Cambell McGrath is a notable modern American poet. He is the author of nine full-length collections of poetry, including his most recent, Seven Notebooks (Ecco Press, 2008), Shannon: A Poem of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (Ecco Press, 2009), and In the Kingdom of the Sea Monkeys (Ecco Press, forthcoming, 2012).
McGrath was born in Chicago, Illinois, and grew up in Washington, D.C., where he attended Sidwell Friends School; among his classmates was the poet Elizabeth Alexander. He received his B.A. from the University of Chicago in 1984 and his MFA from Columbia University's creative writing program in 1988, where he was classmates with Rick Moody. He currently lives in Miami Beach, Florida, and teaches creative writing at Florida International University, where his students have included Richard Blanco, Susan Briante, Jay Snodgrass and Emma Trelles. He is married to Elizabeth Lichtenstein, whom he met while he was an undergraduate; they have two sons.
In the early 1980s, while a student at the University of Chicago, he was a member of the punk band Men From The Manly Planet.
McGrath has been recognized by some of the most prestigious American poetry awards, including the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award (for The Bob Hope Poem in Spring Comes to Chicago, his third book of poems), a Pushcart Prize, the Academy of American Poets Prize, a Ploughshares Cohen Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Witter Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress, and a MacArthur Foundation "Genius Award." In 2011 he was named a Fellow of United States Artists.
While primarily known as a poet, McGrath has also written a play, "The Autobiography of Edvard Munch" (produced by Concrete Gothic Theater, Chicago, 1983); a libretto for Orlando Garcia's experimental video opera "Transcending Time" (premiered at the New Music Biennalle, Zagreb, Croatia, 2009); collaborated with the video artist John Stuart on the video/poetry piece "14 Views of Miami" (premiered at The Wolfsonian, Miami, 2008); and translated the Aristophanes play The Wasps for the Penn Greek Drama Series.
I'm the original two-hearted brawler.
I gnaw the scrawny heads from prawns,
pummel those mute, translucent crustaceans,
wingless hummingbirds, salt-water spawned.
Canny has always been an Irish word
to my ear, so too its cousin crafty,
suggesting not only an appreciation of close-work,
fine-making, handwrought artistry,
Gravel paths on hillsides amid moon-drawn vineyards,
click of pearls upon a polished nightstand
soft as rainwater, self-minded stars, oboe music
distant as the grinding of icebergs against the hull
On the map it is precise and rectilinear as a chessboard, though driving past you would hardly notice it, this boundary line or ragged margin, a shallow swale that cups a simple trickle of water, less rill than rivulet, more gully than dell