By Lizzie Thomas | Staff Writer
Micheal O’Siadhail, a renowned Irish poet, read poetry from his new book “The Five Quintets” at its release in the Armstrong-Browning Library’s Foyer of Meditation Monday. O’Saidhail published the book, which took about nine years to complete, with the Baylor University Press.
O’Siadhail represented Ireland at the Poetry Society’s European Poetry Festival in London in 1981 and at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 1997, among other accomplishments. He was an academic at Trinity College Dublin and the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies before devoting all his time to poetry.
Cary Newman, director of Baylor University Press, introduced O’Siadhail. He presented the vision behind his book of poetry — that it is a poetic approach to cultural history and modernity — and read selections from each section. “The Five Quintets“ is poetry concerning cultural history. In each section, determined by topics such as economics or philosophy, O’Siadhail addresses important artists and thinkers from throughout their time about the complexities of their lives. He explores modernity and “the first global century.” A reception with a book signing followed his speech.
O’Siadhail published the US edition of his last book, “A Crimson Thread,” with Baylor. The book included 150 sonnets about his late first wife Bríd Ní Chearbhaill and has since published all his previous work with Baylor. He splits his time between Manhattan and Dublin.
“[Baylor University Press] heard I was doing this book, and they were very interested in it,” O’Siadhail said. “They approached me, and I was delighted to deal with them. We have a very good relationship. They did a beautiful job. All the books they’ve done have been lovely to look at.”
Newman said he thought the setting of O’Siadhail’s reading was especially fitting.
“Micheal O’Siadhail’s reading of ‘The Five Quintets’ does true justice to the Armstrong-Browning Library,” Newman said. “The room is a magnificent testimony to poetry and love. It’s a testimony to the greatness of minds joined together and what Micheal O’Siadhail has done in ‘The Five Quintets‘ is nothing less than what the Brownings would have loved and admired. I can think of nothing more fitting than Micheal O’Saidhail reading in the library.”
O’Siadhail said it was an extraordinary feeling to “ring” the book out after so many years creating it.
“Tonight was the first full reading from it, and it was very nice to do it here at Baylor with the publishers,” O’Siadhail said. “It was a wonderful audience and a wonderful venue. I’ve always admired the Brownings, and it’s devoted to them through memory.”
O’Siadhail said he would not have been happy as anything other than a poet. He paraphrased Rainer Maria Rilke in “Letters to a Young Poet”: “Unless you wake in the night and know that you’ll be unhappy the whole of your life unless you do this, don’t touch it,” O’Siadhail said. “That was his advice. I’m afraid I woke in the night and knew I’d be the most unhappy man in the world unless I didn’t do it, so I did.”
O’Siadhail’s hope for “The Five Quintets” is that the book will move the readers’ hearts and minds.
“I think that’s the wonderful thing about poetry, it can bring together the mind and the heart. I do like to think of it — it’s somewhere between prose and music,” O’Siadhail said. “It’s something which I always want to make accessible and readable. I hope it’s understandable and people enjoy it and find some wisdom in it.”