The Five Quintets
Imprint: Baylor University Press
381 Pages, 5.00 x 8.00 in
- Published: July 2018
The Five Quintets is both poetry and cultural history. It offers a sustained reflection on modernity—people and movements—in poetic meter. Just as Dante, in his Divine Comedy, summed up the Middle Ages on the cusp of modernity, The Five Quintets takes stock of a late modern world on the cusp of the first-ever global century.
Celebrated Irish poet Micheal O’Siadhail structures his Quintets to echo the Comedy. Where Dante had a tripartite structure ( Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso), O’Siadhail has a five-part structure, with each quintet devoted to a discipline—the arts; economics; politics; science; and philosophy and theology. Each quintet is also marked by a different form: sonnets interspersed by haikus ("saikus"), iambic pentameter, terza rima, and two other invented forms.
The Five Quintets captivates even as it instructs, exploring the ever-changing flow of ideas and the individuals whose contributions elicited change and reflected their times. The artists, economists, politicians, scientists, and philosophers O’Siadhail features lived complex lives, often full of contradictions. Others, though deeply rooted in their context, transcended their time and place and pointed beyond themselves—even to us and to a time after modernity’s reign.
The ancient Horace commended literature that delivered "profit with delight." In The Five Quintets, Micheal O’Siadhail has done just that: he delights us in the present with his artistry, even as he reveals hidden treasures of our past and compels us toward the future.
Whatever you have planned for next weekend, change it and make space to read this book. Your heart and mind and soul will thank you. This swirling work of love for humanity from Ireland’s most exceptional romantic love poet will take you from the paralysis of our visionless future to a place where ‘every bole and limb begins to dance the universe’s light fantastic prayer.’~Mary McAleese, President of Ireland, 1997–2011
Imagine a dream in which the makers and shakers of the modern world appeared, large as life, explaining what they were doing and what it meant: not just artists, musicians, poets, writers, and philosophers, but also scientists, economists, and politicians, all contributing, like the characters in Dante, to pull the world upwards or downwards. Now imagine the whole thing in flowing, vivid verse, arranged in five great sequences each with its own inner coherence and subtle blend of poetic form, climaxing with a gloriously unexpected heavenly conversation between modern saints. O’Siadhail has always invited us to taste the rich abundance of life. Now, in the best traditions of Irish hospitality, he spreads a lavish banquet for the ear, the intellect, and above all for the heart.~N. T. Wright, Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity, University of St Andrews
With astonishing depth, breadth, and creative range, O’Siadhail interweaves paradox and contradiction across the centuries, conversing with history’s greatest minds and evolutionary agents. This masterwork delivers a layered feast of wisdom and insight to inspire lovers of words, ideas, and action. Historians, politicians, artists, theologians, and economists alike will be delighted and nourished by this poetic tour de force.~Jerry White, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and CEO, Global Impact Strategies, Inc.
The Five Quintets unfolds slowly, the steady self-revealing of insights that catch the edge of thought and provoke an arrest of mind—the fruit of a life in languages and words and depth of perception in wisdom.~Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury
An unparalleled book of instruction for a troubled age, The Five Quintets retrieves and exhibits human gifts our own age may have lost, like the power to measure the merely probable or to shape verses whose pulse draws us to love. A book of poetry in the category of the epic, the encyclopedic, and the sacred.~Peter Ochs, Professor of Modern Judaic Studies, University of Virginia
Wading boldly into the murky waters of the past and its still swirling, dangerous depths, O’Siadhail offers us an angle of vision for the future that he invites us to create as he also gracefully enacts its unfolding. It is the perfect poetic intervention into the monstrous imperfections and possibilities of the present political moment.~Serene Jones, President Union Theological Seminary
Micheal O’Siadhail has done nothing less than give us a poetic account of that strange character called ‘modernity.’ He seems to have read everything, but more significantly, he has transformed what he has read through poetic narratives in the manner of Dante. This is a beautiful book of hope because of O’Siadhail’s unrelenting passion to tell us the truth.~Stanley Hauerwas, Gilbert T. Rowe Professor Emeritus of Divinity and Law
O’Siadhail not only immerses us in a fascinating period of history—the past few hundred years up to the present, with its discoveries, traumas, transformations, and artistic creativity—in addition, in musical and beautifully crafted language, he brings history to life through one key person after another and offers matured, prophetic insight for the twenty-first century. The result is daring, moving, and profoundly relevant to anyone seeking personal and public wisdom today.~David Ford, Emeritus Regius Professor of Divinity, University of Cambridge
The Five Quintets is perhaps best described as a mammoth poetic adventure undertaken by the celebrated poet Micheal O’Siadhail, representing the culmination of an extraordinary life’s work. The project is vast in scope. O’Siadhail attempts nothing less than an exploration of the predicaments of Western modernity as they appear in five fields of human endeavor: science, arts, economics, politics, and philosophy, and theology.~Jeremy Begbie, Thomas A. Langford Research Professor of Theology, Duke Divinity School
…Micheal O’Siadhail’s three-hundred-and-fifty-page poem, The Five Quintets, is the most important work of English-language literature to be published so far this century. O’Siadhail’s towering achievement melds reflections on the arts, economics, politics, philosophy and, fascinatingly, science into lyrical verse that transfixes the reader.~Frank Armstrong, Cassandra Voices
- Book-of-the-Year Citation from the Conference on Christianity and Literature