"A book-length poem modeled after Dante’s Divine Comedy and T. S. Eliot’s The Four Quartets is an ambitious project"
The Five Quintets
by Micheal O’Siadhail
Baylor, 381 pages, $34.95
Sartre famously wrote that “hell is other people,” but for the poet Micheal O’Siadhail, hell is a highly specific group of other people. Among the damned are Franz Kafka, Karl Marx, and—you guessed it—a certain existentialist Frenchman, all of whom are punished for their role in launching modernity. But this hellscape is part of a larger project for O’Siadhail, a means of puzzling over the question, “How do we describe the contemporary world?” His answer is The Five Quintets, a poem spanning 400 years of intellectual history. Mirroring Dante’s The Divine Comedy, O’Siadhail presents readers with a summation of the modern period, a Who’s Who in verse of the ways and whys that led to our particular moment in history.