Book Review 2011-005
Walking Papers: poems by Thomas Lynch
2010 from W.W. Norton, 88 pages
(This copy sent for review from the Publisher)
While I've heard Mr. Lynch read from his work, and am well aware of his profession as an undertaker, this, sadly I admit, is the first of his collections I've read in full. It will not be the last.
Perhaps not so surprisingly, considering his profession, Lynch definitely covers mortality in this collection, such as the beginning to the poem "Asleep":
Often as not I crawl in bed like this,
wondering if the general discontent,
the ball and socket misery, sore ass,
shortness of breath, the tightening sense
of doom and occlusion close at hand,
might mean the dark is nearer than the light
and death's dull angel, like a one-man band,
is arming up to play my tune tonight.
And while he slips in these reminders of our impending endings throughout the collection, they're not his only muse. Not having read his earlier work yet, I'm unaware of just how political Lynch has been with his poetry prior to this collection, but there are a few works within Walking Papers that has him allowing his anger at those recently in charge to come through on the page. In "Dear Madam Secretary," for instance, a shot at Donald Rumsfeld as the poem ends:
Or, as one of your
colleagues once opined,
Surely what he meant to say
was shit, Madam Secretary.
It's shit that happens.
Ask any ass.
And within "The Names of Donkeys" we get shots at Prince Charles, George W. Bush and:
We call the little she-ass Sarah P.,
though truth be tole we had some choices.
When it comes to names and asses, there's no shortage.
My concern at this point is that reading the above might lead one to believe that this is a dour, or angry, collection of poetry and nothing could be further from the truth. Lynch doesn't constantly worry over the fact that we'll all die one day, nor is he ranting over and over about our politicians. The poetry is much more about celebrating those things that make us happy, looking at the laid out fish at a Kerrytown market, the hourly routines we have, and beyond. It's his simple usage of mortality throughout that makes the happy memories and times we have that much more powerful.