James L. McMichael

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James L. McMichael (born 1939) is an American poet and educator.


The Pasadena, California native received his Ph.D. from Stanford University. In 1970, following the breakup of his first marriage, he married his second wife, Phylinda Wallace, a translator. He has three children, Robert, Geoffrey and Owen.[1]

McMichael is a professor of English and director of the Master of Fine Arts Poetry Writing Program at the University of California, Irvine.[2]

"McMichael writes densely; his language is compacted, coiled, sprung (in Hopkins's sense) and highly allusive. It is never simple or straightforward," writes Liz Rozenberg in a Boston Globe review.[3]

Eric McHenry, in a brief review of Capacity in The New York Times, wrote: "Since 1980, his [McMichael's] sole contributions to the genre (excluding a "new and selected") have been three book-length poems, each strikingly different from the others and from anything else on the market. In Capacity, he has exchanged the long lines and explicit autobiography of the previous two for dispassion, elision and lines as short as a syllable."[4]


His first new poetry collection in a decade, Capacity, was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Award for Poetry.[2]

He has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, a 1995 Whiting Award, the 1999 Arthur Rense Prize, the Shelley Memorial Award,[2] and the Academy of American Poets' Fellowship.



  • Against the Falling Evil (Chicago: Swallow Press, 1971), ISBN 0-8040-0552-4
  • The Lovers Familiar (Boston: David R. Godine, 1978), ISBN 0-87923-175-0
  • Four Good Things (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1980), ISBN 0-395-29913-6, "a sprawling autobiographical meditation on life, death, and real-estate, set in [...] Southern California"[1]
  • Each in a Place Apart (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), ISBN 0-226-56106-2
  • The World at Large: New and Selected Poems, 1971-1996, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), ISBN 0-226-56104-6
  • Capacity (book) (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006), ISBN 0-374-11890-6 seven long poems including “The Begotten”.[5]
  • If You Can Tell: Poems (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016) ISBN 978-0-374-17518-4


  • The Style of the Short Poem (Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth, 1967)
  • Just What the Country Needs, Another Poetry Anthology (Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth, 1971), ISBN 0-534-00137-8, ed. with Dennis Saleh
  • Ulysses and Justice (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1991), ISBN 0-691-06547-0, a study of James Joyce


  1. ^ a b "James McMichael". Poetry Foundation. 2006. Archived from the original on March 13, 2011. Retrieved October 18, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c "2006 National Book Award Finalist, Poetry". The National Book Foundation. Retrieved October 18, 2012.
  3. ^ Rosenberg, Liz (December 3, 2006). "In the year's most honored poetry, language reinvented". The Boston Globe. Retrieved October 18, 2012.
  4. ^ McHenry, Eric (April 23, 2006). "Poetry Chronicle". The New York Times. Retrieved October 18, 2012.
  5. ^ 'Capacity' by James McMichael Coldfront Jun 9, 2006 - The Irish potato famine is something all but ignored in modern verse. In his sixth book, Capacity, James McMichael uses the poem “The Begotten” to remind us of its ugliness."

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