The New Gods

The New Gods

The New Gods

“If William O’Daly’s poetry, like Neruda’s or Lorca’s, suggests an understanding of surrealism,” writes Peter Weltner in his foreword to The New Gods, it is “a surrealism of the vital world, of a language that marries ‘spirit and action’ to a pure purpose, a sustained improvisation ‘between roots and sky’ that binds the near with the far, distance with the here and now.” Wise, beautiful, and lyrically grounded in the elemental, the poems comprising O’Daly’s first full-length volume chart a trajectory well beyond the self and with a stunning breadth of vision. They span cultural and historical geographies and the expanse of time to celebrate the relationships that sustain the human family and challenge the solipsistic origins of our inhumane words and actions. The New Gods invites us to participate in the authentic, in “the solace of not seeking,” even as “we give the earth back to our feet.”
— Beltway Editions, Publisher of The New Gods

“O’Daly gives voice to our unanswered wants, our fears and longing, our hesitant touch, and what we cannot know in another or ourselves. And he does so with vulnerability and humility.
— Maxima Kahn, “The Flesh of the Spirit: A Review of The New Gods,” Colorado Review, January 2023

“Tension between the natural and the unnatural world tightens the collection, giving to the voice a compelling urgency that—as much as we want to linger within each moment, site, instance, universe—makes us turn the page to see what the next will bring.”
— Toti O’Brien, “What We Leave Behind: A Review of William O’Daly’s The New Gods,” Heavy Feather Review, January 11, 2023

“We need to sit on the rim / of the well of darkness /,” Pablo Neruda wrote, “and fish for fallen light / with patience.” In the poems of The New Gods, William O’Daly sits with us beside this well, each stunning metaphor shaping world after world of possibility. Here the dark currents of bitterness and grief, arrogance and war give way to the sweetness of a daughter’s questions or the shiver of a Sierra lake. From the charred rubble of Iraq to the snowy Andes of Neruda’s exile, O’Daly’s deep music guides us beyond the “machinery of destruction” into a new Parnassus where “every word blossoms erotic,” where heron, waterfall, moonlit pools, and sea all burn with the “inexhaustible light” of beauty and desire, and we “recognize this burning as our own.”
— Terry Ehret, author of Lost Body and Night Sky Journey

In this, his first full-length volume, eminent translator and writer William O’Daly proves himself to be a poet of considerable gifts. Beautifully lyrical and poignantly evocative, O’Daly’s poems explore and illuminate the deepest questions of our existence, doing so with great sensitivity and astute insight. Whether he turns his attention to the birth of his daughter, the horrors of war, a marriage ceremony, the illusive quality of time, or the quiet splendor of the natural world, O’Daly’s poems shine with wisdom’s incandescent light.
— Maurya Simon, author of The Wilderness: New and Selected Poems

“…to possess nothing /and owe everything to the tides…” O’Daly’s vision, in the presence of immensity, restores proportion, cooling the fevered mind, like “the hissing of stones /as the rain begins to fall” on the burning cities. His images draw from the nature of things a pure lyricism, a language instinct with music, motion, beauty, clarity and reverence. In the darkest hour, he is brother to the bird he conjures: “the nighthawk gives all he has / opening his eyes among the stars.”
— Eleanor Wilner, author of Before Our Eyes: New and Selected Poems 1975-2017

William O’Daly, in his many superb books of translation — nine from Pablo Neruda alone — has often stamped our literary visas to cross into foreign realms. Now, in The New Gods, O’Daly’s first full-length book of his own poetry, he travels home in poems of friendship, family, and natural wonder, set on the shores and in the high country of his native California.
— John Balaban, author of Empires and Spring Essence: The Poetry of Ho Xuan Huong

There is an elemental, Heraclitean quality to these poems by William O’Daly. They offer a cosmic awareness inextricable from what’s immediate: “How will the earth smell / after the last drops of rain?” They invite us to create, like the heron, our “own being” in the dance of our lives and attend to everything about the physical reality we find ourselves a part of as a way of apprehending the numinous. “Listen” they say, “We are / the question the stone and the river ask.” The New Gods is a deft and true collection of wild and sacred intimacy.
— Derek Sheffield, author of Not for Luck and poetry editor of

William O’Daly is a realist’s mystic; a poet I trust with my imagination because I know he knows the stakes of living in this fraught stage of the Anthropocene. The poems in The New Gods are skillfully grounded in the elemental—river and rock, the body’s own fire—but they are not to be contained. Read this book when you need to swing out into the expanse of time and space for a larger view, as O’Daly looks with clear and loving eyes at the “world we create and ruin every day.”
— Elaina Ellis, author of Write About a Birdcage, literary editor


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