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The Odor of Sanctity
October 2008


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The Breaking of the Day
September 2012


The Back Road to Arcadia

Michael Heffernan

ISBN: 1 897648 01 4

Page Count: 80

Publication Date: Monday, January 01, 1996

Cover Artwork: Sue Smickler


About this Book

"Michael Heffernan is one of those writers who can juggle a dozen objects of different shapes and sizes with the grace of an angel and no help from above. And all the while he will seem to be talking to you about the weather. And the weather that most concerns him is the soul's, in its poorly insulated home in the body."

Bonnie Costello


"Michael Heffernan has sustained and amplified a poetry of real intelligence, technical precision, and acoustic splendour. He is a writer who has hit his stride, sure-footed in his craft enough to let imagination run and leap and dance."

Thomas Lynch


Author Biography

Michael Heffernan was born in 1942 in Detroit, and grew up there, in a multi-ethnic working-class neighborhood, eight blocks from the Detroit River and Canada. He often dreams of border crossings. He has frequently traveled abroad, from Ireland to the Dodecanese during the 60s, to the Great Wall approaching Inner Mongolia in 2002.

He studied at the University of Detroit (A.B.) and the University of Massachusetts (Ph.D.). Since then he has resided mainly in Michigan, Kansas and Arkansas. He has taught the study and practice of poetry at the University of Arkansas (Fayetteville) since 1986. He regularly offers courses in Shakespeare, Yeats, Frost and Stevens.

He began writing poems in 1958. After completing his doctorate in 1970, with a dissertation on William Carlos Williams, he found steady work, and was able to return to his own writing. He soon found that traditional poetic forms could still open routes toward invention and discovery. His poems began to contain narratives, characters, masks, and free imaginations, expressing themselves in new dance-steps on the ground trod by the iamb. These acts of language, of words only, offered a new knowledge of reality, along with a vision of freedom and a kind of worldly holiness.

His books include The Cry of Oliver Hardy (1979), To the Wreakers of Havoc (1984), both recently reissued by the University of Georgia Press; The Man at Home (Arkansas, 1988); Love's Answer (Iowa Poetry Prize, 1994); The Night Breeze Off the Ocean (Eastern Washington University Press, 2005), along with his two other books from Salmon, The Back Road to Arcadia (1994) and The Odor of Sanctity (2008).

His work has earned three fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (US), two Pushcart Prizes, and the Porter Prize for Literary Excellence.

He and his wife, Ann, love being in Ireland. They have four grown children, three sons and a daughter.

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