Still Life In Milford

Still Life in Milford: Poems

(W.W. Norton & Company, August 1998, November 1999)

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A collection of poetry in which Thomas Lynch tenders poems on life and death, history and memory, the local and the larger geographies.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, Michigan, 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.


“No Prisoners”
Thomas Lynch reads this poem out loud.


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....

Mari Hughes-Edwards, Richmond Review

"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...

Barbara Hoffert, 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...

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...

Mary Park,

"Still Life in Milford is--perhaps unsurprisingly--haunted by death. Its author, after all, is that most celebrated of poet-undertakers, Thomas Lynch of Milford, Michigan. Evidently poetry and undertaking are felicitous occupations...