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Poetry in Motion

Author Thomas Lynch, a former OU student, shares the poetry of life and death

Reading Material

icon of a calendarNovember 15, 2017

icon of a pencilBy Peg McNichol

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Author Thomas Lynch’s first poetry collection, “Skating with Heather Grace” (published in 1986), draws on his student years at Oakland University in the ’60s and delicately delves into his career paths from writer to undertaker and back again.

Lynch received an honorary doctorate degree from OU in 2001. Although he finished his degree in mortuary science from a different university in 1973, his time at OU was instrumental in helping him appreciate the poetry of life and death, he explains.

“Poet and professor Michael Heffernan opened the door for me to believe I could have a career as a poet,” says Lynch. Heffernan’s “tweed coat, watch fob and penny loafers” removed some of the profession’s mysticism and made him a regular human being, he says. From that point on, discovering people’s humanity became a core part of Lynch’s career.

Retired from undertaking, Lynch is turning a series of his seminary lectures into a book, out next year, and is writing his first novel, inspired by a poem about his father’s military service. He wrote the piece “while sitting in an Oakland University parking lot sometime in the early 1990s during the first Gulf war,” he remembers.

“I started working on the novel in 2010 or 2009, after finding my father’s letters to my mom during World War II,” he says. “My father had never spoken about his military service until I wrote this poem.”

It is customary in Lynch’s Irish family to keep a dialogue open with those who have passed on, and he shares the same relationship with his past through his writing, he explains.

“There’s no estrangement from the dead; they’re still part of the conversation,” he says. “I do think that writers are trying to keep up a conversation with the things they’ve read, so I suppose, in a way, I am still having a conversation with stuff I learned 50 years ago. It’s not so much dwelling in the past but trying to keep up a conversation with the people who were speaking to you in real time.

Visit to check out books by Thomas Lynch.

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