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The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

“I read the dictionary, I thought it was a poem about everything.”Steven Wright

Hello Dear Poets and Welcome to our last Poetics prompt of 2021! 

Whew- it’s been quite a year and I for one, am happy to put this one in the books. We’ve all had our share of personal issues and demons to deal with. As hard as it is to accept, I think our world as we know it will never be as it was.

Not that all our lives were perfect, but being able to hug a friend without any remorse was a nice feeling. The other day, a friend of ours came over to help us with an electrical problem and for the first time in well over a year, I hugged someone who was not my husband. I knew he had been vaccinated, and I have as well (booster and all), but afterwards I thought to myself- ‘What have I done? Maybe I shouldn’t have hugged him.’ How crazy is that? 

These days, masks are commonplace, people are still dying of Covid, and there is daily news of a new variant (Omicron being the latest as of this writing). There is a palpable sense of sorrow that is woven into our daily life.

Yet through this all, there is a certain beauty in our sorrows and birthed from our sadness is a profound gratefulness to be alive, to be taking a breath.

Back in April, I came across a book during my wanderings as a poet searching for words and inspiration on the internet. I found this little book, not yet published so I pre-ordered it. I finally received it last month and decided that it would be perfect for a prompt. 

The Book is called The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, by John Koenig.  

I am going to share with you a list of 10 words from the book and a shortened version of their meaning. You are free to choose one or more (or all!) of the words to write a poem. There are so many beautiful words in this book, it was hard to choose only a few.  

Kenopsia: the atmosphere of a place that is usually bustling with people but is now abandoned and quiet.

Etherness: the wistful feeling of looking around a gathering of loved ones, all too aware that even though the room is filled with warmth and laughter now, it won’t always be this way.

Anaphasia: the fear that your society is breaking apart into factions that have nothing left in common with each other.

Heartspur: an unexpected surge of emotion in response to a seemingly innocuous trigger- the distinctive squeal of a rusty fence, a key change in an old pop song, the hint of a certain perfume- which feels all the more intense because you can’t quite pin it down.

Aftergloom: the pang of loneliness you feel the day after an intensely social event, as the glow of voices and laughter fades into a somber quiet.

Heartmoor: the primal longing for a home village to return to, a place that no longer exists, if it ever did.

Lisolia: the satisfaction of things worn down by time, broken in baseball mitts, the shiny snout of a lucky bronze pig, or footprints ground deep into floorboards by generations of kneeling monks.

Amentalio: the sadness of realizing that you’re already forgetting sense memories of the departed- already struggling to hear their voice, picture the exact shade of their eyes, or call to mind the quirky little gestures you once knew by heart.

Starlorn: a sense of loneliness looking up at the night sky, feeling like a castaway in the middle of the ocean, whose currents are steadily carrying off all other castaways.

Craxis: the unease of knowing how quickly your circumstances could change on you- that no matter how carefully you shape your life into what you want it to be, the whole thing could be overturned in an instant.

So there you have it. I look forward to reading your poems. Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season filled with warmth and love, but most of all with gratefulness. I’ll leave you with a lovely old song that for me is a heartspur.

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