Poetry of the Great Plains – Letter to an Imaginary Friend


Thomas McGrath

Thomas McGrath

Thomas McGrath (1916-1990) wrote his epic long poem Letter to an Imaginary Friend between 1957 and 1985.  Simply put, it is brilliant.  It has no match in American literature except for maybe Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, although it is much lesser known than Leaves.  McGrath is from North Dakota, and the poem is somewhat autobiographical.  It is often political, and serves mostly as social and cultural criticism, but much of it is set on the prairies and plains of North Dakota.  I include the untitled passage below as a related follow up to last week’s Buffalo Dusk by Carl Sandburg (I apologize if the formatting appears goofy, but I’m trying to match his original form):


The tracks of a million buffalo are lost in the night of a past

Lit only by the flare of a covered wagon

a harp of flesh

Is silenced

the book of feathers and moonlight is closed


On exhausted roads spun out of the acetylene lamps of the dead


the transcontinental locomotive is anchored in concrete

Next to the war memorial

under the emblems of progress

A vision of April light is darkened by absent eagles . . .



About greatplainstrail

Building the Great Plains Trail.
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