Jim (James E.) McGarrah is an American poet and memoirist born on January 5, 1948 in 

Princeton, Indiana. 

The son of a middle-class businessman, McGarrah spent his youth in Princeton as an athlete and an honor student. At the age of eighteen in 1966, he accepted a baseball scholarship to Kentucky Wesleyan College. In 1967, without ever playing baseball, he left college abruptly and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. McGarrah served with distinction in Vietnam and was wounded in action during the Tet Offensive in 1968. He returned to Kentucky Wesleyan after his discharge in 1969 but left again without taking his final degree exams in 1971. During this period McGarrah was active in Vietnam Veterans Against the War and involved in several major protests around the country. Over the next fifteen years, he wandered the United States working as a horse trainer, a janitor, a hod carrier on construction sites, a carpet layer, and finally as a mail carrier for the postal service. During the 1990’s, McGarrah returned to university life earning a B.A. in English, and a M.A. in Liberal Studies from the University of Southern Indiana. He received a Master of Fine Arts in Writing from Vermont College in 2001.

The poet began his writing career late in life and his first works were published in 2000. His first book of poems, Running the Voodoo Down, was published by Elixir Press in 2003. Initially McGarrah’s work dealt with the Vietnam War and its immediate aftermath, but by the time his second book of poems was published in 2008, the subject matter and thematic concerns had expanded considerably. Michael Waters, editor of Contemporary American Poetry, says of that book, When the Stars Go Dark:

-  "I’m learning to keep some knowledge from myself,” Jim McGarrah writes in a poem aptly titled “The Pursuit of Knowledge,” and such gnarly wisdom infuses these poems that recognize not only the “suffering that idles in us all,” but that “What connects us is our loneliness.” These poems by one who “reached out / and pulled the lightning inside” are full of such profound consequence. -

The poet has also had published an extensive amount of nonfiction in various literary magazines and two books that deal with the culture in America during the nineteen sixties and seventies.  (A Temporary Sort of Peace, Indiana Historical Society Press, 2007.) (The End of an Era, Ink Brush Press, 2011.) His third nonfiction book ( Off Track, Blue Heron Book Works, 2015.) is due out in October, 2015.

Although he retired from full time teaching in 2008 to devote more time to his writing, McGarrah spent ten years teaching writing and literature at the University of Southern Indiana and at Wilkes Honors College of Florida Atlantic University and as managing editor of Southern Indiana Review. He has two grown children, a daughter Leslie and a son John. He lives with his wife Debra in Louisville, Kentucky. 


Running the Voodoo Down (Elixir Press, Denver CO, 2003. 

 ISBN # 0-9709342-8-9

Home Again: Essays and Memoirs from Indiana (Indiana Historical Society, Indianapolis 2006) 

 ISBN-13 # 978-0871951984

A Temporary Sort of Peace (Indiana Historical Society, Indianapolis IN, 2007)

 ISBN # 978-87195-258-5

When the Stars Go Dark (Main Street Publishing House, Charlotte NC, 2009) 

 ISBN # 978-1-59948-153-1

The End of an Era (Ink Brush Press, Temple, TX, 2011)

 ISBN # 978-0-9827514-2-8

Breakfast at Denny’s (Ink Brush Press, Temple, TX, 2013)

 ISBN # 978-0-9839715-8-0

Off Track (Blue Heron Book Works, Allentown, PA, 2015)

ISBN # 978-0-692-42019-5


After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery (Santa Lucia Books, Atlanta GA, 2008)

American Society: What Poets See (Future Cycles Press, Mineral Bluff GA, 2011)

And Know This Place: Poetry of Indiana (Indiana Historical Society, Indianapolis IN, 2011)

 (Indiana Book of the Year – 2012)


Eric Hoffer Award for Legacy Nonfiction, 2010. 

Main Street Rag Select Poetry Book Series Award, 2008. 

finalist – Bayou Magazine Nonfiction Contest, 2008. Vilenica International Literary Festival fellowship, 2005. 

Faculty Research and Creative Work Award – University of Southern Indiana, 2005. 

Editors Choice Award, Elixir Press, October, 2003. 

P.E.N. International Writers Conference Fellowship - Ljubljana, Slovenia, 2001 

James Hearst Poetry Award, Finalist - North American Review 2001 & 2002. 

American College Theater Festival Playwriting Contest, Kennedy Center 2001. 


Indiana Historical Society

The Eric Hoffer Foundation

Society of Midland Authors

Vermont College of Fine Arts, Alumni News

University of Southern Indiana, Liberal Arts News

Princeton Daily Clarion

Evansville Courier

Department of Veterans Affairs

Jerry Waxler, Memory Writers Network

Main Street Rag

Ink Brush Press

Poets and Writers Magazine