Richard Wilbur calls McQuilkin’s poems “pungently exact about the properties of the real world”; and he adds that "The poems of Passage are painful, affectionate, true, and admirably realized. At 84 I glimpse myself in the son and father both." David Bottoms has written that “Rennie McQuilkin is a poet with an extraordinary eye... He looks at the hard questions of the world, never flinching, and translates them with a clarity that is rare in American poetry today.” Dick Allen agrees: “He has a voice unlike that of any other contemporary poet... McQuilkin speaks from us and with us in a language so devoid of all rhetoric it is pure American: the natural man is lifted out of himself almost beyond his knowing. My response is one of pure thanks.”
Rennie McQuilkin’s poetry has appeared in publications such as The Atlantic, The Southern Review, The Yale Review, The Hudson Review, Poetry, and The American Scholar. He is the author of seven books, two of which have won awardsthe Swallow’s Tale Poetry Prize for We All Fall Down and the Texas Review Chapbook Prize for An Astonishment and an Hissing. McQuilkin has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts as well as the Connecticut Commission on the Arts, and for many years he directed the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival, which he co-founded at Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington, CT. In 2003 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Connecticut Center for the Book.
Read some sample poems from the book.
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He no longer cares
adjust the spray.
Clearly not my father,
I lather him, scrub his back,
With a grinding of bone
Every spring she began again
of my mother. Not for friends to see.
to the cellar, the pitch
What did I know? After he willed me
It’s time I reconsidered
Knotty, brass-collared, its bone handle
her father’s cane went everywhere
hid contraband, she shook it, joyfully
The less she trusted her pins
With it she strode the fairway
and when she took to bed for
“I have my father’s cane,
kissed its ivory beak, got a grip on it below
the twisting of yesterday’s news
the opening of windows—a jolt
In the dark before dawn, I love
morning news, my dear. If only
and snapped my fingers, like striking
for my mother