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Thomas McGrath (poet)

Thomas McGrath (poet)

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Thomas Matthew McGrath, (born November 20, 1916 near Sheldon, North Dakota
Sheldon, North Dakota
As of the census of 2000, there were 135 people, 62 households, and 30 families residing in the city. The population density was 680.8 people per square mile . There were 71 housing units at an average density of 358.0 per square mile...

 - died September 20, 1990, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minneapolis , nicknamed "City of Lakes" and the "Mill City," is the county seat of Hennepin County, the largest city in the U.S. state of Minnesota, and the 48th largest in the United States...

) was a celebrated American poet
Poet
A poet is a person who writes poetry. A poet's work can be literal, meaning that his work is derived from a specific event, or metaphorical, meaning that his work can take on many meanings and forms. Poets have existed since antiquity, in nearly all languages, and have produced works that vary...

.

McGrath grew up on a farm in Ransom County, North Dakota
Ransom County, North Dakota
-Demographics:As of the census of 2000, there were 5,890 people, 2,350 households, and 1,560 families residing in the county. The population density was 7 people per square mile . There were 2,604 housing units at an average density of 3 per square mile...

. He earned a B.A. from the University of North Dakota
University of North Dakota
The University of North Dakota is a public university in Grand Forks, North Dakota, USA. Established by the Dakota Territorial Assembly in 1883, six years before the establishment of the state of North Dakota, UND is the oldest and largest university in the state and enrolls over 14,000 students. ...

 at Grand Forks
He served in the Aleutian Islands with the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II.
He was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship
Rhodes Scholarship
The Rhodes Scholarship, named after Cecil Rhodes, is an international postgraduate award for study at the University of Oxford. It was the first large-scale programme of international scholarships, and is widely considered the "world's most prestigious scholarship" by many public sources such as...

, at Oxford. McGrath also pursued postgraduate studies at Louisiana State University
Louisiana State University
Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College, most often referred to as Louisiana State University, or LSU, is a public coeducational university located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The University was founded in 1853 in what is now known as Pineville, Louisiana, under the name...

 in Baton Rouge. He taught at Colby College
Colby College
Colby College is a private liberal arts college located on Mayflower Hill in Waterville, Maine. Founded in 1813, it is the 12th-oldest independent liberal arts college in the United States...

 in Maine and at Los Angeles State College
California State University, Los Angeles
California State University, Los Angeles is a public comprehensive university, part of the California State University system...

, from which he was dismissed in connection with his appearance, as an unfriendly witness, before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1953. Later he taught at North Dakota State University
North Dakota State University
North Dakota State University of Agriculture and Applied Sciences, more commonly known as North Dakota State University , is a public university in Fargo, North Dakota. NDSU has about 14,000 students and it is the largest university in North Dakota based on full time students and land size...

, and Minnesota State University, Moorhead. He was married three times and had one son.

McGrath wrote mainly about his own life and social
Social
The term social refers to a characteristic of living organisms...

 concerns. His best-known work is probably Letter to an Imaginary Friend published in sections between 1957 and 1985 and as a single poem in 1997 by Copper Canyon Press
Copper Canyon Press
Copper Canyon Press is an independent, non-profit small press, specializing in the publication of poetry and located in the picturesque town of Port Townsend, Washington. Since 1972, the Press has published poetry exclusively and has established an international reputation for its commitment to...

.

Works

  • First Manifesto, A. Swallow (Baton Rouge, LA), 1940.
  • "The Dialectics of Love", Alan Swallow, editor, Three Young Poets: Thomas McGrath, William Peterson, James Franklin Lewis, Press of James A. Decker (Prairie City, IL), 1942.
  • To Walk a Crooked Mile, Swallow Press (New York City), 1947.
  • Longshot O'Leary's Garland of Practical Poesie, International Publishers (New York City), 1949.
  • Witness to the Times!, privately printed, 1954.
  • Figures from a Double World, Alan Swallow (Denver, CO), 1955.
  • The gates of ivory, the gates of horn, Mainstream Publishers, 1957 (2nd edition Another Chicago Press, 1987 ISBN 9780961464424)
  • Clouds, Melmont Publishers, 1959
  • The Beautiful Things, Vanguard Press
    Vanguard Press
    The Vanguard Press was a United States publishing house established with a $100,000 grant from the left wing American Fund for Public Service, better known as the Garland Fund. Throughout the 1920s, Vanguard Press issued an array of books on radical topics, including studies of the Soviet Union,...

    , 1960
  • Letter to an Imaginary Friend, Part I, Alan Swallow, 1962
    • published with Part II, Swallow Press (Chicago, IL), 1970
    • Parts III and IV, Copper Canyon Press
      Copper Canyon Press
      Copper Canyon Press is an independent, non-profit small press, specializing in the publication of poetry and located in the picturesque town of Port Townsend, Washington. Since 1972, the Press has published poetry exclusively and has established an international reputation for its commitment to...

      , 1985
    • compilation of all four parts with selected new material, Copper Canyon Press
      Copper Canyon Press
      Copper Canyon Press is an independent, non-profit small press, specializing in the publication of poetry and located in the picturesque town of Port Townsend, Washington. Since 1972, the Press has published poetry exclusively and has established an international reputation for its commitment to...

       (Port Townsend, WA), 1997. ISBN 9781556590771
  • New and Selected Poems, Alan Swallow, 1964.
  • The Movie at the End of the World: Collected Poems, Swallow Press, 1972.
  • Poems for Little People, [Gloucester], c. 1973.
  • Voyages to the Inland Sea #3, Center for Contemporary Poetry, 1973.
  • Voices from beyond the Wall, Territorial Press (Moorhead, MN), 1974.
  • A Sound of One Hand: Poems, Minnesota Writers Publishing House (St. Peter, MN), 1975.
  • Open Songs: Sixty Short Poems, Uzzano (Mount Carroll, IL), 1977. ISBN 9780930600006
  • Letters to Tomasito, graphics by Randall W. Scholes, Holy Cow! Press (St. Paul, MN), 1977. ISBN 9780930100018
  • Trinc: Praises II; A Poem, Copper Canyon Press, 1979.
  • Waiting for the Angel, Uzzano (Menomonie, WI), 1979. ISBN 9780930600075
  • Passages toward the Dark, Copper Canyon Press, 1982. ISBN 9780914742630
  • Echoes inside the Labyrinth, Thunder's Mouth Press, 1983. ISBN 9780938410133
  • Longshot O'Leary Counsels Direct Action: Poems, West End Press, 1983. ISBN 9780931122286
  • Selected Poems, 1938-1988, Copper Canyon Press, 1988. ISBN 9781556590122
  • This coffin has no handles: a novel, Thunder's Mouth Press, 1988. ISBN 9780938410638
  • Death Song, edited by Sam Hamill, Copper Canyon Press, 1991. ISBN 9781556590351

Anthologies

  • Ian M. Parsons, editor, Poetry for Pleasure, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1960.
  • Donald Hall
    Donald Hall
    Donald Hall is an American poet. He was appointed Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 2006.-Personal life:...

    , editor, New Poets of England and America, Meridian, 1962.
  • Walter Lowenfels
    Walter Lowenfels
    Walter Lowenfels was an American poet, journalist, and member of the Communist Party USA. He also edited the communist newspaper the Daily Worker.-Early career:...

    , editor, Poets of Today: A New American Anthology, International Publishers, 1964.
  • Lucien Stryk
    Lucien Stryk
    Lucien Stryk is an American Zen poet, translator, and former English professor at Northern Illinois University .Stryk was born in Poland, moved to Chicago aged four, and served on the Northern Illinois University faculty from 1958 until his retirement in 1991...

    , editor, Heartland: Poets of the Midwest, Northern Illinois University Press (DeKalb, IL), 1967.
  • W. Lowenfels
    Walter Lowenfels
    Walter Lowenfels was an American poet, journalist, and member of the Communist Party USA. He also edited the communist newspaper the Daily Worker.-Early career:...

    , editor, Where Is Vietnam?, Doubleday, 1967.
  • Morris Sweetkind, editor, Getting into Poetry, Rostan Holbrook Press, 1972.
  • David Kherdian, editor, Traveling America, Macmillan (New York City), 1977.
  • The Norton Introduction to Literature, 2nd edition, Norton (New York City), 1977.
  • David Ray, editor, From A to Z: 200 Contemporary Poets, Swallow Press, 1981. ISBN 9780804003704

Reviews


Best of all, Letter to an Imaginary Friend licks its fingers and burps at the table. Polite it is not--and the better for it when McGrath turns from his populist vitriol to what may be his most abiding talent: that of bestowing praise--grace, even--on the common, the unruly, the inconsolable, those McGrath chose to side and sing with and for whom "the world is too much but not enough with us.

Sources

  • The Revolutionary Poet in the United States: the Poetry of Thomas McGrath, Stern, Frederick C. (Editor), U of Missouri, Columbia, 1988 ISBN 0-8262-0682-4 (reprint University of Illinois Press, 1992, ISBN 9780252018527)

External links