About this poet

J. D. McClatchy was born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, on August 12, 1945. He was educated at Georgetown University and Yale University, from which he received his PhD in 1974.

He is the author of eight books of poetry, including Plundered Hearts: New and Selected Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 2014), Mercury Dressing (Alfred A. Knopf, 2009), Division of Spoils (Arc Publications, 2003), and Hazmat (Alfred A. Knopf, 2002), which was nominated for the 2003 Pulitzer Prize.

He has also published three collections of essays: American Writers at Home (Library of America/The Vendome Press, 2004), Twenty Questions (Columbia University Press, 1998), and White Paper (Columbia University Press, 1989); has edited over twenty books, including W. S. Merwin: Collected Poems (Library of America, 2013), Thornton Wilder: The Eighth Day, Theophilus North, and Autobiographical Writings (Library of America, 2009), James Merrill’s Selected Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 2008), and Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Selected Poems (Library of America, 2003); and has edited the “Voice of the Poet” audiobook series for Random House.

A prominent figure in the world of opera, McClatchy has written sixteen opera libretti for such composers as William Schuman, Bruce Saylor, Ned Rorem, Lorin Maazel, Elliot Goldenthal, Tobias Picker, and Michael Dellaira, performed in opera houses around the world.

About McClatchy's work, the poet Anthony Hecht said, "There are very few poets writing today who, poem by poem, move me from admiration to admiration, and always with renewed and novel delight. There is no poet writing whose intelligence, dexterity, wit or depth of thoughtfulness or feeling is greater or more telling than J. D. McClatchy's."

His honors include the 2000 Governor’s Arts Medal from the state of Connecticut and the Arts and Letters Award in literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, as well as fellowships from the John S. Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1998, McClatchy was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and was elected to membership the following year. He served as the Academy’s president from 2009 to 2011. He received the 1991 fellowship from the Academy of American Poets, and served as an Academy Chancellor from 1996 until 2003. McClatchy has taught at Princeton University; Columbia University; the University of California, Los Angeles; Johns Hopkins University, and others. He is currently a professor of English at Yale University, where he also serves as editor of The Yale Review. He lives in Stonington, Connecticut.


Bibliography

Poetry

Plundered Hearts: New and Selected Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 2014)
Mercury Dressing (Alfred A. Knopf, 2009)
Division of Spoils (Arc Publications, 2003)
Hazmat (Alfred A. Knopf, 2002)
Ten Commandments (Alfred A. Knopf, 1998)
The Rest of the Way (Alfred A. Knopf, 1992)
Stars Principal (Macmillan Publishing Co., 1986)
Scenes from Another Life (Braziller, 1981)


Multimedia

 

 

Late Night Ode

J. D. McClatchy, 1945
It's over, love.  Look at me pushing fifty now,
   Hair like grave-grass growing in both ears,
The piles and boggy prostate, the crooked penis,
   The sour taste of each day's first lie,

And that recurrent dream of years ago pulling
   A swaying bead-chain of moonlight,
Of slipping between the cool sheets of dark
   Along a body like my own, but blameless.

What good's my cut-glass conversation now, 
   Now I'm so effortlessly vulgar and sad?
You get from life what you can shake from it?
   For me, it's g and t's all day and CNN.  

Try the blond boychick lawyer, entry level
   At eighty grand, who pouts about the overtime, 
Keeps Evian and a beeper in his locker at the gym, 
   And hash in tinfoil under the office fern.  

There's your hound from heaven, with buccaneer 
   Curls and perfumed war-paint on his nipples.  
His answering machine always has room for one more 
   Slurred, embarrassed call from you-know-who.  

Some nights I've laughed so hard the tears 
   Won't stop.  Look at me now.  Why now?  
I long ago gave up pretending to believe 
   Anyone's memory will give as good as it gets.  

So why these stubborn tears?  And why do I dream 
   Almost every night of holding you again, 
Or at least of diving after you, my long-gone, 
   Through the bruised unbalanced waves?
J. D. McClatchy

J. D. McClatchy

J. D. McClatchy was born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, in 1945.

by this poet

poem
To steal a glance and, anxious, see
Him slipping into transparency—
The feathered helmet already in place,
Its shadow fallen across his face
(His hooded sex its counterpart)—
Unsteadies the routines of the heart.
If I reach out and touch his wing,
What harm, what help might he then bring?

But suddenly he
poem
Even the sky here in Connecticut has it,
That wry look of accomplished conspiracy,
The look of those who've gotten away

With a petty but regular white collar crime.
When I pick up my shirts at the laundry,
A black woman, putting down her Daily News,

Wonders why and how much longer our luck
Will hold.  "