Poet of the Month: Robert McDowell
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Robert McDowell, born in California in 1953, is the author of two collections of poetry, Quiet
Money (Henry Holt, 1987), and The Diviners, a book-length poem with an
introduction by Dana Gioia (Peterloo Poets, England, 1995), and three limited editions: The
Pact (Aralia Press, 1996), History, Hardware, & Romance (Indiana State
University and New Harmony Art Gallery, 1984), and At the House of the Tin Man
(Chowder Press, 1983)
While attending the University of California at Santa Cruz (1971-1974), McDowell
studied with the poet, playwright, actor and editor of Kayak Press, George Hitchcock.
After taking his M.F.A. at Columbia University (1976), McDowell returned to the West where
he lived for a year in the Mojave Desert outside Palmdale, California. It was there that
McDowell's poems made significant breakthroughs in subject matter and style.
For half a dozen years McDowell taught at Indiana State University Evansville, and in
1980 launched The Reaper magazine. This polemical magazine was a leader in a
movement to restore storytelling, narrative techniques, and form to American poetry.
McDowell left teaching in 1984 and with his wife, the artist Lysa McDowell, founded
Story Line Press in 1985. McDowell's poetry, criticism, and fiction have been published
widely here and abroad in magazines such as The Hudson Review, Poetry, The
New Criterion, The Kenyon Review, London Magazine, and Zzyzyva,
among others. His poetry is discussed in Ian Hamilton's Oxford Companion to Twentieth
Century Poetry and appears in Best American Poetry, For a Living: the Poetry
of Work, Conversant Essays, and Under 35: the New Generation of American
Poets. His other published books include How I Came to Know Fish by Ota Pavel,
stories translated from the Czech with Jindriska Badal (Story Line Press, 1989, New
Directions, 1990); the revised Sound and Form in Modern Poetry with Harvey Gross
(University of Michigan Press, 1996); and The Reaper Essays (Story Line Press,
1995). He is also the editor of the anthology of essays, Poetry After Modernism
(Story Line Press, 1988; 2nd revised edition, 1998).
McDowell now lives with his family on a small farm in Oregon's Willamette Valley, where
he is executive director of Story Line Press, raises horses, and co-manages and plays
(lifetime batting average: .321) for the champion Brownsville Brooklyn Dodgers in the
Eugene Senior Men's Baseball League.