Best Local Writer (2008)

Campbell McGrath

Miami's moment as a crime town, a noir town, a Scarface town, has passed. The Magic City has been replaced, in the literary canon, by locales that understand real violence: Fallujah, Afghanistan, the Sudan. Now we have multiple farmers' markets, decorative lamp posts, and pineapple festivals, and it's time for the city's consciousness to return to its rivers, to imagine Biscayne Bay without dead bodies surfacing at its edges, to try to reconcile the impact glass of high-rise windows with the impact of an afternoon asleep by the pool, the skin of a palm frond with the aluminum casing of a can of Schaefer beer. In other words, poetry has arrived, along with Campbell McGrath's seventh book, appropriately titled Seven Notebooks. Winner of the Kingsley Tufts prize, a MacArthur Genius Grant, and a Guggenheim Fellowship, McGrath is in the on-deck circle of poetry's highest echelon and seems intent on bringing the Magic City with him. With his keen eye for the shards of modern culture and a deep concern for the landscapes of the mind, McGrath has sung to, for, and from Miami many times. Whether explaining the Holocaust Memorial to his son or deconstructing sunlight as it enters his beer at Scotty's Landing, he's a poet of his time and place. Perhaps now, with his most formally impressive collection to date on the nation's bookshelves, that place is ready for him.


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