James McMichael Analysis

Other literary forms

James McMichael’s first book, The Style of the Short Poem (1967), was an analysis of poetry using Yvor Winters’s approach to writing. The book reflects the influence on McMichael of Winters, who was the poet’s teacher at Stanford University. McMichael favors controlled, low-key poetry that tells a story rather than assaults the senses of readers. A second book, Ulysses and Justice (1991), analyzed James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922), focusing on the author’s definition of justice and how his ideals permeate the work. In this work, McMichael provides some new insight into a work that has generated considerable comment.


James McMichael has received a number of awards and honors for his poetry. He received a Eunice Tietjens Memorial Prize, a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship (1977), a Whiting Writers’ Award in poetry (1995), a grant from the Eric Mathieu King Fund (1996), the Arthur Rense Poetry Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1999), and the Shelley Memorial Prize from the Poetry Society of America (2003). Capacity was a finalist for 2006 National Book Award in Poetry. In 2007, he received an Academy Fellowship from the Academy of American Poets.


Archambeau, Robert. Laureates and Heretics: Six Careers in American Poetry. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 2010. In a chapter called “Caging the Demon: James McMichael,” the author looks at the poet’s Stanford training and how the influences of that university’s poetry department were reflected in his poetry. Also contains chapters on Yvor Winters, Robert Pinsky, Robert Hass, John Matthias, and John Peck.

Clarvoe, Jennifer. “The Silences Themselves Are Telling: James McMichael’s Capacity.” Cincinnati Review 3, no. 1 (Summer, 2006). Clarvoe analyzes McMichael’s career and his short and long poems. She critiques his form and voice with special emphasis on his long poems.

Hass, Robert. Twentieth Century Pleasures: Prose on Poetry. 3d ed. New York: Ecco Press, 1997. Includes an in-depth analysis of McMichael’s two long poems and critique of his writing style that is generally recognized as the most incisive commentary on the poet’s early works.

Schmidt, Michael, ed. Five American Poets: Robert Hass, John Matthias, James McMichael, John Peck, Robert Pinsky. Rev. ed. Manchester, England: Carcanet, 2010. This work revisits the 1979 anthology of works by this group of poets who studied under Yvor Winters and looks at what they have done since.