Bone Rosary: New and Selected Poems

A selection of the very best from one of America’s most thought-provoking writers: poems on life, faith, doubt, and death that read like memoir, essay, and story. As The New York Times wrote, Thomas Lynch’s work is “likely to resonate with many who have come face to face with life’s most important questions.”

Lynch—like Wallace Stevens and William Carlos Williams—is a poet who writes about real things with language rooted in the everyday yet masterfully infused with power:

I have steady work, a circle of friends
and lunch on Thursdays with the Rotary.
I have a wife, unspeakably beautiful,
a daughter and three sons, a cat, a car,
good credit, taxes, and mortgage payments
and certain duties here. Notably,
when folks get horizontal, breathless, still:
life in Milford ends. They call. I send a car.

Thomas Lynch spent his career as an undertaker in Midwest America—and in his off-hours became a writer of exceptional insight. Publishers Weekly calls him, “A poet with something to say and something worth listening to.” This collection presents 140 of his greatest poems drawn from his previous books, Skating with Heather Grace, Still Life in Milford, Grimalkin, The Sin-Eater, and Walking Papers, as well as new work, collected for the first time. This is a collection for readers who love all life’s questions and mysteries—big and small.

CRITICAL PRAISE

“Lynch’s poems are bathed in music, battered by grief, buttressed by humor. How it’s possible to achieve such a delicate balance is anyone’s guess. Therein lies Lynch’s magic. It is rare to encounter a poet so surefooted.”
New York Journal of Books

ADVANCE PRAISE

“An undertaker takes you under, and Thomas Lynch has made a fine career of that. His poems, while respecting the mighty surface of earthly things, take us under the apparent world to where consciousness is alive and shimmering with joy and loss, blindness and epiphany. His voice has that kind of lilt that can charm, if not birds from the trees, then readers from their treehouses.”
—Billy Collins, author of Whale Day: And Other Poems

“Bone Rosary brings the extraordinary work of a lifetime together with new, important, timely poems. This is art that helps us to understand the world as it challenges us to stay alive and in it. Sorrow balanced so evenly with humor—actual hilarity, in fact—is rare, and a reminder of the purpose of poetry itself. How lucky we are to have this collection, which is a celebration of Thomas Lynch, his accomplishments, and his great talent. It’s a gift—a palpable reminder of the sacred and immortal power of poetry.”
—Laura Kasischke, author of Where Now: New and Selected Poems

“Hymns to the homely, burlesques of the prideful, blessings for the newborn, laments for the lost: these are the circuits of devotion in Bone Rosary. Nowhere in our suffering century have the concordances between the ceremonies of faith and of friendship been more eloquently brought to life. Reader, we live in a dark time. May you be, as I have been, restored by what you find in these pages.”
—Linda Gregerson, author of Prodigal: New and Selected Poems

“For some thirty-five years Thomas Lynch has been publishing poems with a voice and understanding completely his own. His poetry emerges from a proud heritage with deep roots in Irish-American Catholicism and the history and culture of the Irish on both sides of the Atlantic. Yet for all his tribal affiliations, Lynch speaks with a stubborn independence, an irreverent humor, a frank joy in the pleasures of the flesh, and a bracing acknowledgment of life’s responsibilities and sorrows. This book represents an enduring poetic legacy.”
—Richard Tillinghast, author of Wayfaring Stranger

“A poem near the middle of this rich collection from a life’s work tells us ‘All…come to their ashen ends and life goes on.’ Because of his occupation (funeral director), Thomas Lynch has looked longer and harder into those ‘ashen ends’ than most of us. But his art (these poems) sings the glory and the pain of the lives that go on. Lynch has found a diction and a rhythm, both Irish and Midwestern, that prays and grieves, thinks and rages against the power of indifference. There is no other voice quite like this one.”
—Keith Taylor, author of The Bird-while

Thomas Lynch is the author of five books of essays, a book of short fiction, and five books of poetry. He was a National Book Award finalist for The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade, and has received the American Book Award, the Heartland Prize for Nonfiction, the Denise Levertov Award, the Great Lakes Book Award, and the Michigan Authors Award. He lives in Michigan—where, since 1973, he has been a funeral director—and in Ireland where he keeps an ancestral home.