the revivifying power of language.
There are many people who helped me travel over this bridge,
and still more who were waiting for me at the end. I am lucky to be
surrounded by a generous and active community of poetry schol-
ars. James Richardson, Michael Wood, Susan Stewart, Jeff Dolven,
Susan Wolfson, Esther Schor, Meredith Martin, and Joshua Kotin
are the real thing: poet- critics whose conversation, creativity, and
critique humble me every day. I have Vance Smith to thank for the
title of this book, Dying Modern, which originated as a companion
course to his graduate seminar “Dying Medieval.” Taylor Eggan
and Javier Padilla kindly assisted me with the copyright permis-
sions. My favorite group of interlocutors and conspirators has fol-
lowed this project from beginning to end: Sharon Marcus, Patri-
cia Crain, Judith Walkowitz, Martha Howell, Margaret Hunt, and
Amanda Claybaugh. To James Eatroff, Joanne Fuss, Linda Court-
ney, Deborah Fuss, and John Newell, I owe my emotional equilib-
rium and debts that can never be repaid.
It is fitting perhaps that a book on modern elegy has been so
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