Jeffrey McDaniel


Jeffrey McDaniel was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1967. He received a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MFA from George Mason University. He is the author of five poetry collections, including Chapel of Inadvertent Joy (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013), The Endarkenment (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2008), and Alibi School (Manic D Press, 1995), which the poet Bill Knott called “fresh, provocative, nondoctrinaire.” According to the poet Khaled Mattawa, McDaniel’s work “chronicles the emotions that jolt us as we stare into the abyss and pulls us away when we’ve seen enough.” The recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, his poems have appeared in two volumes of Best American Poetry. He teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and lives in the Hudson Valley in New York. Source

Excerpt From “Keeper of the Light”

My job doesn’t start till the sun drops


to its knees and fires pink arrows into the bellies

of clouds. Only then, do I climb the two hundred stairs,


spiraling up through the guts of the tower,

that from a distance in daylight looks like a brick telescope


wedged into the ground. Only then, do I load the lamp

with whale oil, and trim the wick so it burns evenly


like a red beard across a pirate’s face. Only then, do I scrub

the layer of carbon off the reflectors and adjust


the Fresnel lens, which is like a lampshade made out of shards

of an expensive mirror, harnessing the many stems of light


into a bouquet to be hurled out, in three second intervals.

Only then do I turn the shortwave to the chatter


of ships. Only then, binoculars around my neck,

do I slide open the door and walk the rail,


a salty breeze curling through my pores, as I comb

the dark waves with my eyes. Flag whipping


overhead. Thunder cooking up in clouds.

Then the voices start rumbling in. I read you


thirteen year-old girl pinned down by your friend’s

nineteen year-old brother in a basement and excavated


as your favorite Crosby, Stills and Nash song

plays cruelly over the speakers. I read you housewife


with a crushed starfish in your belly, clutching

a wine glass like a buoy. I cannot promise


help is on the way, but I read you high school senior

razor marks ricocheting up your forearm. I read you


husband watching school after school of naughty minnows

swim across the screen of your smart phone, as the rain gathers


around your ankles in the matrimonial rowboat. I read you

twenty year-old girl, smearing kerosene over your breasts,


like baby oil, a carousel of men assembling, jerking up

and down, like warped horses on a misery-go-round. I read you


friend from childhood, counting the petals of a daisy, I kill me,

I kill me not. I read you dockworker, wandering


the corridors under the ocean’s surface,

stuffing your unemployment check into the belly button


of a slot machine. I read you sixteen year-old girl,

getting jabbed with the t in the word slut


as you tremble on the train platform and lean back

into the broad metal arms of eternity. I read you


and chart your coordinates. Note your howls. And no,

I cannot save you, or bring supplies—just sit inside


this giant candle and fling thimbles of light

in your direction, whispering, I hear you, hold tight.





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:



Faith & Hope

Mental Health

Strength & Resilience

Literary Devices:


the repetition of the same letter or sound at the beginning of words appearing in succession


a figure of speech in which words repeat at the beginning of successive clauses, phrases, or sentences


the attribution of human qualities to a non-human thing


a recurrence of the same word or phrase two or more times


a comparison between two unlike things using the words “like” or “as”