CAMPBELL MCGRATH. I just discovered (via the excellent a poet heretofore unknown to me, Campbell McGrath. He has written a book of poems about Florida which I may have to buy; samples can be read here and here. He has interesting things to say in an interview; here’s a bit on his poetic development, which is the kind I wish more poets had:

CM: Yes, I think the formal shift was essential. I had been writing sonnets and my diction was more ornate. Pound had been a big influence. All that went out the window. The first 7-11 poems were influenced by William Carlos Williams. A stripping down of syntax and diction. And the form has continued to change, book by book, but it’s certainly never gone back to that older formality.
VW: Do you think there is. more validity to your poetic form because you went through that formal background?
CM: I don’t think you gain ‘validity’ that way, but you do gain a lot of craft. I feel like I can access certain formal virtues and turn on them when I want, or turn them around. I love the range of poetry, from the formal to the free, the new, the invented. From tight lines to prose. ‘The Bob Hope Poem’ was an attempt to explore that formal range, from prose to haiku, and everything in between.

Anybody who can make a fine poem solely out of seashell names (“crenulate nut clams and pointed cingulas,/ dogwinkles, diplodons, donax, dosinia,// emarginate emarginula…”) is worth reading as far as I’m concerned.


  1. fine stuff indeed! i especially love the repetition of sounds at the beginning of “Hemingway”:
    I’m the original two-hearted brawler.
    I gnaw the scrawny heads from prawns

    Any who recognizes the dignity of the blue heron is okay by me.

  2. how about the dignity of sea cucumbers?
    i grew up on key biscayne (also, florida) and have just published RISE, YE SEA SLUGS — 1,000 holothurian haiku . . . includes the orig. japanese and an average of 2 transl per poem (480 pgs for only $25)
    campbell mcgrath has some of the finest landscape description i have heard, but occidental poetry is still occidental poetry and — how do you think i might finish? rdg

  3. Pardon a note to my last, I wrongly assumed the personal info would be included with the posting. Please peek at for info on Rise, Ye Sea Slugs! as it is not yet googleable. There are sample pages. rdg

  4. I see i did not pay careful enough attention to the focus of this site when i posted. Not so much poetry, but language itself, right? Let me just add, then, that Rise, Ye Sea Slugs! may interest you for being the first book to demonstrate (not just argue) the use of multiple translations as a method of translation between exotic tongues, in this case English and Japanese. Sufficient glossing is given to allow the reader with no knowledge of Japanese to judge for him or herself. 19 weis, 100 frogs, 100 poets, le ton beau de marot etc are fun, but this is for real. It may change the way we translate. (i know it is ridiculous to write about one’s own work like this, but i published on Halloween and now it is almost the New Year and no reviews have appeared — what else is one to do?)
    The site is up and running and you will find a wee sample of what i am talking about.

  5. Robin: Although the focus of this site is language, I interpret that quite broadly and include poetry within its ambit (as the most concentrated form of language), so don’t worry about straying off topic. Also, the paraverse site is linked from your name, as you’ll see if you mouse over it.

  6. THe caller says

    Umm does anybody know of a Campbell Mcgrath poem that started
    “I was at 7/11”
    and ended
    “I was aware of social injustice, but in the vaguest possible way”
    If some one does, can you please maybe show the rest of the poem.
    Thank You
    Insert Witty quote here

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