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The Sin-eater: A Breviary

Thomas Lynch (with photographs by Michael Lynch)

ISBN: 978-1-908836-04-5

Page Count: 82

Publication Date: Thursday, June 21, 2012

Cover Artwork: Sean Lynch

About this Book

The Sin-eater: A Breviary, Thomas Lynch’s fifth book of poems gathers together two dozen, twenty-four line poems - a book of hours - on the life and times of Argyle, the sin-eater and includes two dozen black and white photographic images by the author’s son, Michael Lynch, and a front cover watercolour by his son, Sean.  The poems and images are situated on the West Clare peninsula in Ireland where the author keeps an ancestral home in the townland of Moveen between the North Atlantic and the River Shannon estuary.  The poems are prefaced by an “Introit” which examines the nature of religious experience, faith and doubt, communion and atonement.

In The Sin-eater, Lynch once again brings together his intricate knowledge of the body and the soul, and the result is a luminous, humane collection that sees religion as a question mark, not a period.  Chicago Tribune

The Sin-Eater is a wonderfully conceived work that has moments of keen insight and great humanity, Lynch uses the distinctly Christian categories of agape love and divine grace to call into question the distinctiveness of the Church. The New Oxford Review

This book offers a splendid melding of language, vision, voice and agape love. It is a gift—a richly imaginative work tinged with rascally humour and suffused with those “doubts and wonders” that produce awe: a reading that is both entertaining and profound. Prairie Schooner

These poems are ripe with physicality and sensuality, fittingly so, given the primitive world Lynch evokes. The language, too, is textured, Saxon and Gaelic, full of curt nouns that can cut your mouth (gob, sup, gulp, lust) balanced by legato, Latinate verbs that fairly sing (anointing, avenging, inquisitioning). Lynch’s poetic lexicon brilliantly conveys the complex history of Christianity in the British Isles—the legacy of ancient tribal languages forming the f oundation of our modern English, then softened by the elegant overlay of church Latin. We hear, as well as see, ourselves in Argyle’s words, for his speech is our own…. Thomas Lynch’s poems revivify the ancient Christo-centric practice of “sin-eating,” effectively presenting it to us in a guise we may not recognize, at first—but it is, nonetheless, Eucharist, by any name. Through the agency of Lynch’s powerful poetic language and deep imagination, we glimpse Christ in the Sin-Eater, as well as ourselves, and come to know him in the breaking of the bread.  Angela Alaimo O’Donnell, AMERICA
(The National Catholic Weekly)

Lynch crafts a story of transgression and forgiveness, but, in the end, the true beauty lies in the ambiguity of who has committed the transgression and who has been forgiven. DarkSky Magazine

Author Biography

Thomas Lynch is the author of four collections of poems, three books of essays and a book of stories, Apparition & Late Fictions. The Undertaking won the American Book Award and was a finalist for the National Book Award. His work has appeared in The Atlantic and Granta, The New Yorker and Esquire, Poetry and The Paris Review, also The Times (of New York, Los Angelus, London and Ireland) and has been the subject of two documentary films, Learning Gravity by Cathal Black and PBS Frontline’s The Undertaking. He lives in Milford, Michigan and Moveen, West Clare.

About the Photographer: Michael Lynch is an avid traveller and photographer. He is a graduate of Wayne State University’s Department of Mortuary Science and, like is father and grandfather, is a funeral director. He manages the Lynch & Sons Funeral Directors locations in Brighton and in Milford, Michigan where he makes his home.

About the Artist: Sean Lynch is an artist and songwriter. His recorded work under the moniker, 800Beloved includes, Bouquet (2008) and Everything Purple (2010). Before joining his father and brother in the family firm, he studied fine arts at the College for Creative Studies, Detroit. He lives and works in Milford, Michigan.

Read a sample from this book

The Sin-eater

Argyle the sin-eater came the day after— 
a narrow, hungry man whose laughter 
and the wicked upturn of his one eyebrow 
put the local folks in mind of trouble.
But still they sent for him and sat him down 
amid their whispering contempts to make
his table near the dead man’s middle,
and brought him soda bread and bowls of beer 
and candles, which he lit against the reek
that rose off that impenitent cadaver
though bound in skins and soaked in rosewater. 
Argyle eased the warm loaf right and left
and downed swift gulps of beer and venial sin 
then lit into the bread now leavened with
the corpse’s cardinal mischiefs, then he said 
“Six pence, I’m sorry.” And the widow paid him. 
Argyle took his leave then, down the land 
between hay-ricks and Friesians with their calves 
considering the innocence in all
God’s manifold creation but for Man,
and how he’d perish but for sin and mourning. 
Two parishes between here and the ocean:
a bellyful tonight is what he thought,
please God, and breakfast in the morning.

Copyright © Thomas Lynch 2012

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