Makuck, Peter 1940-

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MAKUCK, Peter 1940-


Born 1940, in New London, CT. Education: St. Francis College (now the University of New England), B.A., 1963; Niagara University, M.A.; Kent State University, Ph.D.


Home—Emerald Isle, NC. Office—East Carolina University, East 5th St., Bate 2132A, Greenville, NC 27858-4353. Agent—c/o University of Missouri Press, 2910 LeMone Blvd., Columbia, MO 65201. E-mail—[email protected].


Writer, poet, and educator. Tar River Poetry, editor, 1976—; East Carolina University, Greenville, NC, faculty, 1976—, Distinguished Professor of Arts and Sciences, 1996—. Also served as Fulbright Exchange Professor to France and as a visiting writer at Brigham Young University.


Zoe Kincaid Brockman Award, best volume of poems by a North Carolinian, 1987, for Pilgrims; Charity Randall Citation, International Poetry Forum, 1993, for efforts to promote the public performance of poetry.


Breaking and Entering: Stories, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 1981.

Where We Live: Poems, foreword by Louis Simpson, BOA Editions (Brockport, NY), 1982.

Pilgrims, Ampersand Press (Port Townsend, WA), 1987.

The Sunken Lightship: Poems, BOA Editions (Brockport, NY), 1990.

(Editor, with Eugene England) An Open World: Essays on Leslie Norris, Camden House (Columbia, SC), 1994.

Shorelines (chapbook), GreenTower Press (Maryville, MO), 1995.

Against Distance: Poems, BOA Editions (Rochester, NY), 1997.

Costly Habits: Stories, University of Missouri Press (Columbia, MO), 2002.

Contributor to numerous periodicals, including Poetry, Yale Review, Nation, and Southern Review.


Poet and short-story writer Peter Makuck often writes of people enduring loss and revelations. His short stories have received "honorable mention" in several volumes of Best American Short Stories, and his poetry is especially noted for his strong evocation of sense of place in a richly textured world. A Distinguished Professor of Arts and Sciences at East Carolina University, Makuck is also the author of numerous essays and reviews. His essay on guns, "The Trouble with Smitty," was listed in Best Essays of 2000. In 2002, Makuck's second book of short stories, Costly Habits, was published.

Born and raised in New London, Connecticut, Makuck majored in French and English at St. Francis College. He taught French for two years and then returned to school, ultimately earning a Ph.D. in American literature and writing his dissertation on William Faulkner. He joined the faculty at East Carolina University in 1976, where he has remained throughout his academic career. That same year, he became editor of Tar River Poetry. His areas of academic interest include contemporary poetry, modern American literature, French literature, and film.

In his first collection of short stories, 1981's Breaking and Entering, Makuck covers a variety of themes, from the relationships between fathers and sons and the perplexities of adolescence to the frustrations of the uneducated and crumbling marriages. Grove Koger, writing in Library Journal, found Makuck's stories "sophomorically earnest." Dean Flower, however, noted in the Hudson Review, "Despite the grim unsentimentality of these fictions, their language transforms them. Makuck's is a talent worth watching." In the New England Review, contributor Bruce Allen thought that the author is "at his best … when examining a single, lonely character's consciousness."

In 1982, Makuck's first volume of poetry was published. Where We Live, according to Brendan Galvin in Prairie Schooner, represents a "growing body of poetry" that stems from America's "middle class." Writing about his Connecticut childhood and his life as an adult, Makuck includes many poems that pay homage to relatives, teachers, and friends. "Often the past and present impinge on each other in this collection," noted Galvin. As for the potential for "middle-class" poetry to be boring, Galvin said, "Makuck proves that to write outward from the center of home and family isn't necessarily to be reduced to Dagwood mowing the front lawn." Although Vernon Young, writing in the Hudson Review, called some of the work "reticent, idiosyncratic, mottled, and sometimes, problematical," he went on to add, "Yet Makuck is not to be trifled with. That his development as a poet will be formidable is suggested in such unequivocal poems as 'Steel Valley,' 'My Son Draws an Apple Tree,' 'Letter Poem,' and 'To the Snow-Walker.'"

In his next volume of poetry, The Sunken Lightship, Makuck often writes about the death of friends and loved ones, including his mother and father. Many of the poems take place on water as the poet is fishing, sailing, or standing on the shore. The poems are essentially collected into three sections. The first section is about children and their parents and adult memories of the past. In the second grouping, Makuck writes about places and scenes in France and the United States. The poems in the final section all take place on water and involve the images of a journey, often of the passages in life and the ultimate journey of death. Writing in the Hudson Review, David Mason found many of the poems "too oblique or imprecise" and without "real conviction and feeling." He also found "in the clearest of them a human intelligence searching for direction (navigational metaphors abound)." In the Sewanee Review, Brendan Galvin noted, "Places, beings human and animal, sensual details, muscular rhythms inhabit and vivify his poems, and on the strength of an abiding concreteness the reader's belief in Makuck's vision rides."

In the collection of poems Against Distance, Makuck once again establishes his skills as a poet who can capture the essence of nature as he establishes a strong sense of place, whether it be the ocean or the Arizona desert. "Peter Makuck's poems do not suffer from any shortage of externals; they are full of the smells of sand and salt, of woodsmoke and the stinkbait of lobster traps," wrote R. S. Gwynn in the Hudson Review. Writing in Chelsea, P. H. Liotta called the volume a "striking book," and also noted that it "is both a physical depiction of geography and an accounting for how such landscape is realized only by the presence—and sometime the intrusion—of the human identity."

In 2002, Makuck collected many of the short stories he had written over the past two decades for the volume Costly Habits. Among his themes are relationships in crisis, the triviality of pop culture, and discovering humanity in unexpected places. In the story "Existential Dirty Jokes," for example, the protagonist attempts to interpret a world of college basketball and overdoses with the philosophies of Kierkegaard and Hegel. In another story, a man attending a funeral finds more sympathy from an airline ticket agent than from friends and relatives. A contributor to Kirkus Reviews called the stories "varied" and "often surprising." Writing for the North Carolina Writer's Network, Linda Hobson commented, "These are cunning stories, which will stay in your mind's eye long after you finish reading." The reviewer also noted, "The stories herein are wise, musing, altogether grown up."



Carolina Quarterly, winter, 1998, Robert West, review of Against Distance, pp. 115-21.

Chelsea, Volume 21, number 63, 1997, P. H. Liotta, review of Against Distance, pp. 135-138.

Georgia Review, summer, 1996, Ted Kooser, "Avoiding the Avid Copiers: Six Recent Chapbooks," includes review of Shorelines, pp. 404-414.

Hudson Review, summer, 1982, Dean Flower, review of Breaking and Entering, pp. 279-280; summer, 1983, Vernon Young, review of Where We Live, pp. 402-403; autumn, 1991, David Mason review of The Sunken Lightship, p. 516; spring, 1998, R. S. Gwynn, review of Against Distance, pp. 257-264.

Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 1981, review of Breaking and Entering, p. 1174; September 15, 2002, review of Costly Habits, p. 1339.

Library Journal, December 1, 1981, Grove Koger, review of Breaking and Entering, p. 2331.

Literary Review, winter, 1993, Tom Hansen, review of The Sunken Lightship, p. 252.

New England Review, spring, 1982, Bruce Allen, review of Breaking and Entering, pp. 478-488.

Prairie Schooner, fall, 1984, Brendan Galvin, review of Where We Live, pp. 110-112.

Sewanee Review, October, 1991, Brendan Galvin, review of The Sunken Lightship, pp. R104-R107; spring, 1994, Michael Mott, review of An Open World: Essays on Leslie Norris, pp. R53-R56.


East Carolina University, (April 3, 2003), "Peter Makuck."

North Carolina Writer's Network, (May 7, 2003), Linda Hobson, review of Costly Habits. *