Thomas McGrath’s Birthday Special:
Never enough poet-heroes.
⁓The Voice before the Void
“Thomas McGrath (poet)”
Thomas Matthew McGrath (born 1916 November 20, near Sheldon, North Dakota; died 1990 September 20, Minneapolis, Minnesota) was a celebrated American poet.
McGrath grew up on a farm in Ransom County, North Dakota. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. During World War II, he served with the U.S. Army Air Forces in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. McGrath was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to the University of Oxford, and also pursued postgraduate studies at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. He taught at Colby College in Maine and at Los Angeles State College in California, from which he was dismissed in connection with his appearance, as an unfriendly witness, before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1953. Later he taught at North Dakota State University in Fargo, and Moorhead State University in Minnesota. McGrath was a member of the Communist Party USA and a Guggenheim Fellow. He was married three times and had one son.
McGrath wrote mainly about his own life and social concerns. His best-known work is probably Letter to an Imaginary Friend, published in sections between 1957 and 1985, and as a single poem by Copper Canyon Press in 1997.
“Best of all, Letter to an Imaginary Friend licks its fingers and burps at the table. Polite it is not–and the better for it when McGrath turns from his populist vitriol to what may be his most abiding talent: that of bestowing praise–grace, even–on the common, the unruly, the inconsolable, those McGrath chose to side and sing with and for whom ‘the world is too much but not enough with us.'”
–Josie Rawson, Rain Taxi, Vol. 2 No. 4, Winter 1997/1998