Since Biblical lamentations, and even before, writers have poured their grief into writing. The poems of grief seem to bring together the personal, cultural, political story together into a "social" form, meaning one designed for a wider audience. The poems of grief might fit into public discourse, but often the individual poem presents just one voice in one particular situation in one staggering loss.
The epitaph was chiseled onto headstones. The ode began as a heroic, ceremonial form and now, in current practice, exalts or celebrates a person or object. It does not have a particular form, but some poets have used meter and verse, sometimes sonnets. The elegy, requiem, and kaddish forms offer their structures to poets.
In The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms, the editors Eavan Boland and Mark Strand write:
In the traditional elegy, the grief the poet expresses is rarely a private one....In all societies death constitutes a cultural event--as well as an individual loss. That the elegy speaks to this: that it locates the cultural customs of death in whichever society it occurs, adds greatly to its power. The best elegies will always be sites of struggle between custom and decorum on one hand, and private feeling on the other.Many poems have honored the life and death of other poets. W.H. Auden, in his poem "In Memory of W.B. Yeats:"
For poetry makes nothing happen: it survivesAccording to the American Academy of Poets, the elegy once was written in formal verse and reflected three stages of grief: grief and sorrow of the speaker, praise of the idealized dead, and consolation and solace. The regular rhythm and meter of this poem evokes the skilled language of Yeats and also provides some comment about the role of poetry itself and the moneyed culture that increasingly isolates and alienates its individuals.
In the valley of its making where executives
Would never want to tamper, flows on south
From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives
A way of happening, a mouth.
Requiem is a musical composition adopted by poets.