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September 1, 2007From the Academy Audio Archive

About this poet

On July 19, 1939, James McMichael was born in Pasadena, California and received his Ph.D. at Stanford University. He is the author of Capacity (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006), a finalist for the 2006 National Book Award in Poetry; The World at Large: New and Selected Poems (1996); Each in a Place Apart (1994); The Lover's Familiar (1978); and Four Good Things (1980).

About his book-length poem, Four Good Things, Robert Pinsky wrote: "One of the great American poems. Beautiful and profound, its subject is the modern conundrum of the human ability to plan, invent and construct, and the stifling, destructive consequences."

McMichael was the 2007 recipient of the Academy of American Poets Fellowship. His other honors include a Eunice Tietjens Memorial Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Foundation Writer's Award, the Arthur O. Rense Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Shelley Memorial Prize from the Poetry Society of America.

The poet C.K. Williams has said: "James McMichael has for many years been one of our most innovative poets, with a broad thematic range, and a passionate commitment to the truths of life and art. His poems are at once as capacious as novels, formally inventive, and emotionally profound."

He is professor of English and comparative literature at the University of California at Irvine.

The Believed-In (audio only)

James McMichael, 1939


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James McMichael

James McMichael

James McMichael was born in Pasadena, California and received his Ph.D. at

by this poet


            That as all parts of it
agree in their low resistence to flow,

so should it be agreed to call it water.
To say of water that if floods both
forward and back through places
difficult to place demands that the ensouled

themselves make plates for their parts of speech,