A poor boy promised me a textbook view
of the stars. No snaking city lights
from a crown of downtown buildings,
Medusa-like in their paralyzing beauty.
He drives the dark highway
and I hold him to his word, he turns
Sjohnna McCray was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on March 7, 1972. He studied at Ohio University and earned an MFA from the University of Virginia where he was a Hoyns Fellow. McCray also received an MA in English Education from Teachers College, Columbia University.
His poetry collection, Rapture, was selected by Tracy K. Smith as the winner of the 2015 Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets and will be published by Graywolf Press in 2016.
About Rapture, Smith writes, “These poems are so beautifully crafted, so courageous in their truth-telling, and so full of what I like to think of as lyrical wisdom—the visceral revelations that only music, gesture and image, working together, can impart—that not only did they stop me in my tracks as a judge, but they changed me as a person. Sjohnna McCray’s is an ecstatic and original voice, and he lends it to family, history, race and desire in ways that are healing and enlarging. Rapture announces a prodigious talent and a huge human heart.”
McCray’s poems have been published in numerous journals, including Chicago Quarterly Review, Shenandoah, and The Southern Review.
His honors include the AWP Intro Journal Award, Ohio University’s Emerson Poetry Prize, and a Pushcart Prize nomination. In addition to poetry, he has published essays on race, mental illness, and homosexuality in various journals.
McCray has taught in New York City, Phoenix, and Chicago. He currently lives in Savannah, Georgia, where he teaches in the English department at Savannah State University.