The voice of near

. June 6, 2012.

April is National Poetry Month. Yipee. Check your local listings for a full schedule of the wild celebrations. Not. Poetry is a Piper Cub compared to the jumbo jets on the American cultural radar screen—TV, movies, and the various genres of popular music. Arguably, even fiction, theater, and classical music—also small blips on that screen, are more visible. Yet our nation has a Poet Laureate, while no similar figurehead exists for any of the other arts. Clearly, we know it’s important, maybe because we’ve all encountered poetry as children and know that it can speak to us as no other art.

I am neither qualified nor interested in speculating on why poetry’s voice is so hard to hear, or even find, in today’s cultural cacophony. Rather, I want to introduce, or re-introduce, a poet well worth your time. Thomas Lynch’s newest book, Walking Papers, is a slim volume of poems he wrote between 1999 and 2009. Lynch, whose day job is serving as a funeral director in the small town of Milford, Michigan, has published a number of other books of poetry and prose including The Undertaking, essays about his work experiences and meditations on death and dying. Many of the poems in this collection are about the same topic.

we have our day and others after us,
into their sparkling moment and out beyond.
We have our little say and then are silent.

In the title poem he writes;

Listen—something’s going to get you in the end.
The numbers are fairly convincing on this,
hovering, as they do, around a hundred
percent. We die. And more’s the pity.

As you can tell from the humor in the above lines, Lynch, while always honest, is never gloomy or morbid. And he’s not a one-trick pony. There’s much here that’s not about death and dying; hilarious lines about how and why he came to name his donkeys Charles and Camilla, and equally uproarious, though also sobering, even angry, poems about former President Bush and the Iraqi war. 

Lynch’s language, while deeply learned, is never academic, always plain and direct. I came across “Local Heroes” the day after the horrific shootings in Tucson in January. The poem, possibly written about 9/11, helped.

Some days the worst that can happen happens.
The sky falls or evil overwhelms or
the world as we have come to know it turns
towards the eventual apocalypse
long predicted in all the holy books

Lynch ends this poem with:

But here, brave men and women pick the pieces up.
They serve the living, caring for the dead.
Here the distant battle is waged in homes.
Like politics, all funerals are local.

While the phrase “walking papers” refers to getting fired, or terminated, the poems in Lynch’s Walking Papers can also serve as guides on the paths of our lives. 

The hour’s routine, the minute’s passing glance— 
All seem like godsends now. And what to make of this? 
At the end the word that comes to him is Thanks.

That’s the word that comes to me too. Thanks,
Mr. Lynch.

Trending

Mittenfest

  Here’s what Mittenfest means to me… If I imagine a day when I’m no longer ‘on the scene…,’ when I’m no longer as ‘into’ live local music…, when I’m slowing down and not keeping up as much as I do…, then the fondest memories, the most vivid mental Polaraoids that will slide through my

Domino’s Farms Aids Ann Arbor’s Need for Office Space

Domino’s Pizza and Arbor Research are both launching new office building projects at Domino’s Farms. Domino’s Pizza is creating a 33,000-square-foot building on the north side of Domino’s Farms, expanding to their current space. Arbor Research is creating a new 49,500-square-foot headquarters building on the east side of Domino’s Farms. Both buildings should be completed

A Physician’s Perspective on Legalized Cannabis

On Tuesday, November 6th, Michigan became the 10th state to legalize cannabis for recreational use. Ten years ago, we had become the 13th state to legalize Cannabis for medical use. I voted for the medical cannabis law years ago because, in my view, cannabis is not a dangerous product, and too many people were being imprisoned for its use. At that time, however, I did not subscribe to the argument that there were legitimate medical uses for cannabis. How things have changed.

Tiny Expo at Ann Arbor District Library—A Curated Holiday Gift Fair with Flair

The Tiny Expo is a gem of an indie arts and crafts fair for vendors with original and unexpected products that make wonderful gifts but may not be an obvious fit for Ann Arbor’s mainstream art fairs. Shoppers who crave artistic, high quality products with diverse price points will find a rich variety of unique, handmade products to choose from.