Noted Irish poet Micheal O’Siadhail will share excepts from his sprawling, new release “The Five Quintets” in a public reading at 4:30 p.m. Monday at Baylor University’s Armstrong-Browning Library. A book signing will follow his reading.
His appearance comes as part of the publication of “The Five Quintets,” a 350-page poem in five parts, by Baylor University Press, the collegiate press’ first major work of poetry.
“It fits us. This is intellectual poetry,” said Baylor Press director Carey Newman. “He engages with big minds, big ideas and big people in a major way.”
The poet’s book, its title a reference to T.S. Eliot’s “The Four Quartets,” addresses, well, much of the sweep of modern Western thought, from science and economics to politics, philosophy and Christian faith, divided into the sections “Making,” “Dealing,” “Steering,” “Finding” and “Meaning.” O’Siadhail’s willingness to engage the contemporary world with an eye to faith also attracted Baylor Press, Newman said. “He celebrates what it means to be fully human in the hands of God,” he said.
O’Siadhail’s work throughout his career plays with the joy of language, not surprising in light of his ability to speak nine languages, said Baylor English professor Richard Russell, who invited O’Siadhail to Baylor last year as a featured participant in the annual Beall Poetry Festival.
“The Five Quintets,” in fact, sees the 71-year-old O’Siadhail inventing a “saiku,” a combination of sonnet and haiku, while paying homage to Italian poet Dante in writing much of his poem in terza rima, the three-line rhyme scheme found in Dante’s “Divine Comedy.”
Newman said former Baylor University provost Greg Jones, a friend of the poet, had informed Baylor University Press of O’Siadhail’s work when it was still in process and the Baylor publishing company followed up on the tip. That contact led O’Siadhail to let Baylor publish his book.
It’s already created a positive splash in critical circles in England and the United States since its publication this summer, with such readers as a former president of Ireland, the Archbishop of Canterbury and a noted New Testament theologian singing the praises of “The Five Quintets.”
Newman, who heard O’Siadhail read from his book “One Crimson Thread” in New York City, where the poet presently works as Union Theological Seminary’s Distinguished Poet In Residence, said Waco audiences are in for a treat. “It’s worth being there to hear him,” he said.
In addition to Monday’s public reading, Baylor also will host a panel discussion of the book and O’Siadhail’s work at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday in Carroll Science Building Room 101. David Ford, Joe Heininger and Baylor’s Julia Daniel, a T.S. Elliot scholar, with moderator Chloe Hanum, will participate in the panel with O’Siadhail expected to comment on the discussion at its end.