Completed shortly before he died, McGrath confronts his own death and, as Dale Jacobson says in his introduction, the poet “embraced that imminent death with a song.” Here are more than one hundred of McGrath’s last poems, including lyrical and imagistic, the political and the personal, forming a “last will and testament” of one of the great poets of our time.
In the house of the man with no hands
Why are there so many filthy
Tea cups coffee cups wine
glasses plates left over
pieces of stale bread?
Because so many loving
and delightfully thoughtless people
Come to visit here.
“Poetry that uncovers the sublime in the common… the beauty and power of this collection’s language transcend the limitations McGrath finds in ordinary life… [McGrath’s] words, like a Zen master’s, remind us that the secret of life is in the living of it.” —Publishers Weekly
“At once celebratory and hushed, affirmative and realistic, everyday and mysterious, earthbound and cosmic, [McGrath’s] work defies category… Death Song, full of poems that leave the reader breathless with their beauty and intelligence, will certainly establish McGrath as one of our most important and distinctive poetic voices.” —Booklist, starred review
“Here, one finds delightful and graceful rhymes, homages to family, friends, and assorted heroes… and marvelous short poems that puzzle and nourish in equal measure.” —New York Times Book Review
“This is not a morbid book in any way, as the title may suggest. Rather, it is a song of life, a testament to the power of the human heart to endure.” —Bloomsbury Review
“Death Song is the complex final harmony of the many voices of Thomas McGrath. To read and reread this book is to hear and appreciate its myriad subtleties. The poet’s spirit soars everywhere above these pieces… ” —Cream City Review
“McGrath’s poetry has been legendary for its variety of styles, poetic forms and, above all, the richness and splendor of his language… If you want a book that has staying power, that brings us face to face with politics, reality, struggle, death and the possibility of victory, that will remain as the testament of one of the most talented, steadfast and formidable poets of [the twentieth] century, [Death Song] is for you.” —People’s Weekly World
“McGrath’s poems play an important role in the canon of contemporary poetry… Death Song is a rare opportunity to tackle a poet whose works are undaunted in myriad humanist expressions… [Here] McGrath’s unique poetic voice is not only coming into its own (again) but is likely to endure.” —Pittsburgh Quarterly
“McGrath’s last poems, collected in Death Song, achieve an exaltation of acceptance on the other side of despair, a Zen-like tranquility that allows the personal grief of closure to open out into shimmering moments of the spirit that survives us all.” —San Francisco Chronicle Review