Linda McCarriston

" "
Professor Emeritus, Poetry
Creative Writing & Literary Arts


Linda McCarriston is a Professor Emeritus in the Low-Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing.  

Linda McCarriston has received two literature fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as two from the Vermont State Council on the arts. A winner of the Grolier Prize and the Consuelo Ford Prize from Poetry, she was awarded the poetry fellowship at the Bunting Institute (now the Radcliffe Institute) at Harvard for 1992-1993, after which she was named Jenny McKean Moore Visiting Writer in Washington at the George Washington University. Her poems have appeared in The Atlantic, Poetry, Poetry Northwest, The Ohio Review, the Georgia Review, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner ( where she has work forthcoming), New England Review (which also solicited her oft-reprinted essay "The Grace of Form: Class Unconsciousness and an American Writer" for a special issue on Class and American Writers), ICE-FLOE: An International Journal of Poetry of the Far North, Calyx, Kalliope, Sojourner, Sojouners, TriQuarterly, Poetry Ireland, and many others. She has read at Berkeley, Poets' House in NYC, The Library of Congress, and countless other sites around the country, is a featured poet in Bill Moyers' latest PBS Poetry Series, The Language of Life (her tape, with Sandra McPherson: "The Field of Time"), and has been twice interviewed by Terry Gross for Public Radio's Fresh Air. In addition to poetry readings "on the circuit," she's read and spoken in prisons, public schools, family shelters, women's centers, and such gatherings as the Alaska Governor's Summit on the Neglect and Abuse of Children, as well as been invited to represent the United States and the English Language at the 2004 Festival de las Lenguas, in Mexico City. One of fourteen poets from the Americas, she was honored for her expression of solidarity and compassion for Native American women in the poem "Indian Girls,"which caused great controversy in Alaska. Other poems, including "Le Coursier de Jeanne D'Arc" and "God the Synecdoche in His Holy Land," have also generated political controversy. McCarriston has been invited to contribute to panels and speaking series on subjects including women's history, American education, censorship and self-censorship, and her poems and prose are anthologized across a wide range of subject areas.

Teaching Responsibilities

I teach writers, not writing. My philosophy for this work draws upon both educational and literary movements over the last sixty years or so, since I first was a student (and a writer). I've seen the pendulum swing to its furthest reaches in both directions at least a couple of times. From this history, I take the best of many traditions and approaches, applying them to the particular place in which the student writer locates himself or herself when we begin work.

All learning is authentic and enlivening only to the degree that it actually connects with living questions and urgencies in the learner. I'm very proud of the successes of my students who've come through the MFA program at UAA. They have achieved at high levels nationally in many areas and as a truly individualized talents. My own books of poems, including a fourth in the making, and a collection of prose essays forthcoming, document my own development intellectually, politically, artistically over many years. All of the poets and writers at home in these works are still alive in me and teaching students at every level and location who need them. Importantly, I do not believe that "craft" is the whole of writing, nor should it be the whole of teaching writers. Content itself is a formal element; even the most esoteric poem, if it expects to have a reader, is a social act. Every academic writer (that's us, earning Master's Degrees at it) is, know it or not, like it or not, a "literary (or grassroots) intellectual." Finally, in a globalized era, the United States should not, I think, define the limits of our models, aspirations, and education.

Linda's "Must Read" list

  • Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
  • Poems by Emily Dickinson 
  • Poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay 
  • Poems by Thomas McGrath 
  • Poems and Plays by Shakespeare
  • The Truth of Poetry by Michael Hamburger 
  • Line Break by James Scully 
  • Playing in the Dark by Toni Morrison 
  • Freud and the Supression of the Seduction Theory by Masson
  • Poetry and Alcohol: John Berryman and the Booze Talking by Lewis Hyde
  • Object Lessons by Eavan Boland


Her first collection of poems, Talking Soft Dutch, was a 1984 Associated Writing Programs Award Series selection, and her second, Eva-Mary, winner of the Terrence Des Pres Prize at Northwestern University, and subsequently short-listed for the National Book Award in Poetry.

Her third book, Little River, was first published in Ireland (she enjoys joint citizenship). Presently she is working on a collection of essays and interviews for the University of Michigan Class:Culture Series, called Class-Colored Glasses, and a fourth collection of poems. A critical biography of her can be found in Scribner's American Writers, Supplement XIV, and a literary autobiography in Gale's Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series,# 28. She lives in Maine, about three hours' drive from her hometown of Lynn, Massachusetts, with several domesticated animals.

McCarriston has poems forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Alaska Quarterly Review, and Seeds of Fire: Poetry from the Other United States, an anthology from Smokestack Press in England. Class-Colored Glasses, a collection of essays and interviews, is due out from the University of Michigan Press (its Class:Culture Series) in 2008. Most recently she has published in David Beispiel's anthology from University of Oregon Press, Long Journey, been featured on Garrison Keillor's Writers' Almanac and been translated ("Indian Girls") into Spanish on-line.