Campbell McGrath

Picasso & Dora Maar (1942)
January 6, 2014 McGrath Campbell

Picasso & Dora Maar (1942)


Four decades I have lived among the French

as a peasant in a shearling coat

wanders a beach of oblivious sunbathers.


So ill prepared are they for tragedy,

so little do they know of  loss, so small

sorrow’s claim on their imagination.


And now, uniform winter upon all of Europe,

Catalans, Normans, Slavs and Walloons

subsumed to unvarying, iron-taloned grey.


Look at my little tomato plant,

withering forth a crooked yellow arm,

a crown of leaves, a tassel of fruit.


Poor Paris, how I pity and depend upon it.

But I trace my lineage to Altamira and Lascaux.

I spring from cave walls and am content.



Women want me as much as I want them.

They desire my money, my brio, my fame,

and I desire their cunts as portals to eternity.

So what if they fought each other over me?

Men fight for women every day. They kill,

like Greeks and Trojans, for sheer beauty.

If I let Marie-Therese and Dora Maar do battle

it is because love is truest when tested by jealousy.

At any rate Dora Maar was a Kafkaesque figure—

whenever I found a water stain on her walls

I worked it with fine pencil strokes until it resembled

a bug of some sort. In this way I transformed

her apartment into a bestiary, or an insect zoo;

in this way I changed her, too.



Campbell McGrath is the author of twelve books of poetry, including Fever of Unknown Origin (Knopf, 2023) and XX: Poems for the Twentieth Century, a 2018 Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He has received many literary prizes for his work, including the Kingsley Tufts Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a MacArthur Fellowship, a USA Knight Fellowship, and a Witter-Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress. His poetry has appeared in scores of literary reviews, quarterlies and anthologies, including the New Yorker, Harper’s, The Atlantic, Poetry Ireland, and the op-ed page of the New York Times. Born in Chicago, he lives in Miami Beach and teaches at Florida International University, where he is the Philip and Patricia Frost Professor of Creative Writing and a Distinguished University Professor of English.