Congratulations to Professor Michael McFee, who just published his twelfth collection of poetry! A Long Time to Be Gone was published past December by Carnegie University Press as a part of their poetry series. Prof. McFee is a Doris Betts Term Professor of Creative Writing in the Department of English and Comparative Literature and has been teaching in the Creative Writing Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill since 1990.
McFee was inspired to begin this next collection of poems during a sabbatical in the spring of 2021, as it had been “three or four years since [his] last collection of poems was published.” The questions that shaped the beginning of the collection came about during that time were, as McFee recollects: “What obsessions have I been circling in poems during that time? and might they cohere as a book?”
Given when McFee started this project, his poems span the beginning of the COVID pandemic and beyond — this stretch of time proved a challenge for organizing his poetry. McFee explains: “The greatest challenge was figuring out how to group and order the poems most effectively. I knew I had a series of COVID poems, from early in the pandemic; but what else was there, and where should it go? I ended up with four sections, organized (mostly) around aging and mortality, around the local coronavirus world in spring 2020, around my native Appalachia and its words, and around ekphrastic responses to works of art.”
As for his favorite parts of writing this collection, as well as any poetry, McFee describes that it is “ trying to get something right in words — vividly, precisely, joyfully — so that the reader can really see and hear and feel and smell and taste what I’m writing about.” He notes that for this collection, he is particularly fond of the cover, a 1912 watercolor painting by Mary Daisy Arnold of the extinct McAfee’s Nonsuch apple (pictured right).
Michael McFee would also like to thank Sarah Boyd, who took his author photo.
McFee has two upcoming readings for A Long Time Gone. Find the details below:
Tuesday March 7, 3:30 p.m.
Department of English and Comparative Literature at UNC
Donovan Lounge, Greenlaw 2nd floor
with novelist and (DOECL professor) Michael Gutierrez
Wednesday April 5, 6:30 p.m.
16 W. Main Street, Durham, NC 27701