The Undiscovered Country
by John Guzlowski

This gathering of poems started when I was reading a blog by the poet Oriana Ivy. She was writing about Czeslaw Milosz's "Second Space," a poem about heaven, and I thought it would be interesting to gather together a group of poems by various writers about heaven and hell.  

Why would it be interesting?

I come to my interest honestly. I'm 63 years old and a veteran of open-heart surgery, and last year, four of my friends died of cancer. Mortality and what lies beyond are in my thoughts now and then, but I know I'm not the only one thinking these thoughts. Poets have always been the ones who brood about such things. It's part of what people expect from us, I think. You see it in the Psalm poet, in Homer, Virgil, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Emerson, Whitman, Tennyson, Dickinson, Frost, Eliot, Plath, Ginsberg, and you see it in the poets gathered here.

What do they tell us about what Shakespeare's Hamlet called the "undiscovered country"?

There is hope in these poems, and fear, and there is also wonder and wondering in these poems. As my mother used to remind me, no one has ever returned from heaven or hell to tell us what they are like, and so all we have is wondering about them.