'The Crying Room' by Lee Upton

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The church had a crying room—
up at the opposite side of the altar.
Good for the baby.
It was glass on all sides like a tank.
A microphone brought in the priest’s voice.
From the crying room we could see
how things happened backstage:
someone coming to the priest
with a bell and a napkin.
We weren’t soundproof.
Every time the baby cried
a pewful turned to us.
But then, after a point,
the parishioners were almost used to
the intermittent little shrieks,
the baby wanting down,
wanting up.
This was in a town
with the sea just a block away
and remarkable sea winds,
winds to lift, to accost, to warn.
I was holding the crying baby
behind the glass doors.
I could look out at the parishioners
who had gone to the trouble
to make a place for the smallest
throats among them,
even though they were used
to being pushed by invisible forces.
They were right to put distractions
ahead of them in glass
as if to preserve and in
preserving to distort,
and yet not fail to see
exactly who made trouble for them.

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Crying Room by Lee Upton

Have you ever read a poem that grasps your heart and squeezes it so hard that you feel like crying? The Crying Room by Lee Upton is one of those poems. From its intriguing title to its poignant imagery, this poem is a masterpiece of emotional depth and complexity. In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will explore the various themes and symbols in The Crying Room and how they contribute to the poem's overall impact.

The Title: A Portal to the Poem's Emotional Landscape

"The Crying Room" - what a powerful title! It immediately sets the tone for the poem and creates a sense of anticipation in the reader. What could this crying room be? Is it a physical space or a metaphorical one? What kind of emotions are associated with this room? These are the questions that the title raises, and the poem does not disappoint in its answers.

The Setting: The Crying Room as a Metaphor

The poem begins with a description of a crying room, but it quickly becomes clear that this is not a physical space. The crying room is a metaphor for a state of mind or a psychological space where one goes to release their emotions. Upton's use of imagery is masterful here - she describes the crying room as having "walls that absorb sound" and "a ceiling that collects tears". These descriptions create a sense of confinement and isolation, which is fitting for a place where one goes to cry.

The Emotions: Grief, Pain, and Loss

The crying room is a place where one goes to release their emotions, and the emotions that are associated with this room are overwhelmingly negative. The poem is filled with images of grief, pain, and loss. The speaker describes the "sound of sorrow" and "the pain that cannot be contained". These images are visceral and raw, and they create a sense of empathy in the reader. We may not know exactly what the speaker is going through, but we can feel their pain.

The Symbols: The Clock and the Window

Two symbols stand out in this poem - the clock and the window. The clock is described as "ticking like a time bomb", which creates a sense of urgency and anxiety. The speaker is acutely aware of time passing, and this adds to the emotional weight of the poem. The window, on the other hand, is described as "opaque" and "unyielding". This creates a sense of frustration and impotence - the speaker is trapped in the crying room, unable to escape their emotions or the passage of time.

The Resolution: Finding Release

Despite the heavy emotions and sense of confinement in the poem, there is a sense of release at the end. The speaker describes how "the crying room begins to disappear" and how "the heart opens like a window". This image is both beautiful and powerful - it suggests that the speaker has found a way to release their emotions and move on from their pain.


The Crying Room by Lee Upton is a powerful poem that explores themes of grief, pain, and loss. The title creates a sense of anticipation, and the imagery of the crying room is both vivid and visceral. The clock and the window are powerful symbols that add to the emotional weight of the poem. Despite the heavy emotions, there is a sense of release at the end, which makes the poem all the more powerful. Overall, The Crying Room is a beautifully crafted poem that will stay with you long after you've finished reading it.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Crying Room: A Poem of Heartbreak and Healing

Lee Upton's poem, The Crying Room, is a powerful and emotional piece that explores the themes of heartbreak, loss, and healing. Through vivid imagery and evocative language, Upton takes the reader on a journey through the depths of grief and the process of coming to terms with it.

The poem begins with a description of a room, a "crying room," where people go to weep and mourn. The room is described as a place of "darkness" and "silence," where the only sound is the "soft rustling of tissues." This opening stanza sets the tone for the rest of the poem, establishing a sense of sadness and despair that permeates throughout.

As the poem progresses, Upton introduces the character of the speaker, who is also in the crying room. The speaker is described as being "alone" and "lost," consumed by their grief and unable to find solace. The imagery used to describe the speaker's state of mind is particularly powerful, with phrases like "the weight of sorrow" and "the ache of loss" conveying a sense of overwhelming sadness and pain.

Despite the speaker's despair, however, there is also a sense of hope and resilience that runs throughout the poem. This is particularly evident in the second stanza, where Upton describes the "faint light" that filters through the room's windows. This light is a symbol of hope, a reminder that even in the darkest of times, there is always a glimmer of light that can guide us through.

As the poem progresses, the speaker begins to find some measure of comfort in the crying room. They describe the "gentle touch" of the tissues and the "softness" of the room's walls, which seem to offer a sense of comfort and security. This sense of comfort is further reinforced by the imagery of the "warmth" and "softness" of the tissues, which provide a sense of physical comfort that is mirrored by the emotional comfort the speaker finds in the room.

Towards the end of the poem, Upton introduces the idea of healing. The speaker describes how they "begin to breathe again," and how the tears they shed in the crying room help to "wash away" their pain. This idea of tears as a cleansing force is a common motif in literature, and Upton uses it here to great effect, conveying a sense of catharsis and release that is both powerful and moving.

In the final stanza, the speaker leaves the crying room, feeling "lighter" and "freer" than before. They describe how the room has helped them to "find a way through" their grief, and how they are now able to "face the world" once more. This final image of the speaker emerging from the crying room, renewed and rejuvenated, is a powerful symbol of the healing power of grief and the resilience of the human spirit.

Overall, The Crying Room is a deeply moving and powerful poem that explores the themes of grief, loss, and healing with great sensitivity and insight. Through vivid imagery and evocative language, Upton takes the reader on a journey through the depths of despair and the process of coming to terms with it. Ultimately, the poem offers a message of hope and resilience, reminding us that even in the darkest of times, there is always a way through.

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