Thomas P. Lynch

b. 1948
Thomas P. LynchRobert Turney
Essayist, poet, and funeral director Thomas Lynch has written four critically acclaimed volumes of poetry, three award-winning volumes of essays, and a book of short fiction. By using his own daily routine as poetic fodder, Lynch has transformed the mundane task of preparing the dead into a life-affirming event. His lyrical, elegaic poems describe the dead citizens of Milford, Michigan, his own family relationships, and scenes and myths from his Irish Catholic upbringing. Sometimes described as a cross between Garrison Keillor and W.B. Yeats, Lynch’s work dissects the vicissitudes of the human experience with grace and wit. His first collection of poems, Skating with Heather Grace (1986), is set in Michigan, Ireland, and Italy. Library Journal reviewer Rosaly DeMaios Roffman found that the poems "unpretentiously rehearse the dreams of the dying as they celebrate the everchanging relationships of the living." Lynch, according to Roffman, crafts poems that weave symbolism and mythology into the human experience.

Lynch’s subsequent volumes of poetry, including Grimalkin and Other Poems (1994), Still Life in Milford (1998) and Walking Papers (2010), likewise contain elements of the poet's professional and personal life mixed with his ruminations about Irish culture and history.

A well-known essayist and contributor to publications like the New York Times, the London Times, Newsweek, and Harper’s, Lynch’s essays offer a fascinating peak into a profession few of us have ever imagine. The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade (1997) reflects the author's "eloquent, meditative observations on the place of death in small-town life," according to a critic in Kirkus Reviews. Lynch's poetic vision is indelibly colored by his undertaking business, and what he sees often contrasts with what lies on the surface. Dispelling the myths about people in his trade, Lynch wrote, "I am no more attracted to the dead than the dentist is to your bad gums, the doctor to your rotten innards, or the accountant to your sloppy expense records." His profession has provided Lynch not only with a living, but with a unique vantage point from which to observe the entire cycle of life. The book won the Heartland Prize for Non-Fiction, the American Book Award, and was a finalist for the National Book Award.

Bodies in Motion and at Rest: On Metaphor and Mortality (2000) explores Lynch’s Roman Catholic childhood, his family, being a father, and the relationship between "mortuary and literary arts." In 2005 Lynch published Booking Passage: We Irish and Americans, a memoir-travelogue and cultural exploration of the ties that bind two countries with inextricably linked histories. His foray into short fiction, Apparition and Late Fictions (2010) addresses themes found in his poetry and essays, offering sensitive portraits of ordinary people coping with grief
 
Lynch has received numerous awards and grants from the National Book Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Michigan Council for the Arts and the Irish Arts Council. A frequent guest lecturer at universities across North America, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Australia, he is an adjunct professor in creative writing at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. He divides his time between his home in Milford, Michigan and his ancestral home in Moveen, County Clare, Ireland.

Career

Writer. Lynch and Sons (funeral home), Milford, MI, funeral director.

Bibliography

POETRY
  • Skating with Heather Grace, Knopf (New York, NY), 1986.
  • Grimalkin and Other Poems, J. Cape (London, England), 1994.
  • Still Life in Milford, W. W. Norton (New York, NY), 1998.
  • Walking Papers, W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 2010.
PROSE
  • The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade (essays), W. W. Norton (New York, NY), 1997
  • Bodies in Motion and at Rest: On Metaphor and Mortality (essays), W. W. Norton (New York, NY), 2000.
  • Booking Passage: We Irish and Americans, W. W. Norton (New York, NY), 2005.
  • Apparition and Late Fictions: A Novella and Stories, W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 2010.

Further Reading

BOOKS
  • Lynch, Thomas, The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade, W. W. Norton (New York, NY), 1997.
PERIODICALS
  • Agenda, autumn, 1994, Alan Wall, review of Grimalkin and Other Poems, p. 241.
  • American Book Collector, July, 1982, p. 57.
  • Bomb, summer, 2000, Glenn Moomau, review of Bodies in Motion and at Rest: On Metaphor and Mortality, p. 21.
  • Booklist, March 15, 1988, p. 1226; August, 1998, Donna Seaman, review of Still Life in Milford, p. 1954; June 1, 2000, Donna Seaman, review of Bodies in Motion and at Rest, p. 1803.
  • Christian Century, November 18, 1998, review of The Undertaking, p. 1119; November 22, 2000, Barbara Brown Taylor, review of Bodies in Motion and at Rest, p. 1216.
  • Commonweal, September 11, 1987, p. 507; June 19, 1998, Frank McConnell, review of The Undertaking, p. 20.
  • Georgia Review, summer, 1987, p. 507; fall, 2002, Sanford Pinsker, review of Bodies in Motion and at Rest, pp. 854-862.
  • Hudson Review, autumn, 1987, p. 508; summer, 1999, Thomas M. Disch, review of Still Life in Milford, p. 315.
  • Inc., July, 1998, review of The Undertaking, p. 11.
  • Insight on the News, July 17, 2000, Stephen Goode, "Lynch Writes from Unique Background," p. 36.
  • Kiplinger's Personal Finance, February, 2002, Kristin Davis, "Six Feet Under: Thomas Lynch Has Buried 6,000 of His Neighbors; He Talks about the Business of Death," p. 78.
  • Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 1997, review ofThe Undertaking, p. 699.
  • Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, June 21, 2000, Marta Salij, "Thomas Lynch: Poet in Motion," p. K2676.
  • Library Journal, March 1, 1987, Rosaly DeMaios Roffman, review of Skating with Heather Grace, p. 79; September 15, 1998, Barbara Hoffert, review of Still Life in Milford, p. 83.
  • Nation, June 9, 1997, p. 28.
  • New York Review of Books, September 24, 1998, A. Alvarez, review of The Undertaking, p. 24.
  • New York Times, July 23, 1997, p. C14; May 31, 2000, Richard Bernstein, review of Bodies in Motion and at Rest, p. E8; June 8, 2000, Dinitia Smith, "Matters of Life and Death: A Prizewinning Writer Holds onto His Day Job as a Funeral Director," p. E1.
  • New York Times Book Review, October 4, 1987, p. 24; September 24, 2000, Sherie Posesorski, review of Bodies in Motion and at Rest, p. 23.
  • Observer, October 9, 1994, p. 24; October 23, 1994, p. 17; November 20, 1994, pp. 2, 5; April 6, 1997, Matthew Sweeney, review of The Undertaking, p. 17.
  • Poetry, May, 1988, p. 104; December, 1998, John Taylor, review of Still Life in Milford, p. 184.
  • Publishers Weekly, December 26, 1986, review of Skating with Heather Grace, p. 54; May 5, 1997, review of The Undertaking, p. 184; June 29, 1998, review of Still Life in Milford, p. 53.
  • Quadrant, March, 1998, Iain Bamforth, review of The Undertaking, p. 81.
  • Spectator, July 15, 2000, Harry Mount, review of Bodies in Motion and at Rest, p. 34.
  • Times Educational Supplement, December 23, 1994, p. 19.
  • Times Literary Supplement, September 25, 1998, David Wheatley, review of Still Life in Milford, p. 24; July 14, 2000, David Wheatley, review ofBodies in Motion and at Rest, p. 27.
  • U.S. Catholic, November, 2002, "What Makes a Good Funeral? The Editors Interview Thomas Lynch," p. 12.
  • Virginia Quarterly Review, summer, 1987, p. 100.
  • Washington Post Book World, May 3, 1987, p. 8.

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Poet Categorization

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

LIFE SPAN 1948–

Thomas P. Lynch

Biography

Essayist, poet, and funeral director Thomas Lynch has written four critically acclaimed volumes of poetry, three award-winning volumes of essays, and a book of short fiction. By using his own daily routine as poetic fodder, Lynch has transformed the mundane task of preparing the dead into a life-affirming event. His lyrical, elegaic poems describe the dead citizens of Milford, Michigan, his own family relationships, and scenes . . .

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