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Poetry Friday: Phyllis McGinley

Happy Friday, everyone. Back in December, Ginia Belafante wrote about the poet Phyllis McGinley for the New York Times Book Review. In case you missed it, here is a link. The article is well worth your time; Bellafante presents McGinley, who also wrote children's books, as a kind of anti-Richard Yates, who put a torch to suburbia in his novel Revolutionary Road.

A devotee of convention in nearly every respect, she committed herself to form, which during the high moment of the confessional poets seemed anachronistic enough to count as new-fashioned. McGinley’s light verse sought to convey the ecstatic peace of suburban ritual, the delight in greeting a husband, in appointing a room, in going to the butcher.

Full versions of the poems are hard to find online. I can't even locate any at the Academy of American Poets or the Poetry Foundation, and The New Yorker keeps her work under lock and key in its archives. A few blogs have re-printed some poems since that Times article, apparently without copyright permission, though.

Luckily for local readers, my town's library here still has a copy of McGinley's Times Three: Selected Verse from Three Decades, Plus Seventy New Poems (Viking, 1960), which I read recently. The collection is a fascinating window on its times and New York City suburb setting. Look for it in the 821's.

The blog Adventures in Daily Living rounds up all the Poetry Friday posts today.


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Interesting. I just did a library search, too, and one of her children's titles is titled, "Sugar and Spice: The ABC of Being a Girl." :) And one of her titles was given a Caldecott Honor (ill. by Helen Stone).

I just requested one of her poetry anthologies (yes, I need one of those I Read What Bloggers Tell Me to Read tee shirts).

Jules, I wear that t-shirt, too. I think you'll find her work interesting, very much a window on an era. Some of it is quite likeable light verse. W.H. Auden wrote an intro for one of her collections!

Have you read Yates's Revolutionary Road? Not that I'm recommending it! Gads. I'm scared to see the movie; the novel was devastating.

There must be something McGinleyish, or at least suburban, about today because I picked her too, Susan! But then I do find her pretty likeable!

I have a friend who is a reference librarian in a public library. It has torn his heart apart to see the library clear its shelves of books that haven't been checked out recently, but which (he believes, and I do, too) need to remain available for readers who will want them someday. At his behest, I have been know to go to the library and check out whole stacks of poetry, just to ensure that they will remain on the shelf another day.

So everybody -- get thee to the library and check out some obscure books today. In the name of readers, amen.

Thanks for the nudge!

Becky, yes, suburbia must have been in the air on Friday. I liked some of McGinley's work, and was so happy the library had several of her books.

Mary Lee, I love it when I find books like that! Your efforts are well appreciated, I'm sure.

Karen, any time. Have you read McGinley's books? Tell me what you think when you do!

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