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Thomas McGrath

Johnny and I are rereading McGrath's Letter to an Imaginary Friend. In our 25 or more years of reading long poems out loud to each other, we've never repeated till now. We are blown away just as much this time. McGrath (1916–90) is from North Dakota and is as good as Willa Cather at describing the prairie. Here are some lines that give a sense of his work, which is both mysterious & political, and you know how hard that is to pull off.

To shake like a dog in the cold
Is not so bad when everyone else must do it —
That's civilization prime, a bearable thing.
But to dodge Cadillacs when your knees are cut off at your elbows...
No. Put the books out, all flat on the table,
Like the breakup of the Yukon — let the bloodhounds bay.
Little Eliza will cross on the ice floe, her tail one snap
Ahead of their judgment.

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