Richard McCann has been instrumental in making poetry that speaks to the AIDS crisis and gay relationships. His work has been included in In the Company of My Solitude: American Writing from the AIDS Pandemic and The Penguin Book of Gay Short Stories. His most recent collection of poems, Ghost Letters, received the Beatrice Hawley prize and the Capricorn Poetry Award.

McCann’s poems narrate a haunted world. The titles of his collections, Ghost Letters, Dream of the Traveler, and Nights of 1990, point to this poignant mixture of presence and absence, of imagination and fierce, unblinking reality. Poet Jean Valentine writes, “Richard McCann writes not about, but from, his losses. We listen to his ghosts and they are ours also.”

While the evocation of memory and death fills McCann’s poems with phantoms, both personal and cultural, they are undeniably focused on the body. Fiercely passionate and deeply elegiac, his poems are, as Mark Doty writes, “posted from the zone where mortality and desire intersect.”

McCann also has a deeply rooted sense of place. He was born in Maryland and has spent the majority of his life in the mid-Atlantic region, co-editing Landscape and Distance: Contemporary Poets from Virginia. Currently, he lives in Washington D.C., where he co-directs the Creative Writing Program at American University.


Poems by Richard McCann

Excerpt from Nights of 1990

Third Premonition: rue des Petits Hôtels

Ghost Letter




      Poetry Center Reading:  
    Spring 2002