Best Bard (2000)

Campbell McGrath

There is word of a poetry renaissance in America (well, at least sales of poetry books are up). One of the progenitors is right here in our Magic City, née the Great Marsh. A Chicago native who teaches creative writing at Florida International University, McGrath told New Times in 1997 his aspiration was to write in "a big expansive kind of lyrical prosy poetic voice talking about America." He continues to achieve that whimsical goal in poems wrought from objects, observations, and experiences scattered from Las Vegas to Wisconsin to Miami. In "Biscayne Boulevard," from a collection published last year titled Road Atlas, he paints a gritty, evocative word picture that is at once local and universal. "Crossing the bay: pelicans and buzzards against a Japanese/screen of rifted clouds, squalls, and riffs in grey, white, azure/Gulls like asterisks, anhinga like bullets.... At 123rd St.: survival/of the fittest franchise/Boston Chicken, Pollo Tropical/Kenny Rogers Roasters/KFC/Which must perish so that another may live?/Oceans of notions/ INS/The Pussycat Theater.... Police helicopter, sweet damselfly, can you track my happiness?/Radar gun, will you enumerate my sorrows?/Bullet, do you sting?" In Balserito, a prose poem, he captures a mysterious aura seemingly emanating from three rafts washed up on a beach: "Ragged planks and Styrofoam and chicken wire, filthy and abandoned but curiously empowered, endowed with a violent, residual energy, like shotgun casings in a field of corn stubble or the ruptured jelly of turtle eggs among mangroves, chrysalides discarded as the cost of the journey, shells of arrival, shells of departure." McGrath is the real McCoy.


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