The Poetry of J.D. McClatchy
Comments by J. Zimmerman.
'Best' poetry by J.D. McClatchy:
J.D. McClatchy in the annual Best American Poetry.
Poetry books by J.D. McClatchy:
Ten Commandments (1998).
The Rest of the Way (1990).
Stars Principal (1986).
Scenes from Another Life (1981).
J.D. McClatchy was featured in
The Best American Poetry for:
- 1991 (guest editor Mark Strand): "An Essay on Friendship" (11 pp.), of which McClatchy comments that he:
"wanted to make my points as much by little fictions as by larger generalizations;
and my format is rather strict, to inhibit any drift toward merely loose talk."
- 1994 (guest editor A.R. Ammons): "Found Parable" (2 pp.), which ends
"There is nothing we can possibly not know."
McClatchy comments that:
"art is all will, however nature or the imagination may conjure its subjects.
... 'Found Parable' is actually part of a long sequence-in-progress that broods on the
- 1995 (guest editor Richard Howard): "My Mammogram" (4 pp.), a set of five sonnets,
which is also in
"The formal distractions of the sonnet form seemed the best way to prompt and control material
that could too easily turn sensational or sentimental;
the sequence of sonnets as well discourages a plodding or over-detailed narrative.
The tone of the poem was hardest to get right.
What I tried for was this: a nervous humor about the incongruities at the start
that gradually gives way to a darker, more serious meditation."
- 1998 (guest editor John Hollander): "Descartes's Dream" (2 pp.).
- 2001 (guest editor Robert Hass): "Tattoos" (10 pp.), a remarkable three-part poem,
which is also in
"Poems in their own way -- ornamenting the white page -- are tattoos:
Their ink at its most precise can draw blood and make a moment endure.
We admire tattoos, as we value poems, equally for their respect of convention
and their impulse toward innovation."
- 2003 (guest editor Yusef Komunyakaa): "Jihad" (2 pp.), a set of three sonnets,
which is also in
"I have a long-standing interest in Arab culture and history
... Each sonnet's italicized sestet is a pastiche of the Koran,
and might either have been spoken by the mullah mentioned in the last stanza,
or have been echoing in the mind of the fanatic in the last stanza.
... Poems are meant to complicate our sense of things,
not stroke them.
In this poem, I had wanted to look at things not from the victim's side or the dazed teenaged bomber's,
but ... from as remote a point of views as scripture's."
- 5th book of poems.
- Theme of the book: "how we live with the fact that we will die ... the melodrama
of the body being played out, as it must be, in the theatre of the spirit." (from the front inner
- Every line is capitalized. Many poems are formal, though each form is different.
Some poems are written in quatrains, or sextet, or septet.
Some are in rhyming couplets.
Lines are often short, of two or three stresses.
Poems use a lot of lists ("Glanum", "Tattoos", etc.), a common technique for lengthening a poem,
but one that often makes my eyes glaze.
Sometimes seems effortful in including 'feces' and body parts and grittiness in the poems;
this often seems like a posture;
Bukowski, Ginsberg, and others are more natural.
The poems are often end-rhymed; lots of slant rhyme.
But liberties that seem form-driven are taken in the diction
to insert ("It's yours, it's yours" in "Fado"),
repeat ("an ocean which ... " in "Tattoos"),
invert ("While stone to stone was joined" in "Glanum"),
or simply stop abruptly ("an ocean which ... " in "Tattoos").
Favorites of these poems in the "Motets" sequence
[motet is presumably from the Old French, diminutive of mot = word],
and include "The Bookcase" and "Rain Room".
- 2 section.
- 1st section has 11 poems in 41 pages (almost 4 per poem) on the body and its pains.
The last poem is the 3-part, 11-page "Tattoos".
- 2nd section has 4 poems in 35 pages (almost 9 per poem) on the body and its pains.
The 3rd poem ("Motets", which means little words)
is a sequence of 20 short (1- or 2-page) poems totaling 20 pages,
leaving 15 pages (averaging 5 per poem) for the others.
Various sections of "Motets" were first published independently.
- Acknowledges first publications in:
- The James White Review
- Literary Imagination
- The London Review of Books
- New England Review
- The New Republic
- The New Yorker
- The New York Times Book Review
- The Paris Review
- Southwest Review
- Times Literary Supplement (UK)
The Rest of the Way (1990)
Scenes from Another Life (1981)
Links and Books.
[Thanks for visiting.]