“Deep is the darkness and long is the night,
solid the water and liquid the light. How strange
that they arrive at all, nights on planet earth.”
From a poem titled Nights on Planet Earth, the words above are a small specimen of the poet that is Campbell McGrath. His work—long poems of Whitmanian scope and far-flung fervors for America—has earned him a MacArthur “Genius Grant,” Guggenheim Fellowship, and many other prizes and honors. Born in Chicago to Irish Catholic parents, he got his schooling at the University of Chicago and Columbia.
McGrath has written some ten books of poetry, and has lived in Miami for over twenty years, a crown jewel in the city’s literary scene. Ecco Press is releasing his next volume, XX: Poems for the Twentieth Century. The bard wrote one poem for every year of the 20th century, resulting in a chorus of channeled voices, from Bob Dylan to Walter Benjamin, Frida Kahlo to Pablo Picasso, on subjects as wide-ranging as Hollywood and Hiroshima. The poems are the result of years of cultural curiosity and research, and together the volume likely serves not only as a collection of beautiful verse, but also a compendium of 20th century history.
(Published in the SIXTY hotel blog, March 10, 2016)