Back J.D. McClatchy
J. D. McCLATCHY - Librettist

J.D. McClatchy is the author of five collections of poems: Scenes From Another Life (Braziller, 1981), Stars Principal (Macmillan, 1986), The Rest of the Way (Knopf, 1990), Ten Commandments (Knopf, 1998), and Hazmat (Knopf, 2002, a Pulitzer Prize finalist). In addition, his selected poems, Division of Spoils, appeared in England in 2003. His literary essays are collected in White Paper (Columbia, 1989), which was given the Melville Cane Award by the Poetry Society of America, and in Twenty Questions (Columbia, 1998). He has also edited several other books, including Edna St. Vincent Millay's Selected Poems (2003), James Merrill's Collected Prose (2004), Collected Novels and Plays (2002) and his Collected Poems (2001), Horace: The Odes (2002), Bright Pages: Yale Writers 1701-2001 (2001), Longfellow's Poems and Other Writings (2000), The Vintage Book of Contemporary World Poetry (Vintage, 1996), Woman in White: Poems by Emily Dickinson (Folio Society, 1991), The Vintage Books of Contemporary American Poetry (Vintage, 1990; revised edition, 2003), Poets on Painters (California, 1988), Recitative: Prose by James Merrill (North Point, 1986), and Anne Sexton: The Poet and Her Critics (Indiana, 1978). He also edits the acclaimed series The Voice of the Poet for Random House AudioBooks; to date he has written booklets to accompany readings by W. H. Auden, James Merrill, Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, Anne Sexton, Elizabeth Bishop, Five American Women (Gertrude Stein, H.D., Edna St. Vincent Millay, Louise Bogan, and Muriel Rukeyser), Langston Hughes, Adrienne Rich, Wallace Stevens, Randall Jarrell, John Ashbery, Robert Frost, Richard Wilbur, and American Wits (Dorothy Parker, Ogden Nash, and Phyllis McGinley), Frank O'Hara, and Allen Ginsberg. In addition, he has published fiction and translations. His work appears regularly in The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, The Paris Review, The New Republic, and many other magazines.

Mr. McClatchy has had a busy academic life as well. For many years he taught at Princeton, Yale, Columbia, UCLA, Johns Hopkins, and other universities, and is now Professor of English at Yale. Since 1991, he has served as editor of The Yale Review. In addition, he has an increasingly prominent role in the opera house as a librettist; he has written four libretti that have been produced‹for William Schuman's A Question of Taste (commissioned and premiered by the Glimmerglass Opera Theater in Cooperstown, N.Y. in 1989, the next year produced at Lincoln Center by the Juilliard Opera Center, and recorded on Delos DE1030), for Francis Thorne's Mario and the Magician (given its world premiere in 1994 by the Brooklyn College Opera Theater), for Bruce Saylor's Orpheus Descending (based on the Tennessee Williams play, commissioned by the Chicago Lyric Opera, premiered there in 1994, and subsequently broadcast on NPR's "World of Opera"), and Tobias Picker's Emmeline (commissioned by the Santa Fe Opera, premiered there in 1996, subsequently telecast on PBS's "Great Performances," revived at the New York City Opera in 1998, and recorded on the Albany label, Troy 264-65). He has recently completed (with Thomas Meehan) a libretto of 1984 (music by Lorin Maazel, scheduled to premiere at Covent Garden in 2005), and is at work on other new projects with Lowell Liebermann (Miss Lonelyhearts, commissioned for the 100th anniversary celebrations of the Juilliard School of Music to premiere April, 2006), with Elliot Goldenthal (Grendel, with co-librettist Julie Taymor, commissioned by the Los Angeles Opera), and with Ned Rorem (Our Town, scheduled to premiere in 2006 at ten different opera companies around the US).

In 1996 he was named a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, and served until 2003 when he was named to the Academy's Board of Directors. In 1998 he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the following year was elected to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Among his other honors, Mr. McClatchy has been awarded the Fellowship of the Academy of American Poets and the Governor's Arts Award in Connecticut, and grants from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. When he was given an Award in Literature by the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in 1991, the citation read: "J. D. McClatchy is a poet who has emerged into highly distinctive achievement in his third collection, The Rest of the Way. Formally a master, with enormous technical skills, McClatchy writes with an authentic blend of cognitive force and a savage emotional intensity, brilliantly restrained by his care for firm rhetorical control. His increasingly complex sense of our historical overdeterminations is complemented by his concern for adjusting the balance between his own poems and tradition. It may be that no more eloquent poet will emerge in his American generation."

He lives in Stonington, Connecticut.

Praise for Ten Commandments:

"Ten Commandments is ... a reputation-making wonder that isn't just the year's best book of poems but may also turn out to be the year's best book. Poised, architectural and built to last in the effortlessly disciplined tradition of W. H. Auden and Robert Lowell, the poems also have a sharp confessional kick worthy of Anne Sexton at her most bruising."
- Time

"The intimacy of these poems, taken together with their classical control and ironical self-knowledge, confirms McClatchy as one of his generation's brightest stars."
- Publishers Weekly

"Just when we're despairing about the state of contemporary culture ... along comes a poet such as J. D. McClatchy to reassure us that the highest, most refining principles are still at play and that they have been applied, first and foremost, to his own poems, which are as new as they are old, as original as they are traditional."
- Los Angeles Times Book Review

"With that unforced simplicity and energy which can be the most admirable feature of today's American poetic style, McClatchy ... meditates on implications with an alert naturalness that reminds one of the way Montaigne or Donne meditated on metaphysics, or the Progress of the Soul."
- New York Review of Books

Praise for Hazmat:

"McClatchy's unflinching, bold, sure-voiced style and his ferocious alertness give these poems intimidating power, as if Auden and Baudelaire were partnered here. It's hard to imagine another poet capable of being wry and tender, unpredictable and measured, original and traditional‹within the body of a single poem."
- Los Angeles Times Book Review

"J. D. McClatchy's fifth volume of poetry takes us on an emotion-packed, hyper-visceral tour of the beatings of the human heart. In poems whose topics range from the physical to the personal to the mythic, what we encounter on this elevated road-trip from cradle to grave (and beyond) with this learned poet as guide is hard-won knowledge: artful articulation of truths; corporeal, ethereal, life-changing, dangerous. This book is a cautionary sign posted with a graceful and grace-filled sigh: herein this poet charts the hazardous locales of life as it is lived."
- Lambda Book Report

"In his fifth collection of verse, Hazmat, J. D. McClatchy probes and dissects the messiness of mortality. Streaked with sweat, bloody, riddled with ugliness and yet formally exquisite, these poems describe the hazardous materials of our bodies and minds with rare precision."
- Time Out

"In the end, these poems come to represent our own lives, our own longings, our own 'flag of surrender' to the spiritual. A brilliant testament to McClatchy's place among American poets; highly recommended."
- Library Journal