Sandra McPherson Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Sandra McPherson has published a number of essays about contemporary poetry, among them “You Can Say That Again” (1972), “The Working Line” (1973), “Saying No: A Brief Compendium and Sometimes a Workbook with Blank Spaces” (1973), “Secrets: Beginning to Write Them Out” (1986), and “The Two-Tone Line, Blues Ideology, and the Scrap Quilt” (1991).


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Since the mid-1960’s, Sandra McPherson has been one of the United States’ most important poets. Well received by critics and readers for poems noted for their empathy and unusual syntactical arrangements, McPherson has earned numerous high-profile literary grants and awards, including two Ingram Merrill grants (1972 and 1984), three National Endowment for the Arts grants, the Helen Bullis Prize from Poetry Northwest, the Bess Hokin Prize from Poetry, the Emily Dickinson Prize from the Poetry Society of America, the Blumenthal-Leviton-Blonder Award from Poetry, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Her first book, Elegies for the Hot Season, was a selection of the National Council on the Arts university press program. Her second book, Radiation, received the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Prize. The Year of Our Birth was nominated for a National Book Award, and Streamers was nominated for both the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for poetry and the Bay Area Book Reviewers Association Award.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Boruch, Marianne. “No Perimeters.” Review of Streamers. American Poetry Review 18 (March/April, 1989): 41-43. Boruch applauds McPherson’s sense of discovery and surprise. Discusses “Fringecups” and “The Feather,” analyzing McPherson’s deliberate manner of coming to realizations. Finishes with a declaration that, like those of William Carlos Williams, McPherson’s poems are rare because they do not compromise.

Brown-Davidson, Terri. “The Belabored Scene, the Subtlest Detail: How Craft Affects Heat in the Poetry of Sharon Olds and Sandra McPherson.” Hollins Critic 29, no. 1 (1992). Discusses the relationship between passion and technique in the two poets’ work.

Jackson, Richard. Review of Patron Happiness. Prairie Schooner 59 (Winter, 1985): 109-116. Jackson’s review is a positive one. He sees Patron Happiness as recording a romantic journey toward personal identity.

McPherson, Sandra. “Dialogue with Sandra McPherson.” Interview by Cecilia Hagen. Northwest Review 20, nos. 2/3 (1982): 29-55. McPherson discusses her intuitive closeness to nature, her writing styles, contemporary poets, world and national history, politics, feminism, liberalism, her travels, and her first three books of poems.

_______. “An Interview with Sandra McPherson.” Interview by Karla Hammond. American Poetry Review 10, no. 5 (1981). Gives information about McPherson’s earlier work.

Matson, Suzanne. “Flowery Codes: Sandra McPherson’s Poetics of Gender and Naturalism.” Denver Quarterly 28, no. 2 (Fall, 1993). Applies contemporary gender theory to McPherson’s work.

VanStavern, Jan. “A Junction of Amends: Sandra McPherson’s Poetics of Adoption.” In Imagining Adoption: Essays on Literature and Culture, edited by Marianne Novy. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2001. VanStavern explores the meanings of adoption in the poetry of McPherson.

Young, David. “Sandra McPherson.” In The Longman Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry, edited by Stuart Friebert and David Young. 2d ed. New York: Longman, 1989. One of the best, most insightful pieces written about McPherson. Young commends the intricacies of her poems, as well as her imaginative and specific manner of observation. Discusses “Gnawing the Breast,” “Games,” “The Museum of the Second Creation,” “Resigning from a Job in the Defense Industry,” and “A Coconut for Katerina.”