by Daniel Tobin
paper, 192 pages, $14.95
The Narrows is a prodigious feat of raw, physical, moral, psychic and literary energy in which Daniel Tobin recounts the many-sided history of his family. Conceived around the oldest theme in Irish literature, the dinnseanchas or lore of place poem, the poems in this collection range back and forth between the West of Ireland and New World Brooklyn. Tobin’s intention is to locate the narrative of family within the larger contexts of history, diasporic and literary, and to explore the small triumphs and great heartaches at the heart of family life. Passionate, complex, and original, The Narrows marks Tobin as one of the best poets of his generation. The Robert Lowell Irish America has been waiting for has arrived.
Written for the most part in a sinewy, richly textured blank verse, The Narrows is part family history and part bildungsroman bearing enough psychic weight to break the back of most poets, though Daniel Tobin succeeds in crafting a poem possessed of both narrative power and astonishing lyric depth and grace. All stories of arrival and survival in America are the American story, but rarely are they told as compellingly as this one.