Thomas Lynch
(USA, 1948)   
Thomas Lynch

Thomas Lynch is the author of a collection of essays, The Undertaking - Life Studies from the Dismal Trade (1997). The essays are based on Lynch's experiences in his everyday life as an undertaker in Milford, Michigan. In his essays about death, everyday life plays a prominent role.

As he said in an interview: 'The star of the show (the funeral ceremony) is not the deceased, it's the bereaved.'

Lynch's profession comes up sporadically in the three volumes of poetry he has published so far. Three of the poems he selected for presentation at the festival deal, in fact, with 'cases' from his practice. One poem even reads like a clinical autopsy report. In a fourth poem he lovingly remembers his father, who was, like himself, an undertaker, and who tried to pass on to him the secrets of life and death.

An American critic saw, apart from the philosophy, something of the very craft of the undertaker in Lynch's poetry: 'Lynch's poems are strongly crafted yet modest in tone, a reflection, perhaps of his work as a funeral director, a calling that has trained him to tuck death's enormous mystery into the structures of ritual and casket and, by extension, to fit the immensity of his emotions into the precision of poetic forms.'

Many, if not most, of Thomas Lynch's poems are about other matters. In one of his finest poems he takes a close look at daily life in Milford, his home town; another focuses on three masterpieces in a Chicago museum. Also, it is more than a coincidence that many of his poems refer to his Irish background (his great grandfather emigrated from Ireland to the United States in the last century) and more specifically to the landscape of County Clare on the Irish west coast, where he inherited a cottage from his aunt, Nora Lynch. From her and her countrymen he learned there is a way of dealing with death that is rather different from that in the United States.

© Peter Nijmeijer (Translated by Ko Kooman)

[Thomas Lynch took part in the Poetry International Festival Rotterdam 1999. This text was written on that occasion.]



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