Kirkus Reviews

Review of: Still Life in Milford: Poems

“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.”