May 23, 1939 - January 17, 2013
Jack McCarthy is a working guy from the Boston area who’s been writing poetry since the mid-60s. He’d been averaging about a poem a year until 1992-93, when two things happened. First, his new wife, Carol, blackmailed him into attending a workshop with Galway Kinnell; then he brought his daughter Annie, for her birthday, to the open mike at the Cantab Lounge in Central Square, Cambridge, hoping she’d get excited about poetry. Jack was the one who got hooked.
Since then he’s brought out Grace Notes, two chapbooks (Actual Grace Notes and Too Old to Make Excuses (But Still Young Enough to Make Love)), a 60-minute cassette tape (Poems for Hannah), and a CD (Breaking Down Outside a Gas Station). A major book, Say Goodnight, Grace Notes, was released in 2003 by EM Press to rave reviews. His work has appeared in a number of anthologies, including The Spoken Word Revolution.
Jack was a member of the Boston team at the 1996 National Poetry Slam, and was an engaging minor character in the feature film “Slamnation,” which documented those proceedings, and he was a member of the Worcester team at the 2000 National Poetry Slam, where he finished as the 10th ranked individual. The Boston Phoenix has named him “Best Standup Poet,” the Boston Poetry Awards “Best Love Poet,” and the Cambridge Poetry Awards “Best Spoken Word” and “Best Humorous Poet .” The Boston Globe says, “In the poetry world, he’s a rock star.”
Among his influences he numbers Robert Frost, Dylan Thomas, and Garrison Keillor. He doesn’t think of himself as a “performance poet,” but as a “standup poetry guy,” a writer of poems that perform themselves.
Poet Stephen Dobyns has written, “Jack McCarthy is one of the wonders of contemporary poetry. He writes—and often performs—dazzling narratives full of wit and humor, sadness and hard thinking. He should be cloned.” Of Say Goodnight, Grace Notes, ALA Booklist says, “McCarthy brings his compelling experiences to his poetry with nimble humor, hard-won wisdom, and a raconteur’s knack for telling diabolically barbed stories…concrete, candid, personal, and utterly captivating…caustic, sexy and smart.”
Thomas Lux has written, “The only ambition he seems to have is to tell the truth as best he can in poems.” That is a very worthy ambition, but it’s not his only one. He also hopes to be remembered as an integral member of the movement to restore poetry to its rightful place in everyday American life. So that when Americans think of poetry, they don’t think of school and homework, but of laughter and tears; a shortcut to the heart.
“In the poetry world, he’s a rock star.”
“Jack McCarthy is one of the wonders of contemporary poetry…”
“You get lost in reading or listening to Jack McCarthy’s poems. Lost in characters, the story, the voice – so human, so alive. His poems are hard not to read.”
Thomas Lux, God Particles: Poems
“Jack McCarthy is the finest storyteller in our field…when one say Jack, everyone knows who that is. There’s only one Jack. Four letters. That’s legendary. That’s love.”
Mike McGee, two-time National Slam Champion
“Here are poems that find a home in your ear quietly and permanently, each one ‘an unexpected act of simple human decency.’”
Taylor Mali, four-time National Slam Champion
“He reminds me of a drunken man in a bar full of snobs, who for some inexplicable reason is always right.”
Sam Szabo, grade 7, Rupert A. Nock Middle School, Newburyport, MA
I WISH YOU LONG SPACES IN BETWEEN, AND MAY YOU CARRY INTO THEM ALL OF THAT SWEETNESS, AND ONLY ENOUGH SADNESS TO ATTEST THE RISK THAT'S BEING TAKEN BY EVERYONE WHO LOVES YOU.
There is no rage in me, not anymore The years have been too kind Allow the light the right to die.
We’re currently offering 50% off the prices listed below for “What I Saw”, “Almost a Remembrance” and “Say Goodnight, Grace Notes!” Carol McCarthy will also sign the books if you’d like. Email email@example.com for details.
1. “Drunks and other poems of recovery” (2013). In his last collection, Jack has given the world something special. This is his legacy to the people who saved his life. Jack’s post-mortem release is available on Amazon or from Powell’s.
2. “What I Saw” (2012). Asked what the theme of the work was, Jack said, “What I Saw” is something like a record he bought in the 50s called “Songs I Love to Sing.” This book can be purchased for $15 plus shipping by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. “Almost a Remembrance, the Selected Shorter Poems of Jack McCarthy” (2011). In these poems, Jack focuses his circuitous, penetrating attention on the joys and complications of human relationships. Marriage and parenthood in particular are explored unflinchingly…nothing escapes McCarthy, whose narratives seem to wander far afield, but circle to close exactly on target…Every reader will find something in these pages that speaks to him. This book can be purchased for $10 plus shipping by contacting email@example.com.
4. “Say Goodnight, Grace Notes”(2003). Jack writes with wry insight about his boyhood, Catholicism, the Red Sox, asteroids, his daughters, old cars, advertising, our time as the “Golden Age of the Opinion,” and his love for his wife. He casually but resoundingly extrapolates invaluable lessons in living from each memory, episode, observation, and meditation. This book can be purchased for $15 plus shipping by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. “Breaking Down Outside a Gas Station” (2002). This CD will soon be available for online download. It can also be purchased for $10 plus shipping by contacting email@example.com.
2. “By Gift Unearned”(2008). Includes Epithalamion, Drunks, Magnum Iter, and Odysseus Responds to Kalypso, among other favorites. This CD will soon be available for online download. It can also be purchased for $10 plus shipping by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for the gift of your listening. -Jack
Boston, MA & Seattle, WA
© 2013 Carol McCarthy. All Rights Reserved.