Thomas Lynch: The Willow Springs Interview

Thomas Lynch is Milford, Michigan’s funeral director, a job he took over from his father in 1974. Through his examination of death and mortality, Lynch has found much inspiration for his writing. But to label his work as being about death would be an oversimplification. A 1998 Publishers Weekly review stated that “The combined perspectives of his two occupations—running a family mortuary and writing—enable Lynch to make unsentimental observations on the human condition.” Though Lynch often builds from themes of death and grief, his writing moves across the spectrum of life, offering flashes of humor and insight along the way.

He says of himself, “I write sonnets and I embalm, and I’m happy to take questions on any subject in between those two.”

In 1970, Lynch took his first of many trips to Ireland, reconnecting with family in West Clare. He has since inherited the ancestral cottage there, where he regularly spends time. His relationship with Ireland is documented in his most recent book of nonfiction, Booking Passage: We Irish and Americans.

Lynch is also the author of five collections of poetry and three essay collections, including The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade, which won the American Book Award and was a finalist for the National Book Award. His work has appeared in, among other places. the New Yorker, Poetry, the Paris ReviewHarper’s, Esquire, Newsweek, the Washington Post, the New York Times, the L.A. Times, the Irish Times, and the Times of London.

Willow Springs spoke with him over lunch at Café Dolce in Spokane, Washington. This interview originally appeared in Willow Springs 63.

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