This book is so wonderful! In That Ship Has Sailed, Terence Winch gives us poems that bow to the relentlessness of time as he navigates world history and personal history. His writing is mature, elegiac, nostalgic, and wry. You’ll find wisdom and antiwisdom (via a villanelle), an especially sonic sonnet, a cento that grows like a flower, and a sestina that dances. Winch steers from operatic gestures to country music to ‘Poor Country,’ an exemplary anthem to our troubled nation. That Ship Has Sailed is the perfect getaway for all of us living with uncertainty— ‘ . . . To master / Life in the present is to be drunk on disbelief.’
That Ship Has Sailed synthesizes the serious and comic to address sex, love, loss, death, belief, the afterlife, and the past. The poems are honest and direct without sacrificing “the uncertainties, mysteries, and doubts” that Keats singles out in his notion of “negative capability,” alluded to in the title poem. Amplified by the poet’s work as a traditional Irish musician and composer, language is the adhesive that brings the work together across the avant-garde to traditional forms and meters.
I am on my way to the car, part of the car pool, going to school, and everybody else is standing in front of the open doors of their cars, bent over, their heads resting on their arms, listening to the news of the assassination. I think we cried. We went to school and prayed and cried. It snowed in April that year. That year, no one had yet committed any sex crimes. No one was a junkie. Only a few of us had already died. This was when men mistreated their wives and children, when men spent their days digging ditches, drinking quart bottles of Miller High Life, which was cold and golden. You could wear hats back then. You could go out very late at night and walk the streets smoking cigarettes, looking for love. You could stay until the bars closed. You could sit on the stoop, blowing smoke at the sky, wondering what would happen, you know, in the future, which was like a far-off country you would never get to visit, but whose laws you were forced to obey.
Wit, warmth, style, passion, ingenuity, acumen, and spirit are poetry’s seven cardinal virtues. Terence Winch has them all. From the brilliant title poem that opens the book to the ‘Night Vision’ that pulls down the shades at the end, That Ship Has Sailed has the salubrious Winch effect; it makes me want to write poems. I’ve said it before, and I'll say it again: Terence Winch is caviar to the general—be that General Electric or Eisenhower—served with a magnum of Dom Perignon.
Herein Terence Winch catches us up with his true Irish tuneage of the heart as he heads straight into the gale of being alive, unflinching, and unbarred. Weaving a language of merry melancholy, he suspends time’s measurement, folds us into a place where the flesh and blood of a present consorts with all manner of loves and ghosts of a past and then has a drink with you now. That Ship Has Sailed travels on waters of candid grace. I love this collection so much!
Terence Winch is the author of eight previous poetry collections, the young adult novel Seeing Eye Boy, and the short story collections Contenders and That Special Place. He is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowship, a Gertrude Stein Award for Innovative Writing, a Columbia Book Award, and the American Book Award, among other honors. The Bronx-born son of Irish immigrants, Winch is also a founding member of acclaimed Irish band Celtic Thunder and composer of the band’s best-known song, “When New York Was Irish.” Since 2020, he has served as editor of a feature on the Best American Poetry blog called “Pick of the Week.”