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April: 30 Poems

In “April: 30 Poems” Tom Driscoll shares a collection evolved across the month of April in 2021 writing in response to prompts shared by poet and teacher, Jan Hutchinson.

From ‘About These’: “Jan sends out these seeds and her community of fellow poets, they are the various gardens, or gardeners. This “April: 30 Poems” is simply my crop…”

  • Paperback: 44 pages
  • Publisher: lulu.com; First edition (May 10, 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1667104918
  • ISBN-13: 978-1667104911

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Poetry

Witnessed

Snow bends the bare tangle
of branches, the tree of a type
I cannot name just now
recalling its small purple fruit
and the thick screen of leaves
that hides me here
from my neighbors —all summer.
I’ve never bothered with curtains.
Now, even the snow falls away.

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Essays Uncategorized

Whisper, a prayer

There are times when you can see jet airliners way up high above my house. It has to be a clear day, they’re flying at a quite an altitude. You have to look for them. They seem to be moving slowly and silently. The way the light glints off their wings and fuselage, they can be really quite beautiful.

It was just such a beautiful day. I remember that gorgeous September day. I think it was a Tuesday and the kids were off to school. I was very much enthralled with the idea of myself as a singer/songwriter at the time.

I had just put the final touches on a song I’d written and I was wrestling my way through a rendition on my 12 string, sitting in the back yard. (I never did do justice by that guitar – I would eventually sell it.) I distinctly remember the sight of one of those rarely noticed, beautiful, slow, silent jet airplanes overhead – it was heading south, perhaps southwest, for New York or maybe D.C., I assumed, coming out of Boston.

The song I’d written was this enormously earnest, and somewhat overlong, ballad called “Whisper.” I think I was trying to write a peace anthem. At the time the Intifada was raging in the streets of Palestine, and every effort to quell the violence seemed to only make it worse.

In Northern Ireland, the Good Friday Accords seemed to be, at best, a precarious hope, with old angry men and younger dangerous ones still shaking their fists over timeless ‘Troubles.’ Recent history in places like Bosnia, Kosovo and Rwanda hung heavy on my mind as well. I wondered if we humans would ever find the ability to live in peace.

On a beautiful day (such as that day in September) the world could seem to be offering us peace, like some quiet and simple instruction we only needed to accept. Why can’t we hear that whisper? That was the idea anyway. Perhaps I preached a bit much in that song, but that seemed like something worth doing just then. I was proud of myself for using a D-Minor 7th chord in the progression.

That beautiful clear blue morning, as I strummed and sang in the backyard by the white flowered hydrangea, my wife called me inside to the phone. My mother was on the line. Have you been watching TV? There’s been an accident in New York. A plane hit one of the Twin Towers.

As my mother told me what she knew, I assumed that it was a small plane, that this would be one of those small, sad tragedies that occupies the news without really touching us. There would be plenty about it in the papers, probably for a week or more, no need to turn on the TV.

No, this was something more, my mother said. As if only to humor her, I turned on the news. To this day I’m not sure (it was so confused at that moment), but I believe I was watching live as the second plane hit the second tower.

In the song I’d written I was trying to come to terms with the idea of peace, or rather, the lack of it. There was a line in there about forgiveness as an unspent coinage, one we were being asked to give, let alone spend. And there was another line about rage as an empty pavement for empty streets.

As I said, I was preaching.

There was a verse where I imagined a Christ-like figure arriving upon the scene of some safe suburban modern day American town; Christ with his message of even suffering forgiveness. How would he be received? As I think of it now, I suppose for all I was trying to write a song, I was also trying to utter a prayer.

At different times over the past six years I’ve had different opinions of that song I’d just finished writing that morning in September. Sometimes I think of it as a beautiful earnest offering, at others it strikes me as pompous and preachy, maybe even naive. The last time someone asked me to perform it I shrugged it away and begged off. I probably couldn’t play it right now if I tried.

Still, as I realized the date come round again I thought of that song, that light of a beautiful September day, the message that light seemed to convey.

So quiet, almost whispered, a prayer.

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Personal Histories

In “Personal Histories,” poet and essayist, Tom Driscoll shares a collection of short prose written over the past fifteen years. Touching on topics of war and peace, social justice and citizenship, race and reckoning, politics past and present, historical fact and fiction, this is a book that illustrates the challenges involved with simply being, simply paying attention to the world around and the workings of one’s own mind. A trip to the movies, an online troll spat, an old photograph found in the desk drawer, a conversation overheard at a convenience store, light shining off the wings of an airplane passing overhead —these are the spurs for speculation, consideration and argumentation, even an occasional prayer.

  • Paperback: 164 pages
  • Publisher: lulu.com; First edition (August 10, 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN: 9781716664793

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Odd Numbers

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This is Tom Driscoll’s fourth book of poetry. Musing on ideas of history and spirit, offering observational portraits and confessional testimony, “Odd Numbers” is a work of devoted attention.

Odd numbers, these days
as real as beads in your hand,
each their precious shape.

Product details

  • Paperback: 72 pages
  • Publisher: lulu.com; First Edition edition (August 15, 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1387162411
  • ISBN-13: 978-1387162413
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.2 x 9 inches

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Press

Interview with Mass Poetry

static1.squarespaceTom Driscoll is a poet, columnist, and essayist. He lives in Framingham, Massachusetts with his wife, artist Denise Driscoll. His most recent collection of poetry, “Odd Numbers” published through lulu.com in September 2017. Previously he has released three collections of poetry, including “Instead of Peace” and “Absence Singing” as well as a volume of song lyrics, “Songs For All The Wrong Reasons.”

When did you first encounter poetry? How did you discover you wanted to write poems?

I grew up in a household that cherished books, not poetry so much, but certainly literature and history. My dad especially loved the wall of shelves he put up in our cramped little den, to make it that much more cramped, that he called his “library.” Early on I hankered to write on account of that reverence I had noticed. It was a little like growing up in a religious home and wanting to become a priest.

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Framingham’s Tom Driscoll pens fourth book of poetry

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Posted Apr 30, 2018
By Chris Bergeron, Daily News Correspondent

FRAMINGHAM – For Tom Driscoll, writing a poem is like “leaving a trail of bread crumbs” to the moments that give life meaning.

Readers of the Framingham poet’s newest collection will discover pathways to love and loss, doubt, friendship and mortality in the clear speech of a neighbor’s familiar voice.

Titled “Odd Numbers,” Driscoll’s 55 poems reveal his “honest attempt to find meaning” as a husband, father, artist and citizen in an ephemeral world.

 

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Poetry

Always a river

There is always a river
in those dreams more than
mere dreams
though sleep restores us
we are carried to a destination

where there is always a river
the rogue general encamps
at a level place by the banks,
beside the ancient bridge
and outside the useless city walls.

There is always a river
consummate expression
of its watershed, writhed
and veined, turning in the basin
of a sensate creature land.

There is always a river
taking, delivering sending
its signals through stony flesh,
embodied, ambled past
ignoring our presence or blind.

There is always a river and
weary of its journey here
it breaches what had seemed
a boundary. We cup our hands
and drink, drink the clear water.

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Essays

Stone

“Too long a sacrifice makes a stone of the heart.”

Before I could even begin to articulate why, that line from W.B. Yeats played through my mind. I had watched in horror the slow murder of George Floyd. And then the convulsive reaction of rage and protest played out across the country. That stone seemed to weigh in my hand like something you might throw through a plate glass window.

The line comes from Yeats’ poem ‘Easter 1916.’ Maybe what put it in my mind was another line from that poem, actually something of a refrain… “All changed, changed utterly.” I’d had that sense when I first watched the video online, that somehow something was now changed. Maybe this was only a hope — that the callouses we’d built over the years were going to be ripped away — by the horror to which we were all witness.

That’s the narrative of Yeats’ poem.

“Too long a sacrifice makes a stone of the heart.”