When a poem called “Homage to Bosch” by Daniel Tobin arrived at the Image editorial offices ten years ago, we instantly knew that we were in the presence of a major talent. (We’re happy to say that it became the lead poem in Tobin’s collection, Double Life, from LSU Press.) “Homage” took on one of the most enigmatic masterpieces of Western art: Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights, that teeming, anarchic canvas, in which the saved and damned enact dozens of allegories and fables. Tobin’s response to such a chaotic and baffling work is measured and revelatory. A typical stanza: “The sufferings of the damned and the saved, how alike they are— / as if the Almighty sharpened his blade for all equally / and the arms extended in universal blessing / were only the austere gesture of some bitter judgment.” Whether he is tackling a large-scale subject, like Bosch or St. Bartolomé de los Casas (the saint known as the “Protector of the Indians”), or penning a lyric, Tobin knows how to mix gravity with levity, the downward pressure of sin and suffering with the unbearable lightness of grace. One minute he’s quoting Simone Weil, the next he’s uttering a “Brief Elegy for a Subdivision.” Well, perhaps it’s no coincidence that he should see in Bosch a kindred spirit. Daniel Tobin’s poems are earthly delights, indeed.
Daniel Tobin’s poems have appeared in The Nation, The Times Literary Supplement, Stand, Poetry, The American Scholar, The Paris Review, The Southern Review, Double Take, Poetry Ireland Review, and many other journals. Among his awards are “The Discovery/ The Nation Award,” The Robert Penn Warren Award, The Greensboro Review Prize, a creative writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Robert Frost Fellowship. His first book of poems, Where the World is Made, was co-winner of the 1998 Katherine Bakeless Nason Prize. A second book of poems, Double Life, published by Louisiana State University Press (2004), has been nominated for the Kingsley Tufts Award, the National Book Award, an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation, and the Pulitzer Prize. His work has been anthologized in Hammer and Blaze, The Bread Loaf Anthology of New American Poets, The Norton Introduction to Poetry, and elsewhere. He has also published numerous essays on modern and contemporary poetry both in the United States and abroad. He is presently Chair of the Writing, Literature, and Publishing Department at Emerson College in Boston.
Four Way Books will publish my third book of poems, The Narrows, in Fall 2005. The University Press of Kentucky published my critical work, Passage to the Center: Imagination and the Sacred in the Poetry of Seamus Heaney, and the Notre Dame University Press will publish The Book of Irish American Poetry from the Eighteenth Century to the Present, which I edited. I’m currently developing two books of essays on poetry. The first is tentatively titledAwake in America, and is a series of essays specifically on Irish American poetry. The second book of essays, to be titled John Donne at the Odeon, is a collection drawn from works I have published over the years in literary journals, as well as new essays on the art of poetry. A fourth book of poems, Second Things, has been completed. Finally, I’ve begun shaping a fifth book of poems, as yet untitled.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.