Alice James Books, 1994
Winner, 1994 Beatrice Hawley Award
Winner, 1993 Capricorn Poetry Award
Finalist, 1995 Lambda Literary Award
This award-winning collection of poems—which includes the much-anthologized "Nights of 1990," winner of the Denise and Mel Cohen Award in Poetry from Ploughshares—makes a deep and sustained exploration of grief and of the complex relationships that exist between the living and the dead.
"In one of her spirit-letters, Emily Dickinson writes, 'I a phantom, to you a phantom, rehearse the story.' Richard McCann's Ghost Letters are posted from our moment's most laden and poignant territory, the zone where mortality and desire intersect. These poems have as much courage as they do craft; the result is an indelible book which illuminates the way the living and the dead sustain an intimate conversation which death changes but cannot silence. This ferociously tender poet instructs us that to be fully alive is to be entirely haunted."
—Mark Doty, author of Atlantis and Heaven's Coast: An AIDS Memoir
"Ghost Letters reminds me of Rilke. To read these poems is to be frightened by exposure to our transparency and evanescence. It would be easy to say that these poems are about forbidden love, but the greater risk they take is the forbiddenness of feeling itself. In these reckless, beautifully written poems, the pilgrim instructs us, through example, that life and death are mutually contagious."
—Tony Hoagland, author of What Narcissism Means to Me
"In this forceful first collection of poems by Richard McCann, whose eerie title, Ghost Letters, establishes a communication between this realm and the netherworld, the dead are indeed restored to their physical bodies--never to haunt us, but rather to awaken us to the possibilities of reconciliation, healing, and desire in our own lives...Richard McCann has written a moving missive to all of us, one which relates its terrible news with quiet grace, great conviction, and, in the end, inextinguishable pleasure."
—Rafael Campo, from Ploughshares
"McCann is Walt Whitman distilled through Jean Valentine: emotionally extravagant; exquisitely gentle; both refined and raw in his introspections; wily and flirtatious in his craft; as precise as a diamond; and vaporous, evanescent..."
—Gail Wronsky, in The Antioch Review
Since its publication, Ghost Letters has been adapted into a cycle of four performance works that have been staged by Nicola Dahlinger of Emerging Properties (Berlin) in both London and Berlin. Individual poems from Ghost Letters have served have been used as lyrics by numerous composers, including the American composer Daron Hagen and Dutch composer Cord Meijering.
Things Shaped in Passing: More 'Poets for Life' Writing from the AIDS Pandemic.
Edited by Richard McCann and Michael Klein
Persea Books, 1997.
This important and passionate collection presents the work of forty-two American poets--including Henri Cole, Tory Dent, Tim Dlugos, Mark Doty, Marilyn Hacker, Richard Howard, Marie Howe, Timothy Liu, Paul Monette, Carl Phillips, Reginald Shepherd, Jean Valentine, and Belle Waring--whose vision and language bear the impress of the AIDS pandemic. With its generous selections of the poets' works, as well as their brief personal remarks on the relationship of their poetry to their experiences of AIDS, Things Shaped in Passing bears witness to the extremity of our moment.
"Even those who profess a dislike for poetry may be converted by [this] beautiful and moving collection..."
"This excellent new anthology suggests that some of America's best poets, from the deft Marilyn Hacker and Thom Gunn to the late James Merrill, have mastered the devastating subject by writing highly formal verse, in strict meter and rhyme, that disciplines grief."
—Time Out: New York
"Things Shaped in Passing offers varied, sophisticated voices shaping our experience of the end of our lives at the end of the millenium."
—Lambda Book Report