Pattie McCarthy

30 Nov 2016


Pattie McCarthy, 2011 Pew Fellow. Photo by Colin Lenton.

"I'm interested in the juxtaposition of contemporary images with historical language, how images from the past exist in the present."

Since earning her M.A. in English/creative writing from Temple University in 1998, Pattie McCarthy (b. 1971) has established herself as a serious and ambitious young poet with a strong sense of language and tradition. She has published three books with Apogee Press: bk of (h)rs (2002); Verso (2004); and Table Alphabetical of Hard Words (2010), an intimate book-length poem sequence concerned with etymology and history. Speaking to her ongoing experiments with language and narrative, McCarthy says, "I strive to create work that actively involves the reader, that is skeptical and inquiring, equal parts intellectual and emotional acuity." Her book Marybones—a meditative, wide-ranging exploration of various historical, cultural, and fictional Marys, e.g. the Virgin Mary, Mary Queen of Scots, plus Marys from the Salem Witch Trials, the Mayflower, and elsewhere—was published in December 2012 by Apogee Press. Her interest in the figure of Mary stems from her formative years at a Catholic girls' school. "Images of Mary are a kind of vernacular visual language for me," she says. "[They] formed a first consciousness of the representation and form given to women in art, and gave me a shape of motherhood in art—the only one I would see for many years." McCarthy wrote in residence at Nova Scotia's Elizabeth Bishop House in summer 2013, where she worked on a long poem called "Wifthing" (an archaic word, pronounced wife-thing), that touches on the history of domesticity and the notion of the wife.