Still Life in Milford: Poems

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Overview

A collection of poems by the highly acclaimed author of The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade, a National Book Award finalist.
In Still Life in Milford Thomas Lynch tenders poems on life and death, history and memory, the local and the larger geographies. "[Thomas Lynch's] poems . . . are as stark and graceful as geese lifting off backwater. The poems trace from the rural midwest to London and County Clare, a quiet elegy of loss and testament. But then Lynch is by ...

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Still Life In Milford

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Overview

A collection of poems by the highly acclaimed author of The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade, a National Book Award finalist.
In Still Life in Milford Thomas Lynch tenders poems on life and death, history and memory, the local and the larger geographies. "[Thomas Lynch's] poems . . . are as stark and graceful as geese lifting off backwater. The poems trace from the rural midwest to London and County Clare, a quiet elegy of loss and testament. But then Lynch is by trade a mortician, and by craft a bard."—Amazon.com "[Lynch] evinces a steady wisdom drawn from years of passionate attention to daily experience."—Seattle Weekly

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
With one ear to the ground and another to the heavens, Lynch renders poems that echo mortality's solid thud. The combined perspectives of his two occupations--running a family mortuary and writing--enable Lynch to make unsentimental observations on the human condition, as reflected in Skating with Heather Grace (1987), his debut book of poems, and in The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade, a group of essays that was an NBA finalist last year. The poems of this third collection linger over Lynch's family history, the death of his father, and the recently departed residents of Milford, Michian, who come his way: "When folks get horizontal, breathless, still:/ life in Milford ends. They call. I send a car." He shifts easily between such wry provincialisms and coldly clinical recordings: "The scalp hairs are brown and long. There is dried/ vomitus on the face, around the mouth/ and on the neck. Natural teeth are present." Other poems invoke the Latin titles of Gregorian hymns in gently irreverent lyric poems that foreground the poet's Irish Catholic childhood ("I had a nunnish upbringing") and preoccupation with "the bodies of women,/ the bodies of men, their sufferings and passions,/ the sacred mysteries of life and death." "The Moveen Notebook," a long free verse elegy for the poet's grandmother, tells of an immigrant's affecting vicissitudes. Lynch's American Gothic narratives are perhaps best when read as extensions of his nonfiction work, but they are stand-alone compositions backed by a convincing poetic persona.
Library Journal
Lynch first came to our attention in 1987 with Skating with Heather Grace, an extraordinary book about ordinary life that spoke quietly and directly to readers. Since then, he has distinguished himself with the award-winning The Undertaking, a fine account that expands on his profession as a funeral director. That job clearly gives one time to consider issues of faith and mortality, and it's not surprising that the poems in this strong new collection deal largely with just such issues. Here, Lynch recalls his religious upbringing while considering "the problem of evil" and trying to maintain his equilibrium when faced with "another heartsore Friday full of sun." As he muses in one poem, "I had a nunnish upbringing. I served/ six-twenty Mass on weekdays for a priest/ who taught me...to keep/ a running tally of the things I'd done/ against the little voice in me the nuns/ were always saying I should listen to." These poems are undeniably--and understandably--dark-toned, but they make you think. -- Barbara Hoffert
Mari Hughes-Edwards
To read Lynch's latest collection of verse is to acknowledge the centrality of impressions swiftly created, sharply observed and vividly reported....The strength of this collection lies in the poet's ability to open tiny windows into other people's lives and to shut them again just as quickly, leaving us disturbed by possibility; surrounded by an unknown, and an unknowing, myriad existence. -- Richmond Review
Kirkus Reviews
Hot off the success of Lynch's recent memoir of his grim trade, The Undertaking (1997), comes his second American collection of verse, which includes the poems published previously in a British edition. A solid though hardly expert craftsman, Lynch imagines himself a "witness" to ordinary life, even if he's "better at elegy than commencement." And it's true: almost a cliché of an Irish Catholic, he dwells on death, sex, and the romance of the old country. Numerous poems linger on his father's bad health and eulogize his eventual death, which induces near panic in the poet who, elsewhere, dreams of him ("Kisses"). Of course, Lynch's job brings him close to death on a daily basis: "One of Jack's" is an autopsy in clinical detail; "That Scream If You Ever Heard It" effectively rubs our noses in the gore; and "Couplets" brilliantly outlines his work, which he hopes to pass on to his sons. A sonnet sequence, inspired by Gregorian hymns, surveys the sexual obsessions of a Catholic youth, from a not-so-sorry confession of sin to moments of guilt-ridden horniness, even as he later understands we invoke God most often in bed and at the grave side. Least effective are Lynch's tales from Ireland, some of which imagine a mythic hermit named "Argyle," who challenges the Church's authority, and others pay homage to Nora Lynch, the spinster relative who maintains the family property in West Clare. The considerable pleasures of this ample volume outweigh the sloppy bursts of sentiment and blarney: Lynch's crystal-clear voice often serves him well.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393319736
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/28/1999
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 140
  • Sales rank: 466,213
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas Lynch's The Undertaking was a finalist for the National Book Award. He lives in Michigan and Ireland.

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Table of Contents

Art History, Chicago 19
Attende Domine 21
Vigil 22
Pange Lingua 23
Late April 24
Inviolata 25
Green Bananas 26
Panis Angelicus 27
No Prisoners 28
O Gloriosa Virginum 31
Month's Mind 32
Parce Domine 33
Casablanca 34
Veni Creator Spiritus 35
Rhododendrons 36
Adoro Te Devote 37
Kisses 38
In Paradisum 39
The Hammock 40
Liberty 45
Argyle's Ejaculations 47
Argyle in Carrigaholt 48
Argyle's Retreat 49
Argyle's Dream of the Churchdove 50
Argyle's Return to the Holy Island 51
The Moveen Notebook 52
An Evening Walk to the Sea by Friesians 65
Bishop's Island 67
Report from Ballylee to the Dead Master 68
Byzance 70
Aisling 71
Moyarta 73
Rentals Ledger 74
The Old Operating Theatre, London, All Souls Night 75
St. James' Park Epistle 77
A Rhetoric upon Brother Michael's Rhetoric upon the Window 93
Loneliest of Trees, The Winter Oak 95
One of Jack's 96
Life as We Knew It 98
Bells and Whistles 99
Heavenward 100
West Highland 101
November 103
Tongue and Groove 104
She Instructs the Brethren on the Laws of Love 105
The Lives of Women 106
That Scream if You Ever Hear It 107
Nuptials 109
The Riddance 110
Tommy 112
Russ 113
There There 114
Antilles 115
These Things Happen in the Lives of Women 116
Grimalkin 117
How It's Done Here 120
Iambs for the Day of Burial 121
At the Opening of Oak Grove Cemetery Bridge 122
The Nines 125
Maura 126
In the Garden 127
Bird Fishing 129
Aubade 130
Local Obits 131
Couplets 132
Still Life in Milford - Oil on Canvas by Lester Johnson 134
Notes 137
About the Author 139
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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2013

    Unread

    Please tell me if this book is good.

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