The Lamenting Voice and Public Memory
This chapter considers the question of whether poetry is useful as a public statement of grief. It focuses on an elemental poetic response to death: the lament. Laments were performed by women who were professional or semiprofessional mourners; they were intended to evoke a strong response in the community gathered at the funeral. Making pain audible through their wept songs, and visual, through their dishevelled hair and lacerated cheeks, lamenting women orchestrated a spectacle of mourning that was part theatre, part spontaneous response to the anguish of grief.
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