Washington Writers' Publishing HouseWashington Writers' Publishing House

Elaine Magarrell

Elaine Magarrell was born in the Mississippi River town of Clinton, Iowa and lived in Iowa for forty-five years. She majored in English Literature at the University of Iowa and did graduate work at Drake. Ms. Magarrell taught English and Creative Writing in Iowa’s public schools, wrote free­lance features for The Des Moines Register, and was a re­searcher for the Washington Bureau of The New York Times during the Watergate hearings and Ford and Carter admini­strations. She has been a free-lance photographer, maid, cook, receptionist, library bus assistant, ready-to-wear sales­woman, analyst of the federal budget’s impact on women, lobbyist, English teacher for the foreign born, potter, back­packer, sailor and mother. She lives with her husband in Washington, D.C


In a world filled with poetry, where the last letters flood the earth with their messages, these poems of Elaine Magarrell make a space around themselves and attest to the profound triumph of simply being here, of surviving. The dangers in­clude eradication: “In the new place I will sing to Matisse / a song of squash blossoms. When he hears / he will laugh and cut me out,” tender, precise and terrifying. Or portions of the spirit or body set free: the eyes under their lids chasing a bird; “… a cry loose in the room.” Or the barriers which contain us breaking apart, atmospheres exchanged—sea in place of air. Or a fall into a sensory extremity, seeing so exquisitely as to blot out all else until the eye is required to become vestigial for the sake of the self.

The language used to say these matters is stark, original. In the reclamation, “after the fire,” there are myths of begin­nings: “Whatever was spared by the fire seemed holy. . . . Be­tween the last child and the woman she was becoming / there was a clearing—a place of flowers.” On Hogback Mountain yields a narrator who has found a language to say the dangers and who looks into them squarely. And enables us to do so as well.


Her unique way of seeing brings new horizons to us, juxta­posing view and memory singed with flame. She listens with an inner ear, sees with an inner eye and dares to share her special vision. We are the richer.
—Ann Dan

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