paper • 39 pages • 15.95
ISBN-13: 978-1-935536-69-7

Winner of the 20th Annual Julia Ward Howe Award.

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From Nothing

Daniel Tobin

From Nothing, a book-length poem in sections, explores the conflicted and exemplary life of Belgian physicist and priest, Georges Lemaître, known as “the father of the Big Bang,” and his life’s profound implications, through what John Barth called the principle of metaphoric means: “the writer’s investiture in as many aspects of the text as possible with emblematic significance.”  Though associative and multivalent in its orchestration, From Nothing weaves its frequencies into a resonant whole.

from “(Origin),” from From Nothing:


A little sand, a little soda, a little lime once used

to embalm the dead, and out of black hole and kiln

the molten bubble gathers like honey on a dipper


for the blower to stretch breath into glass, the pipe

a silent horn shaping the form with its emptiness

to be marvered and mandrelled, jacked and lathed.


In your father’s factory the vessels anneal, neat rows

of flagons, jars, mould blown, ribbed and decorated,

every glinted edge and pattern the fire will destroy


so the life foreseen becomes a retrospect foreknown:
the char-black rolling country of the Pays Noir
from which your people came…
Praise by Alan Shapiro
Praise by Emily Grosholz
Praise by Dennis Daly
Praise from the Kenyon Reviews
Praise from the Los Angeles Review of Books

“In From Nothing Daniel Tobin explores the intersections of war and science, rationality, and the vastly large and intensely small in and through the characters and voices of the major figures in the scientific community of the twentieth century, most notably the Jesuit priest and mathematician, Georges Lemaître. Tobin brings his learning and astounding imaginative powers to bear on such central questions as the origin and end of the universe, how something came from nothing, human depredation and beauty, and the intractable mystery of time. This is a memorable, tragic, and moving book that should be read by everyone who wonders how we got here and what our being here can mean.” — Alan Shapiro

“In his lyrical and narrative suite of poems From Nothing, Daniel Tobin weaves the history of the cosmos into the biography of the Belgian Jesuit priest Georges Lemaître, a physicist who realized that Einstein’s General Relativity Theory entailed ‘the Big Bang’ and foresaw the discovery of the Cosmic Microwave Background. The poet draws the weft of scientific vocabulary, poetically, through the warp of everyday speech, with occasional over-embroidery of hymn and prayer. While managing to convey quite a bit of information about modern cosmology, Tobin also creates a moving portrait of a singular, gifted, and compassionate human being.” — Emily Grosholz

“Tobin’s writing explodes onto the page with white-hot intensity, its numinous words and birthing suns expanding and cooling first into elegance and then into a compassionate understanding of our human condition.” — Dennis Daly Read the full review.

“From Nothing explores the life and thought of George Lemaître, a Jesuit priest and physicist who completed most of his theoretical work, much of which addressed the origins and nature of the universe, during the 1930s and 1940s. Ideas most easily expressed through equations aren’t often the stuff of poetry. Except—Tobin makes it so. Here is a stanza from “(Observance)” spoken in the voice of Edwin Hubble: “Not bad for an Ozark farm boy hodded off to Oxford / on a Rhodes, who tailored himself to tweeds and speaks / the King’s English, as though he’d suckled on shires.” The assonance and alliteration catch the reader’s ear, and the reader’s mind is pleased with intriguing phrases—“hodded off” and “suckled on shires.” …the intellectual and aesthetic ambition of this collection exceeds that of nearly every collection I’ve read this year…Don’t pick up this book if you’re hoping for a quick distraction. If you’re looking instead for poetry that stimulates your intellect, that demonstrates how knowledge can inform and enhance art, that is willing to explore ultimate questions and different methods of answering them, do read From Nothing.” — Kenyon Reviews Read the full review.

“Daniel Tobin is a masterful poet who works from vibration outward—first music, then form, finally ideas—like the cosmos he describes. From Nothing is one of those books that exalts the mind by its unflinching meticulousness and intellectual breadth. But its greatest accomplishment is the poetry: he holds all this movement so perfectly still.” — Los Angeles Review of Books Read the full review.