“Here is Much Water”

I haven’t done any visual poetry lately, so to correct that, here’s a new one. Why? Because it’s the beginning of the semester and I should be prepping classes. This is avoidance behavior. Seriously, this is for my father, who has been dead coming on fifteen years now, and because I’ve been gone from Wisconsin for nearly as long.



“William Blake Visits La Discotheque”

William Blake VisitsWhoa, so it’s been a long while since I updated my site and y’all can tell I’m terrible at upkeep. (My Twitter account has gathered even more dust.) I won’t bore you with the blow-by-blow since last fall, but it wasn’t all drinking bourbon and dancing with my kid (not simultaneous activities, btw). I had the good fortune to have a poem, “Acid is an Anagram” appear in the journal Forklift, Ohio, one of my favorite lit mags. Do check them out; Forklift is always a work of art. Also, my poem, “Crazeology,” which appeared in the museum of americana, was nominated for a Best of the Net citation (thank you, MoA!). We’ll see how that pans out. Lastly, I put the finishing touches on a long biographical/bibliographical essay on the novelist Wilton Barnhardt. If you haven’t read him, you’re missing out, especially his latest, Lookaway, Lookaway.

About the new poem: a few years back I published a piece called “Listening to New Vinyl” with Pif. I was surprised by the persona and even more surprised when she came back last night. So, instead of grading, I’ve been writing and playing with markers. Hope you enjoy it.


If you happen to be in east Texas on September 17th and looking for some free entertainment, swing by the campus of Stephen F. Austin State University and hunt down my reading. Here’s the poster for the event (designed by Christine Butterworth-McDermott).Grace Poster

“Nirvana Playing Twister with the Smashing Pumpkins”

I’ve been playing with poems in graphic form lately, but have limited design talent. Fortunately,  I’m married to a woman who’s an illustrator and painter. She’s able to put on the page what I see in my head. It’s expensive for journals to publish poems in the form of color art, so I’ll be posting most of these experiments here. Here’s the first. (Hit the pdf link below to see it larger.)

Nirvana Playing Twister with the Smashing Pumpkins

Nirvana Playing Twister with the Smashing Pumpkins

Welcome to my site

Seeing as how I’ve been at this writing thing for quite a few years and finally have my first book of poetry to show for it, I’ve joined the already-far-too-vast blogging world. I know you’ve been holding your breath.

I considered calling this site “Beer, Milk, Bait, and Cheese” since three of those four things are essential to my life, having grown up in Wisconsin, but “John A. McDermott” seemed to cover more ground. What will you find here? Samples of my fiction and poetry. The occasional essay. I’ll probably get to chatting about music, books, and teaching, the things that consume my life. What you won’t find? Recipes. Auto maintenance tips. Politics. (I’m really going to rein it in there. Read my stuff and you’ll probably figure out where I stand.) I’m sure I’ll tell you stories, of the real and imagined sort. Or anecdotes about my kid. About writing. About my favorite bands. My wife told me twenty years ago that she couldn’t be fodder for my art, which I thought meant “no love poems,” but I realized recently that almost everything I write is a love poem. I’m a fan of a lot of things and a lot of people. It comes out in my work.

Also, as someone at the half century mark, I want new writers (who may be young or who may be older) to know that success, however you define it, doesn’t have to come at Year One, or Year Five, or even Year Fifteen. My last formal poetry workshop as a student was in 1988 when a Famous American Poet told me, lowly undergraduate, to try fiction instead of poetry because ‘all your poems tell stories.’ It might have been a nice way to say I wasn’t very good. So I wrote plays, a half a dozen unpublished novels, dozens of short stories, and some essays over the next two decades with small success, then took up writing poetry again about six years ago. It seems that was where I needed to be all along. So, here I am, “emerging” at 50 and feeling all right. Wherever you are, whatever you write (or paint or play or create), keep at it. This is all a marathon, not a sprint. Be patient. That’s my mantra. (I have to repeat it, again and again. I’m still learning.)

So, welcome. Browse through the samples of my work. If you like it, consider buying my collection. I’ll update as the mood hits me and as I have new work to share. Keep in touch and take care, y’all.




John A. McDermott, a native of Madison, Wisconsin, teaches creative writing and American literature at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, where he coordinates the BFA program in creative writing. His fiction, nonfiction, and poetry have appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Cream City Review, Southeast Review, and elsewhere.