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Tom Driscoll
The Champion of Doubt
Tom Driscoll, author

Adult; Poetry; (Market)

These poems pay attention to what it means to be the citizen of a troubled country, the son of warring and loving parents, a devoted brother, a husband and father. The collection sifts and sorts through differing memories, places in time, senses of history and identity.
Driscoll’s most recent poetry collection is a cathartic excavation of American life in a broken family. Yet amid the brutal truth telling, an adhesive connects all the stories, memories, and confessions: love. In “Citizen Cain,” Driscoll writes “Once you’ve been broken there is a different tenderness” and it’s this that allows love to thrive for the damaged person, the damaged country, the damaged world. A Massachusetts native, Driscoll imbues the poems collected here with a reverent sense of place in a state that harbors myth and history integral to America’s founding; the reckoning he performs with his family’s past is also bound to American history.

No person is made in a vacuum; they’re shaped by their country and the systems that control it, and by laying bare the dark truths about his family, Driscoll subtly traces effects that capitalism, misogyny, and the military industrial complex have had on Americans. These concerns pulse through the collection. Driscoll cannot tell the story of his brother without calling him “that one soldier I loved,” cannot provide an authentic account of his parents’ marriage without mentioning the physical, emotional abuse, and the inability for his parents to call each other by their names. What emerges from Driscoll’s collage of grief and memory is a vision of a battered, loving family he adores that has been immersed in a sick country.

If that sickness can be named as any one thing in Champion of Doubt it is repression—a pressure from American society to “hold your tongue and mind the fire,” that applies to the individual as much as it applies to how American history and myth are shared. Yet poetry, and art of any kind, defiantly rejects repression, and by naming it for what it is and the maladies it causes, Driscoll “set[s] the prisoner free.” He shows readers that there is freedom, and hope, in failure and disaster if only we can honestly acknowledge them.

Takeaway: Stark poems of an American family whose damage parallels their country.

Comparable Titles: Rita Dove’s Family Reunion, Gary Snyder.

Production grades
Cover: B+
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A

On Line Reading from 'The Champion of Doubt"

Tom will be reading a few poems from his new book, The Champion of Doubt (in pre-sale at Finishing Line Press until June 2nd!)