Thomas McGrath 1916–
American poet, novelist, scriptwriter, young adult writer, and editor.
Although McGrath has been cited by such noted critics as Kenneth Rexroth and Donald Hall for being a distinctive and important voice in contemporary American poetry, his readership has been surprisingly small. The themes McGrath introduced in To Walk a Crooked Mile (1948), his first volume of poetry, are mentioned by critics as factors which have contributed to his relative obscurity. In this book, McGrath expresses anger toward the dehumanizing effect of American life, which he views as corrupted by such elements as technology, capitalism, and social class struggle. McGrath has described his political stance as "unaffiliated far Left."
McGrath often writes about his native North Dakota, but, more than that, he strives to capture the expansiveness of the American West in his poems. Some of his techniques for broadening the scope of his poetry include kaleidoscopic surrealism and cataloging. Although McGrath's poetry is often unstructured, critics have praised its ability to lead the reader back to the main theme or image.
Letter to an Imaginary Friend, Parts I & II (1962, 1970) is considered McGrath's most important work to date. A long autobiographical poetic narrative, it is a tapestry of personal experience, history, myth, and concrete physical description held together by a powerful, masculine voice. McGrath's recent collection, Waiting for the Angel (1979), displays much the same technique as Letter, but possesses a more solemn tone and a darker vision of the loss motif which is present in all of McGrath's poetry.
(See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 9-12, rev. ed. and Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vol. 6.)