When you see a book titled Florida Poems, you might imagine titles and verses about bright sunshine and sand-swept beaches, with a picturesque Key West sunset thrown in. You know, kind of like the poetry version of those generic landscape paintings that hang in every Florida seaside motel? (With the exception of paintings by the Florida Highwaymen, but that’s another story for another time.)
Campbell McGrath’s Florida Poems have titles such as “Maizel at Shorty’s in Kendall,” “Hemingway Dines on Boiled Shrimp and Beer,” and “William Bartram Beset by Crocodiles or Alligators.” The book is divided into poems about flora & fauna, “Floridiana,” and a single poem entitled “The Florida Poem.” McGrath researches his work intensely; He once said he may have read every book about Florida’s natural history.
In Episode 3: Literary South Florida, McGrath spoke with host Dan Grech about life and work in South Florida. He also read the piece in which, McGrath says, “I found my voice as a poet.” Click on the player at the top of this post to listen.
McGrath is a professor at Florida International University. His most recent work is Shannon: A Poem of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, an epic 15-part poem about an explorer separated from the rest of his party. (-T.S)
Funding for this episode provided by a grant from The Florida Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.