Critically acclaimed and award-winning poet Micheal O'Siadhail's Desire is a quartet of poems which addresses the pressing global concerns of our times.
He describes the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, how it spread worldwide, paralyzing our society and instilling daily fear of death, particularly in older people. Hospitals were unable to cope, restaurants and businesses were closing, workers laid off, schools and universities taught remotely, and few weddings or funerals could take place throughout a pandemic which he sees as ultimately reflecting our relationship to the damaged environment and to climate change. The current ecological crisis is rooted in new reckless patterns of rapacity which threaten our habitat as our flawed stewardship has led to global warming, heatwaves, raging fires, and hurricanes. Still, we fail to curb our greed. Our need for comfort, convenience, and instant communication on the internet, which began as an idealistic dream of making knowledge universal, has resulted in an overconsumption that further harms our planet, a consumerism driven by algorithms and internet surveillance.
It is time to regain a more modest perspective on our part in the natural world and learn again to be better forebears for the generations to come, responsible stewards of the earth we share. A greater sense of our role as humble, trusted custodians can free us for wonder and praise and allow us to re-find sources of meaning worthy of life-enhancing desires. O'Siadhail affirms with realism, imagination, and inspiring wisdom how our human desires and longings can open up ways through our unprecedented global challenges.
Foreword Epigraph Pest Habitat Behind the Screen Desiring Epilogue
Micheal O’Siadhail is an internationally acclaimed poet whose works include The Five Quintets, Collected Poems, One Crimson Thread, and Testament.
In this devastating, scathing, penetrating analysis of our world’s vulnerability to self-inflicted existential crises, Micheal O’Siadhail is revealed as the poet, prophet, pastor, preacher par excellence of our time and for our time. Desire is a revolutionary call to care. It is a juggernaut flattening our negligence, our greed, our passivity, our stupidity. Can we meet, in time, his magisterial challenge to redeem our ecocidal mania? His deep-set faith in humanity’s desire and need to dwell in love, in respect for God’s creation and one another opens the door that lets hope in.
~Mary McAleese, President of Ireland 1997–2011
In this superb collection, Micheal O'Siadhail once again sees poetry as a revelatory form of knowledge which offers otherwise unavailable insights into the world in which we live. He connects Covid-19, the destruction of the planet, and capitalism in the digital age, and looks at desire across these intersectional contexts. He sees the desire for success and power as culpable, but also envisages desire as a positive way through the current morass to a better political, social and ethical world: 'What desire will shape a world we're left?' As is typical of O'Siadhail, this is achieved through a dazzling array of rhyme schemes and evocative language.
~Eugene O'Brien, Professor of English Literature and Theory at Mary Immaculate College and director of the MIC Institute for Irish Studies at the University of Limerick
As we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, what's the best way to understand what happened, and what did we learn? Science and medicine will provide some answers, but they won’t tell us how we felt or teach us about how Covid-19 challenged our very essence. For that we need poet Micheal O'Siadhail. In this remarkable series of poems Micheal writes about the 'stupendous surprise of the global Covid-19 pandemic' in a way no one else can. Full of insight, humility, and compassion and an unmistakable yearning to make things better, what he has achieved is the best account yet of what it was like to live through the pandemic, and how it has changed our view of the world and our place in it.
~Luke O’Neill, FRS, MRIA, Professor of Biochemistry in the School of Biochemistry and Immunology, Trinity College Dublin
Micheal O’Siadhail’s Desire deftly and winsomely explores the terrifying convergence of the recent pandemic, the environmental crisis, and the data harvesting and surveillance of the technocrats. O’Siadhail shows how our desires are badly disordered, and through a series of intricately linked poems, including an entire section in Dantean terza rima, he gently and brilliantly suggests our desire to know God might inspire a reordering of our desires so that we can reject exploitation of others and the environment.
~Richard Rankin Russell, Professor of English, Baylor University
These timely poems capture the multiple challenges of our times with keen insight and lively passion. O’Siadhail’s vision is a haunting plea to awaken to compassionate realignment with the living Earth community. His skillful entanglement of grave urgency and creative hope makes this compelling—indeed, required—reading.
~Mary Evelyn Tucker, co-director of the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology and co-author of Journey of the Universe
Like Yeats and Auden, O’Siadhail is one of those rare poets who can give voice to our public fears as well as our private desires. The range and depth of his knowledge and moral concern make him a poet fit for an age of interlocking global crises.
~Kenneth L. Woodward, former Religion editor of Newsweek and author of Getting Religion: Faith, Culture, and Politics from the Era of Eisenhower to the Ascent of Trump
Micheal O’Siadhail’s new cycle of poems, Desire, is a soaring mythic reflection on our time. The great poet’s wisdom, humor, compassion, and razor-wire sensibilities explore the fate of our new century as we ricochet between hope and hopelessness. The world is ready and waiting for this poetry. Yearning for it, really.
~Shoshana Zuboff, author of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism and Professor Emeritus, Harvard University
Micheal O’Siadhail is an Irish poet who belongs to the world—his pellucid work speaks out of rich tradition, profound faith, and a deep intellectual passion. It is work that we need to face the most challenging issues of our time. His capacity to create beauty out of the despair and loneliness of the pandemic allows us all a language to speak of our courage and love. This is poetry as the highest art, breath into song.
~Laurie Zoloth, Margaret E. Burton Professor of Religion and Ethics, University of Chicago, author of May We Make the World?: Gene Drives, Malaria and the Future of Nature
O’Siadhail poses one of the most pressing questions of our day: ‘Have we learnt what matters most of all?’ He sets it in the broad sweep of a poetic diagnosis of the climate crisis, global pandemic, misinformation, and surveillance capitalism and challenges us to consider what forms of desire would honor the goodness and givenness and limits of our common home.
~Miroslav Volf, Matthew Croasmun, and Ryan McAnnally-Linz, authors of Life Worth Living
In Desire, Micheal O’Siadhail presents us with four epic poems that are stunning in their sweep. With his keen eye for detail, O’Siadhail paints a vivid portrait of humanity reminiscent of Dante’s circles of hell. Like a modern day Jeremiah, this poet with the voice of a prophet rails against the greed, self-indulgence, and carelessness that threaten life on Earth. In so doing, the tapestry he weaves incorporates economics, politics, big business, instant gratification, social media, privacy, depletion of resources, climate change, democracy, and capitalism. The poems are comprehensive, exhaustive, and completely relevant in their contemporary-ness. Yet, they are grounded in history and anchored in biblical references. O'Siadhail gleans deep lessons from the pandemic that hovers over all four poems. And in the end, he uplifts us with the redemptive love of his God.
~Georgette F. Bennett, founder and president of the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding and co-author of Religicide: Confronting the Roots of Anti-religious Violence
...With the true heart of a poet, O’Siadhail has faith. Pots and pots of it for us to explore. This collection should be read especially by those of us happy to forget the dreaded plague, to file it away under ‘Unpleasant Memories’ even as we tend the graves of loved ones lost to Covid. O’Siadhail insists that we remember, and in the remembering, we brace ourselves and change our ways.