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The Mansions

"…Daniel Tobin's The Mansions is nothing less than a wonder. In its compendious learning, its
consummate artistry, and its spiritual wisdom, this poem inspires genuine awe, and it challenges
the reader to think more broadly and more acutely, to feel more profoundly, and to live life more
attentively. In these days, as so many of us feeldarkness growing all around us, Tobin's poem
may serve us as a guide and lead us to a place where we're able riveder le stelle, "to see again the

                        Ryan Wilson, from The Preface


From "From Nothing"




To figure from nothing, holiness in perihelion:
though one must not proclaim it, but let the matter
spin along its poles into the bright entanglements,


like two particles of light flung to opposite zones,
and still the one moves with and how the other moves—
love's choreography in the elegance of the dance.


Though maybe it's more like matter and antimatter,
the one canceling the other in a blinding negation,
number and noumen locked in their separate estates.


You would not collapse them to a point's white heat,
but kept them before you, your physics and your faith,
the divergent roads with their singular horizon


where the radius of space converges into zero,
where what was, is, will be waxes without boundary
into seed and sand grain, a Cepheid luster of eyes—


news of the minor signature keyed from everywhere,
the primal radiation, omnipresent, the prodigal
wave arriving from its Now that has no yesterday,


the proof of your calculus, the tour of the expanse:
"The evolution of the universe might be compared
to a display of fireworks that has just ended,


some few red wisps, ashes and smoke. So we stand
on a well-cooled cinder to see the fading of suns,
to glimpse a vanished brilliance, the origin of worlds."



From "This Broken Symmetry"




                 Gustave Thibon


"Like someone who has spent long hours among the vines,
prematurely old, bent, that's how she looked to me that day
we met in Avignon, who hadn't picked yet a single cluster,


her face wan, faded like a fresco angel in the Palais des        Papes.
Only her eyes, magnificent, only her eyes alone triumphed
in that shipwreck of beauty, with their look of something


foreign to this world. She refused our room in Saint-       Marcel,
chose the ruin, earthen-floored beside the wood, its scatter
of rat merde, its pine needle mattress and peasant's hearth,


that one small window from which she'd view the Rhone—
her `fairy tale house,' she'd say, `rest, fresh fruit, delicious        air,'
the fear she felt of losing herself among sensual pleasures.


One time I found her sitting, still, on the tree trunk in front,
lost in contemplation, and sensed just then a    correspondence—
the beauty of that soul and the landscape's tender majesty.


But how raw her friends suffered her will for immolation,
she who chided me for not withholding my true measure
of stripping myself away. For her, the beauty of the world


was the mouth of a labyrinth: in the center there God waits
to eat the soul. So, in Saint Julien she joined with        harvesters,
disappearing among rows of pendant grapes, embodied wine,


cutting free the perfectly nurtured bruise-colored fruit,        hour
by hour, for days, her sandaled feet bleeding, purifying her
she'd say until `I see the landscape as it is when I'm not        there'."



From "At the Grave of Teilhard de Chardin


           (Garment and Corpus)


Most of what I wear no one can see, my nakedness
the nothing ghosting each barely probable array
from lack to leap to face to galaxy, till all you know


collapses into now: what this man called the bloom
of matter's marvelous garment in the flesh, a brede
just visible on the edge of what will be, was and is.


To walk these bustling human streets, to go astray
in Shanghai, Louvain, Paris, and Rome, or clamber
breccia, to find in the teeming dishabille and shards


some sidelong glancing image of my resplendence,
one must have a sightline honed by longing love
that would stitch in its bright gaze what came before


and what will come ahead, and so fathom the circuit
from the arrow of the line—my haunt, my harrowing:

like particles of light fired through a regnant screen,


each double of the other launched to opposite zones,
till the action of his science and the action of his faith
keep impossible counsel across the shattering gulf.


What vision, but mine, narrows the brash infinities
out of the improbable rattle bag of what might be,
warp, woof of a great Thought, not a great Machine?


He saw it first at the front in that dying soldier's eyes,
the agony like a plumb line down a bottomless well
ascending there with my own, transfiguring into joy.

Blood Labors

"Blood Labors is an ebullient and ecclesiastical wonder, capturing more of creation, the uncreated, and recreated than any dozen books on a poetry shelf. All told, Blood Labors dazzles with its brilliance.

The Stone in the Air

A Suite of Forty Poems from the German of Paul Celan

From Nothing

"In From Nothing Daniel Tobin explores the intersections of war and science, rationality, and the vastly large and intensely small in and through the characters and voices of the major figures in the scientific community of the twentieth century, most notably the Jesuit priest and mathematician, Georges Lemaître. Tobin brings his learning and astounding imaginative powers to bear on such central questions as the origin and end of the universe, how something came from nothing, human depredation and beauty, and the intractable mystery of time. This is a memorable, tragic, and moving book that should be read by everyone who wonders how we got here and what our being here can mean." — Alan Shapiro

The Net

Unified by its theme of metamorphosis, these poems descend deeply into subjects as divergent as a jetty that disappears during high tide, to a talking parasitical head, to a sandlot baseball legend, to a famine road in Ireland, to Orpheus, to Wittgenstein, to a murdered poet and his wife, and finally to grave personal loss, tracing through all of its many attentions the thread that binds the physical to the metaphysical—a psychic passage from death back to life again.

Belated Heavens

A collection of impressive symbolic and formal variety that is both fragile and resilient.

Award-winning poet and scholar Daniel Tobin’s Belated Heavens spans from prehistory to modern Manhattan, Neanderthals “cowering in caves” to a man snoring in Penn Station as if he’s “swallowed an espresso machine.” With his varied iconographies Tobin delves into timeless themes of violence, destruction and endurance, in poems that run the gamut from form to free verse as they offer the reader an underlying hope, a tentative belief that humanity can survive and thrive despite the volatility of the world.

Belated Heavens is a featured book on Poetry Daily, and Massachusetts Poetry Festival calls it a "must read book." Winner of the Massachusetts Book Award in Poetry.

Awake in America

"Daniel Tobin's Awake in America speaks for generations of Irish Americans. This incisive and moving critique of poetry and tradition pushes the frontiers of Irish Studies, limning Irish American culture through its poets—O'Reilly, Ridge, Moore, Stevens, Coffey, Bogan, McGrath, Liddy, Montague, Wall, Grennan, Delanty, Agee, Donaghy, Tobin himself, and many others. Awake in America trumps the many facile takes on Irish America, revealing its cultural poetics of self-exclusion, solidarity politics, linguistic hybridity, and indelible (be)longings. Tobin's insights will challenge scholars and readers to survey a new country of Irishness, at once inner, ardent, and textual. Tobin—with this book, his poetry, and his massive Book of Irish American Poetry—is pressing Irish Studies to see the American cousins at the table."
—Joseph Lennon, author of Irish Orientalism and Fell Hunger

Second Things

Second Things is Daniel Tobin's fourth book of poems, and his second collection with Four Way Books, with a third forthcoming in 2010. Following 2005's The Narrows, which traces an Irish-American boy-to-manhood in lush poems reminiscent of both Derek Walcott and Seamus Heaney, Second Things evinces a tone that is wholly new.

The Narrows

“Daniel Tobin’s new book of poems takes its title and form from the literal structure that dominates the poet’s childhood landscape, the 'gleaming bridge built in our lifetime,' the Verrazano-Narrows in Brooklyn... Tobin has achieved a work of dense complexity that lacks neither technical mastery nor emotional depth... sublime... magnificent”
The Harvard Review

Awards and recognition:
Featured book on Poetry Daily
Finalist for the ForeWord Magazine Poetry Book Award

Double Life

“Daniel Tobin’s Double Life is the kind of book that W.H. Auden would have liked: full of intelligent moral questioning about the subtle ways in which we are complicit with social, civil, and personal forms of cruelty and oppression. Tobin’s poems on Bosch and Bartolomé de Las Casas exemplify how conscience in this book is also the consciousness of evil. These poems attempt to do what Yeats suggested was one ideal for poetry: to hold justice and reality in a single thought.”
—Tom Sleigh

Where the World is Made

"Packed with articulate, sensitive, accessible poems that speak, in part, from his Catholic heritage . . . His poems resemble vignettes or short stories, each creating a unique image and placing the reader squarely in that image, in that vision, while never verging toward prose or pedantry . . . Tobin's world is, indeed, made of the marvels and of the terror. Recommended."
—Library Journal

Passage to the Center: Imagination and the Sacred in the Poetry of Seamus Heaney

Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney, author of nine collections of poetry and three volumes of influential essays, is regarded by many as the greatest Irish poet since Yeats. Passage to the Center is the most comprehensive critical treatment to date on Heaney's poetry and the first to study Heaney's entire body of work (including his recent volumes, Seeing Things and The Spirit Level). It is also the first to examine the poems from the perspective of religion, one of Heaney's guiding preoccupations. According to Tobin, the growth of Heaney's poetry may be charted through the recurrent figure of "the center," a key image in the relationship that evolved over time between the poet and his inherited place, an evolution that involved the continual re-evaluation and re-vision of imaginative boundaries. In a way that previous studies have not, Tobin's work examines Heaney's poetry in the context of modernist and postmodernist concerns about the desacralizing of civilization and provides a challenging engagement with the work of a living master.

"The readings are clear, complete, thorough, and give insight on both the poetry and Heaney's use of poetics."
—Robert F. Garratt

“So refreshingly original and so much needed... Tobin opens new ground as he strikes inwards and downwards, unearthing interpretive treasures and, best of all, new kinds of questions.”
South Atlantic Review

“A thorough analysis of Heaney’s oeuvre to date, one that avoids the limitations of formalism and sectarian ideology.”
Irish Studies Review

“Tobin’s very detailed and admirably interconnected commentary on the poems themselves is impressive.”
World Literature Today

“A valuable contribution to modern Irish literary scholarship... Invigorating and commendable.”
Modern Language Review

The Book of Irish American Poetry from the 18th Century to the Present

“This anthology is far more than an original work of scholarship: it is a major act of recovery, which rescues from oblivion the work of important writers who have been the creators of the Irish American literary consciousness. Professor Tobin has achieved the invention of a whole new field.”
—Eamonn Wall


"Daniel Tobin declares independence from the Academy of Postmodernist Poetry, the new establishment. He sees postmodernist relativeism as a radical nominalism, flatening the world into cynical power plays or even nihilism. To defend his coutner-vision of language bridging to rich and even mystical realisites, Tobin assembles the marvelously disparate company of Emily Dickinson, Simone Weil, W.B. Yeats, Wallace Stevens, Czeslaw Milosz, Gwendolyn Brooks, John Ashbery, Louise Gluck, Yuself Komunyakaa, and R.S. Thomas, all writers who trust the fracture of language not to annihilate meaning, but to enlarge it. A complex, sophisticated, and magnanimous book."  Rosanna Warren


"With unflnching sobriety and daring, Daniel Tobin's new book, On Serious Earth: Poetry and Transcendnence, figures as a necessary voice in a conversation too often shrill with hyperbole or lackluster with a chronic failiure to commit. Never before have the poverties engendered by a loss of stabilizing values, however multiply conceived, found such an attentive and bracing response, intent upon a broader contemporary cultural analysis in which the conflation of taste and judgment emerges as symptomatic of a greater loss, a blindness to the metaphysics endemic to language and its healing power--exemplary forms imaginative, visionary, gernerous, inquisitive and haunted.  A smart and beautiful book." 

To the Many: The Collected Early Works of Lola Ridge

"...Daniel Tobin has come to the rescue by editing this elightened edition of Lola Ridge's affecting, wonderfully accessible poems."  Anne Stevenson