"…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"
"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.
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.
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.
—Joseph Lennon, author of Irish Orientalism and Fell Hunger
—The Harvard Review
Awards and recognition:
Featured book on Poetry Daily
Finalist for the ForeWord Magazine Poetry Book Award
"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
"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."
"...Daniel Tobin has come to the rescue by editing this elightened edition of Lola Ridge's affecting, wonderfully accessible poems." Anne Stevenson