Reaching for Epiphanies: An Interview with John McCarthy

Interview conducted by Joshua Jones

John McCarthy is the author of the recently published collection Scared Violent like Horses (Milkweed Editions, 2019), which was selected by Victoria Chang as the winner of the 2017 Jake Adam York Prize. He is also the author of Ghost County (Midwestern Gothic Press, 2016), which was named a Best Poetry Book of 2016 by The Chicago Review of Books. John is the winner of The Pinch 2016 Literary Award in Poetry, and his work has appeared or is forthcoming in Best New Poets 2015, Copper Nickel, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Sycamore Review, Passages North, and Zone 3. He received his MFA from Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

John McCarthy’s latest book, Scared Violent Like Horses, ruminates on growing up lower class in the Midwest and coping with family traumas. The stories of a hardscrabble life dominated by silos and switchgrass are told with an impressive tenderness that contrasts starkly with their often-painful subjects. Particularly striking are those poems which dwell on the ways that boys become initiated into a culture of violence and what happens when that means of engaging with the world becomes