The Art of Dying is available in trade paperback and ebook from
Hate to tell you, but you’re going to die. / Quite soon. Me, too. / Shuck off the wisdom while it’s warm. / Death does no harm / To wisdom.
Sarah Tolmie’s second collection of poems is a traditional ars moriendi, a how-to book on the practices of dying. Confronting the fear of death head-on, and describing the rituals that mitigate it, the poems in The Art of Dying take a satirical look at the ways we explain, enshrine, and, above all, evade death in contemporary culture.
Some poems are personal—a parent tries to explain to a child why a grandfather is in hospital, or stages a funeral for a child’s imaginary friend - while others comment on how death figures in the news, on TV, and in social media. Some poems ask if there is any place left for poets in our rituals of memory and commemoration. A few examine the apocalyptic language of climate change. Others poke fun at the death-defying claims of posthumanism.
A thoughtful and irreverent collection about serious concerns, The Art of Dying begins and ends with the fact of death, and strips away our euphemisms about it.
Out in McGill-Queen’s spring 2018 list, in the MacLennan Poetry Series.
Sarah Tolmie makes it clear from the outset of her second poetry collection, The Art of Dying, that she is here to skewer everything, not just the easy stuff. The Art of Dying is a modern-day take on the Ars moriendi—a traditional text that offers advice on the protocols and procedures of “dying well.” Tolmie’s speaker is presented as an authority, sardonically steering the reader through the mysteries of death and dying. […] In these direct, personal brushes with death, Tolmie is at her most clear-sighted, stripping away the rubble of euphemism we use as a salve against the enigma of death.
There are eighty-nine numbered poems in The Art of Dying. Today's book of poetry had a field day because we could have shared, happily, any of them. Tolmie doesn’t tolerate any weak siblings, she has no dead weight allowed. […] The Art of Dying tickles the poetry funny bone with whimsy and some wacky rhymes, but it is all for amusement, to calm the dying, for giggles. Tolmie has laser vision, night-goggle vision, into our deepest fears, our deepest fear, the last one: death. Sarah Tolmie runs a tight ship. Each of these untitled pronouncements rings precisely, clearly and then precariously.