Behind The Poem That So Powerfully Captures Parenting In Times Of Tragedy

As news of the devastating concert attack in Manchester broke, people around the world turned to social media to share words of sorrow, fear and hope.

One popular message came in the form of a poem called “Good Bones” by writer Maggie Smith.

“Life is short, though I keep this from my children,” the powerful poem begins.  

“Good Bones” first went viral on social media last June following the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando and murder of British parliamentarian Jo Cox in the U.K. After the 2016 presidential election, the poem made the online rounds again with posts from celebrities like Alyssa Milano and Megan Mullally

The Washington Post declared that Smith’s poem “captured the mood of a tumultuous year.”

Smith lives in Ohio and has a 4-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter. “I wrote the poem in 2015, thinking about how to spare my children from the harsher parts of the world, at least while they’re so young, without lying to them about it,” she told HuffPost. “How do we stay honest and also stay hopeful? Sometimes it’s hard enough to be optimistic, let alone project optimism to others.” 

Watching her poem’s rise to internet fame has been an interesting experience for Smith. “I was just telling Jen Benka, the executive director of the Academy of American Poets, how strange it is that when my mentions start blowing up on social media, I know something bad has happened somewhere in the world,” she said. “That’s when people start sharing ‘Good Bones’ again.” 

The poet said she found out about the Manchester attack Monday night through Twitter. “It breaks my heart that women, girls, and the LGBTQ community were targeted,” she told HuffPost. “I have a daughter who is 8 years old, and I’m sure someday I’ll take her to a concert as a special night out, just the two of us. I can’t imagine what those parents must be feeling. My heart is breaking for the families in Manchester.”

Because her kids are young enough to have limited access to the news, Smith plans to keep the Manchester attack from them while she can.  

Smith, whose upcoming book of poetry, Good Bones, will be published this fall, says she has mixed feelings about the titular poem’s role in the aftermath of public tragedies. 

“It’s incredibly gratifying and moving to see the poem travel so far and touch so many people, but it’s also heartbreaking and strange that when the poem is being shared widely on social media, it’s because of a tragedy or injustice,” the poet explained.

Still, she added, “All in all I’m glad that the poem is bringing people comfort or at least helping them see a bit of light in the darkness.”

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