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 taught at Princeton University; Columbia University; the University of California, Los Angeles; Johns Hopkins University; and Yale University, where he served for many years as editor of The Yale Review. He lived in Stonington, Connecticut until his death on April 10, 2018.
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)