Florida Poems

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9780060008963: Florida Poems

Part fable, part diatribe, part elegy, part love song, this extraordinary fifth collection by Campbell McGrath makes poetry of the most unlikely of materials -- his native state of Florida. While at times poignantly personal, McGrath also returns for the first time to the characteristically comic and visionary public voice displayed in the renowned "Bob Hope Poem." Moving effortlessly from prehistory to the space age, he catalogs Florida's natural wonders and historical figureheads, from Ponce de Leon to Walt Disney, from William Bartram to Chuck E. Cheese -- "the bewhiskered Mephistopheles of ring toss,/the diabolical vampire of our transcendent ideals." in the brilliant sociohistorical monologue of "The Florida Poem," McGrath employs the Fountain of Youth as a mythic symbol for both the tragic consequences of a society built on greed and cultural erasure and the diverse human potential "which must become the fountain/for any communal future we might dare imagine."

Place-bound and tightly focused, Campbell McGrath's message is nonetheless universal, as his penetrating vision of Florida is also a vision of America -- its history and hopes, failings and fulfillments, and the eternal force that transcends it all.

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About the Author:

Campbell McGrath is the author of four full-length collections: Capitalism, American Noise, Spring Comes to Chicago, and Road Atlas. His recent awards include the Kingsley Tufts Prize, the Cohen Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Witter-Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress in association with the Poet Laureate. McGrath teaches creative writing at Florida International University and lives in Miami Beach with his wife and two sons.

From Publishers Weekly:

Exuberant description meets political protest and amateur natural history in this fifth volume from MacArthur grant winner McGrath (Road Atlas), whose new poems speak to his adopted state's ills and illusions. The very readable opening sequence adapts Aristophanes to tell the story of a city luxurious, based on tourism, deeply divided that flourishes, then founders, in the clouds: as McGrath's poem unfolds, his cloud metropolis comes to resemble first the United States, then Florida, complete with rampant hedonism, alligators and struggling immigrants. Awe and resentment alternate throughout short poems in the middle of the volume, which view specific locales: a long-lined lyric evokes "jasmine, egret in moonlight, trade wind through the jacaranda," while a comical villanelle explores "the annual State Fair, a very weird place." More discursive poems tag along with an early explorer or visit McGrath's wrath on Orlando, "city with the character of a turnpike restroom." Last, best and longest, "The Florida Poem" takes readers on a vatic tour of the whole state, through "technocrats and mousketeer apparatchiks" to "indigenous culture ripped from the walls/ by the wind of European arrival." Though some passages sound clunky or rushed, McGrath's gregarious phraseologies and expandable forms (one based on the alphabet, another on journals) suit his odd blend of comedy and jeremiad. Readers who take special pleasure in Billy Collins or in Florida itself will find McGrath's book something to remember. (Feb.)Forecast: Topical and colloquial enough to garner review attention, this book should also generate profiles in glossies and seems an NPR natural,, given McGrath's solid mid-career stage. The volume's theme seems guaranteed to snag home-state media: look for regional interest, and perhaps even (given the dis of Disney) some controversy.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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