A Modern Bard Sings of Life and Love, Love and Death

Séamus O’Cuinn, like James Joyce before him, is fascinated by the tales of Homer. And, like countless other Irish poets, O’Cuinn (technically an Irish-American) is fascinated by his Irish homeland—its lore and history, its scenery and music. In his new book the Old Sod is presented with love and humor, sometimes surprisingly juxtaposed with ancient (if updated) Greek themes and a variety of poetic styles, from Japanese haiku and senryu to formal sonnets to free verse.

But what matters most to this accomplished poet is modern life in America, even as it is seen through Irish eyes. It is the common plight of man that fills O’Cuinn’s poems: love and death. From ephemeral but memorable sensuality (“Calypso” and “Circe,” “Dental Affair” and “Warming Up Before the Run,” for example) to long-lasting marriage (“Wedding Day,” “Valentine’s Day, “Light,” etc.), he shows that love is in the details, be they once-in-a-lifetime or every-day affairs. As for death, O’Cuinn writes loving elegies for friends and relatives who have gone on, and he reaches the conclusion that he himself will join them, which means he must celebrate what joy remains. Celebrating life is this poet’s obligation, and his passion. Live for now, he tells us in such poems as “Family Tradition” and “Faith.”

In between love and death, O’Cuinn gives us life full of exercise and sport (baseball, basketball, football, running, yachting, bodybuilding, boxing, windsurfing). Exercise is transcendent in these poems, telling us something about the spirit as well as something about the body. He shows us the rites of passage that mark time in our lives (“Runner’s Axis,” October’s Priest”), and reminds us that life goes on, surviving our own mortality.

Séamus P. O’Cuinn is a retired teacher who has twice been named Connecticut’s and New England’s Poet of the Year by the New England Association of Teachers of English. Under the name James Quinn, he has published over 300 poems in literary magazines, as well as four chapbooks and a full-length collection titled Grandpa Was No Saint (Fithian Press, 1995). He lives in Fairfield, Connecticut, with Pat, his wife of forty-six years. They have three married sons and seven grandchildren.

A View From the Heart
by Séamus P. O'Cuinn

128 pages, paperback, $14.00
ISBN 1-56474-445-0

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