Joshua Mehigan grew up in upstate New York and received a BA from Purchase College and an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. Influenced by the poetry of Philip Larkin, Jorge Luis Borges, and Edgar Bowers, Mehigan writes intelligent, morally complex lyric poems shaped by a nuanced attention to rhyme and meter. Critic Adam Kirsch praised The Optimist in a review for the New York Sun, observing, “Mr. Mehigan is Frost-like in the way he plays speech rhythms against the patterns of verse, creating a tense, deceptively simple music . . . Mr. Mehigan also has something of Frost’s delight in darkness; many of his poems offer the uncomfortable surprise that Poe called the most important element of poetry.”
The thing was blind to all its own ends
but the one. Men’s ordinary lives,
measured out on a scale alien
to that on which its life was measured,
were spent in crawling the junk machine,
fitting new gaskets, screws, and bearings,
deceiving it towards the mood required
for it to avail and pay. Somehow
it did. None cheered it. It sustained them.
(from ‘The Cement Plant’)
In an interview with Ohio University Press, Mehigan mused, “I’m often trying to approach beauty, humanity, and love through their antitheses. Sometimes I don’t reach my destination.” Mehigan’s poems are not all dark, but they often possess an eerie stillness, like the calm before or after a storm. Frequently narrated in the third person, his poems eschew confessional modes and instead focus on seemingly straightforward details. Yet, no matter how concrete the facts, the feeling remains that some revelatory, necessary detail lingers unseen and unspoken.
On the quiet hill beside the droning mill,
across the dirty stream, nearer than they seem,
they wait and will be waiting.
The glass-eyed cicada drones in the linden draped like a tent
above three polished stones. Aphids swarm at the scent
of the yellow petals.
A bird comes to prod a clump of wet fur.
The ferns idiotically nod when she takes it away with her.
Something somewhere settles.
(from ‘The Hill’)
The Optimist (2004), Mehigan’s first collection of poetry, won the Hollis Summers Poetry Prize, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and was named a Big Ten University Press Pick by ForeWord magazine. Mehigan has also received a Pushcart Prize and the Dogwood Poetry Prize. Mehigan’s poetry has been featured in several anthologies, including the Swallow Anthology of New American Poets (2009), Poetry: A Pocket Anthology (2007), and Writing Metrical Poetry (2006). In 2011, his essay ‘I Thought You Were a Poet’ won Poetry’s Editor's Prize. Mehigan has worked as an editor and instructor, and lives in New York City. His next book, Accepting the Disaster, is forthcoming from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
The Optimist, Ohio University Press, Athens, OH, 2004.
Accepting the Disaster, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York, NY, forthcoming.
New York Times: Finding the Verse in Adversity
Contemporary Poetry Review: Young Poets Calling: Part 2 by Adam Kirsch
Ohio University Press: Interview with Joshua Mehigan
Poetry lectures (audio): Futurism and the New Manifesto, Part II, with Joshua Mehigan and Thomas Sayers Ellis
Poetry magazine: The Final Manifesto by Joshua Mehigan
Poetry magazine: ‘I Thought You Were a Poet’ by Joshua Mehigan
Poetry magazine podcast: You Are What's Fallen
Joshua Mehigan’s personal website