Home

 

James Lowell McPherson was born in 1921 in Cincinnati, Ohio. He died in Eugene, Oregon in 2008.

McPherson graduated from West Virginia University and served in the army as a radio operator during World War II. After the war he did graduate work in Sociology at Columbia University where he met his first wife Gertrude (Gerry) Huntington Wright. The couple had two children, Karen and Christopher.


In the course of his life, McPherson was briefly a college teacher (a career that he did not much like and that he abandoned early), a postmaster in a small post office in Marble Dale, Connecticut, an unhappy expatriate in Saskatchewan, a wanderer (traveling around Europe for a year with his typewriter in his backpack after his divorce in the late 60s), and a New Yorker (spending the last thirty-six years of his life in Manhattan with his second wife, Phyllis King, also a poet). While serving in the army in 1944 he was named Poet Laureate of West Virginia. His poems first appeared nationally in 1945 in POETRY ("To Carol" and "For Belgium"), and he received a “First Appearance” prize from that magazine in 1948 (with the publication of three poems, "The Party is Over," "Walking at Night Two Years Later," and "Inventory"). His novel Goodbye Rosie was published by Knopf in 1965. He wrote several other novels (never published), but he was first and foremost a poet. Over the years he published poetry in journals including Exquisite Corpse, Nostalgia, Chelsea, Gettysburg Review, Comstock Review and The Wallace Stevens Journal.  His poetry manuscripts were frequently among the finalists in competitions, but he never had a book of poems accepted for publication. In 2005 his daughter arranged for the publication of a small volume of his poetry (Straightening Out the Record, Oregon Sunrise Press). A book launch and reading was held in Stone Ridge, New York shortly after his eighty-fourth birthday. After the death of his wife Phyllis King in Manhattan in 2007, McPherson moved to Oregon to live near his daughter. He died in 2008 at the age of 87. The Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University holds many of his papers (manuscripts, journals, letters). His daughter Karen McPherson is his literary executor.

McPherson continued to write poetry up until his death. See POEMS 2005-2008.

Two poems by McPherson ["Remembering Twenty-three (1944)" and "Remembering Fifty-three (1974)] appeared in the November/December 2011 issue of The American Poetry Review (vol. 40 no. 6).







Jim McPherson and Phyllis King