McGrath, Campbell 1962-
McGRATH, Campbell 1962-
ADDRESSES: Home—Miami Beach, FL. Office—Florida International University Creative Writing Program, 3000 N.E. 151st St., North Miami, FL 33181.
CAREER: Professor and poet. University of Chicago, assistant professor; Northwestern University, assistant professor; Florida International University, assistant professor and director of poetry program, 1993—.
AWARDS, HONORS: Pushcart Prize; Academy of American Poets Prizes, 1984, 1985, and 1987; Illinois Arts Council Literary Achievement Grant, 1991; Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award from Claremont Graduate School, 1997; Cohen Prize from Emerson College, 1997; Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching from Florida International University, 1997; Guggenheim fellowship, 1998; Witter Bynner fellowship from Library of Congress, 1998-99; John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation grant, 1999.
Capitalism, Wesleyan University Press (Hanover, NH), 1990.
American Noise, Ecco Press (Hopewell, NJ), 1993.
Spring Comes to Chicago, Ecco Press (Hopewell, NJ), 1996.
Road Atlas: Prose & Other Poems, Ecco Press (Hopewell, NJ), 1999.
(Co-translator) Aristophanes, The Wasps, Penn Greek Drama Series (Philadelphia, PA), 2001.
Florida Poems, Ecco Press (New York, NY), 2002.
Contributor of poems to periodicals, including Ploughshares, New Yorker, Harper's, New York Times, Antaeus, Paris Review, TriQuarterly, and Kenyon Review.
Sharing the Gifts, Library of Congress, 1999.
The Poet and the Poem from the Library of Congress, Library of Congress, 2001.
SIDELIGHTS: The prolific and energetic poet Campbell McGrath has received numerous prestigious awards for work that seeks to capture the cultural and natural landscapes of modern America. McGrath, winner of a MacArthur "genius grant," has established a reputation as a contemporary successor, both thematically and stylistically, to Walt Whitman and Allen Ginsberg. Adopting these poets' approach of cataloging many disparate items and using extremely long poetic lines, McGrath looks at the vast complexity of America and seeks to penetrate its paradoxes and attractions. His poetry collections include Capitalism, Spring Comes to Chicago, Road Atlas: Prose & Other Poems, and Florida Poems. To quote Tim Gavin in Library Journal, McGrath's poetic works "encompass the breadth and range of America."
Though his first collection, 1990's Capitalism, received little mainstream notice, it drew the attention of critics, who subsequently bestowed a Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award on the author for showing outstanding promise early in his career. McGrath's second book, 1993's American Noise, enjoyed more widespread readership. Critics recognized the strong influence of Whitman in the poems in American Noise, while Mary Kinzie, writing in Tribune Books, observed that McGrath could also be compared favorably to T. S. Eliot, Ranier Maria Rilke, James Schuyler, and Robert Pinsky. Kinzie admired McGrath's "gentle and tenaciously intelligent verses" and "fierce insights in language and cadences of casual transparency" but characterized the poet's many references to popular culture "both adolescent and essentially male." Washington Post Book World reviewer Eric Murphy Selinger found McGrath's work "witty [and] stimulated" and praised its search for America's soul, but noted that the poet sometimes slipped into clichéd images such as "Nighthawks of the twenty-four-hour donut shops" and "dance music from the Union Hall."
McGrath's third collection, 1996's Spring Comes to Chicago, continues his thematic quest for what Hungry Mind Review critic David Biespiel called, "the simultaneous fellowship and enmity in America between intuition and reason, humanism and vulgarity, pop and high art, virtue and corruption." The collection focuses on one central work, "The Bob Hope Poem," which comprises seventy of the volume's eighty-seven pages. Biespiel assessed the poem as "a scathing examination of both the commercialism and exportation of the American myth and the American myth of exportation and commercialism" and likened the work to William Carlos Williams's Paterson in its ambition to "expose America to itself." Biespiel praised McGrath's blending of the serious and comic in this poem, which is, he concluded, "both a self-portrait and a raillery of the American story." McGrath, Biespiel found, is "the most Swiftian poet of his generation" and a sensitive observer of late twentieth-century American angst.
McGrath's subsequent books, Road Atlas and Florida Poems, continue to address consumerism's ills through evocative prose poems based on the author's travels through North America, Latin America, and Florida. "All the places the poet sees seem to stand for the human spirit," observed a Publishers Weekly reviewer of Road Atlas. Another Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that, in Florida Poems, "McGrath's gregarious phraseologies and expandable forms . . . suit his odd blend of comedy and jeremiad."
The MacArthur fellowship and a Guggenheim fellowship have allowed McGrath to lighten his teaching duties in favor of more writing time. He told the University of Chicago Alumni Magazine: "I have books coming, books backed up in the creative pipeline."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Library Journal, June 15, 1999, Tim Gavin, review of Road Atlas: Prose & Other Poems, p. 81.
Nation, April 15, 2002, "Song of the Sunshine State," p. 30.
New York Times Book Review, April 28, 2002, Andy Brumer, review of Florida Poems, p. 21.
Publishers Weekly, January 3, 1994, p. 72; May 31, 1999, review of Road Atlas, p. 87; January 21, 2002, review of Florida Poems, p. 86.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), October 2, 1994, p. 8.
Washington Post Book World, May 22, 1994, p. 11.
Bookwire,http://bookwire.com/ (April 1, 1997).
Lafayette College,http://www.Lafayette.edu/ (April 4, 2002).
Ploughshares,http://www.pshares.org/issues/ (April 2, 2002), "Cohen Awards."
University of Chicago Magazine Web site,http://www.alumni.uchicago.edu/ (April 2, 2002), "Poet Campbell McGrath Has Plenty of Material and a Voice All His Own."*