Campbell McGrath was born in Chicago in 1962, grew up in Washington, D.C., and has lived mostly in Chicago, Manhattan, and Miami, where he cur-rently resides with his wife and two sons. He was educated at the University of Chicago and Columbia University, from which he received his M.F.A. in 1988. He has taught at the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, and, since 1993, in the M.F.A program at Florida International University, where he is the Philip and Patricia Frost Professor of Creative Writing.
His first book, Capitalism, was a Wesleyan New Poets selection in 1990, and his subsequent books have been published by The Ecco Press. Following the publication of his third book, Spring Comes to Chicago, in 1996, McGrath received a number of honors, including the Kingsley Tufts Prize, and fellowships from the Guggenheim and MacArthur Foundations. Three more Ecco Press books have followed, as well as Heart of Anthracite: Collected Prose Poems, from Stride books in England.
His writing often focuses on American history, culture, and landscape because it’s what he knows and cares about most deeply, and because the explanations America owes the world might best be delivered by its poets. He often casts his poems in prose, and does not believe the perceived distinction between “prose” and “verse” is particularly meaningful or consequential. He admires the flexibility of omnivorousness of poetry as a medium for exploring and documenting the world. His heroes include Woody Guthrie, Vincent Van Gogh, and Ludwig Wittgenstein, and his future projects include a three-volume poetic investigation of Elvis Presley’s afterlife in purgatory.
BOOKS OF POETRY
Capitalism (Hanover, New Hampshire: Wesleyan University Press, 1990); American Noise (Hopewell, New Jersey: The Ecco Press, 1993); Spring Comes to Chicago (Hopewell, New Jersey: The Ecco Press, 1996); Road Atlas (Hopewell, New Jersey: The Ecco Press, 1999); Florida Poems (New York: Ecco Press/HarperCollins, 2002); Pax Atomica (New York: Ecco Press/HarperCollins, 2004); Heart of Anthracite: Prose Poems, 1980-2005 (Exeter, England: Stride Press, 2005)
╬Winner of the PIP Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative Poetry in English
The Glann Road
Artichoke and thistle: two purples.
Artichoke, thistle, salsify, clover, lavender, loosestrife.
Blue is another country, another realm or province,
blue is a fiefdom unknown to the bees who gang the beds of heather, heads bowed and beaded in [fealty to the Land of Nod.
clouds in their pilgrimage across that starry
demesne, another lifetime, future and past
erased like the rib-blue slate that
floors the lake in sheets as terse as syllables.
Hydrangea in the meadow the color of mist, of the piebald mule seeking shelter
islanded in an ocean of black wasps drunk on clover flower.
Joy of the nectar-sated, the smoke-holy,
Kevin in the sanctity of his cold-water tribulation
long before whomever it was
left these ruins of monastic simplicity
marooned amid the heath and ancient yews,
nave, bier, cist,
oracle or temple, scatter of fieldstone, crusheen like a transmitter
pulsing devotion, whatever energy that is, radiant as faith,
quasar or saturnic ring, the stolid earth, its moon,
rocks in a high and lonely place,
six round cobbles from the waters of Lough Corrib,
stones in their orphanhood, their antigravitational hegira,
their lithic ascension
toward fields of hagiographic light.
teal against alum, topaz on shale.
To defend the ancient tower from the piracy of the other, floribunda the color of sea-salt, fist of [the artichoke cloaked in thistle.
To relent. To surrender to the hydrangea. To give oneself over to the blossoming
tendrils of the sweat pea vine,
their vellum prolixity
trellised against a hayrick of rain and a rainbow gone
underground. And the green snake,
Xavier, cerulean offerings to Elatha or Cernunnos,
yesterday's cuttings to propitiate a blue goddess:
Reprinted from Electronic Poetry Review, no. 7 (June 2005). Copyright 2005 by Campbell McGrath.