Information about the poet.
Showing O’Brien at the height of his powers, with his intellect and imagination as gratifyingly restless as ever, this collection is haunted by the missing, the missed, the vanished, the uncounted, and the uncountable lostlost sleep, connections, muses, books, and the ghosts and gardens of childhood. Ultimately, the poet is led to contemplate the most troubling absences: O’Brien’s elegies for his parents and friends form the heart of this book, and are the source of its pervasive note of départ. Elsewhereas if a French window stood open to an English roomthe islands, canals, railway stations, and undergrounds of his landscape are swept by a strikingly Gallic air. This new note lends these recent poems a reinvigorated sense of the imaginative possible.
Many of the poems in Sean O’Brien’s new collection take their emotional tenor and imaginative cue from his acclaimed translation of Dante’s Inferno, and occupy a dark, flooded, subterranean world, as dramatically compelling as it is disquieting. Circumstances have compelled O’Brien to return repeatedly to the elegiac form, and The Drowned Book contains a number of powerfully moving poems written in memory of fellow poets and artists.
The Drowned Book again shows O’Brien a master of the authoritative line, and underscores his pre-eminence among contemporary English poets.
While Downriver contains the English urban pastoral and hymns to the Northern deities for which Sean O’Brien is justly celebrated, the poet has always been more a singer then even his many admirers have sometimes conceded: here, that lyric note is sounded more openly than ever before.
With Downriver, his fifth collection, O’Brien has produced his most various and mature work yet. This is a poetry of both delicacy and gravity, assuagement as well as agitation, rivers that start in hell but later fall as rain—and will only strengthen his reputation as one of the most gifted English poets at work today.