In 2017, he was named West Virginia’s first Beat Poet Laureate by the National Beat Poetry Foundation. Beat poetry, a mostly free verse and jazz-like form of poetry, emerged in the post-World War II era from a group of writers rejecting conventional literary traditions.
Was there a breakthrough moment for you when you realized, "Hey, this is what I
want to do. I want to be a poet or writer?"
I played with the idea through college. After college, I had a bad bout of depression
and just lost the ability to write. I could not write anything for at least
four years. I was working at the BFS on the Mileground one night and suddenly got
the urge to write something. It was like a dam burst. I was writing things
that meant something to me and I couldn’t stop. It was something I had to do, like
breathing. It was therapeutic. When you’re overridden by anxiety, you’re taken
out of your rhythm, and it takes something hard to knock you back into it and
it can take a while. It did for me.
It seems like most of your writing is observational.
Yes. My friends would say I’m an observational poet. I've eaten at a lot of diners.
I've sought out diners to see what I see and write what I write.
What is it about the diner that fascinates you and inspires your writing?
Besides looking like a place where Norman Rockwell went to die, they are places where
people gather and just talk about anything. They air their grievances or talk about
the best things that ever happened to them. They’re places where people go to relax
and really be open. You don’t get that at fast food places. You stop there
to eat, get up and get out. When you stop in a diner, you’ll likely hear about
the birth of someone’s seventh grandchild, as well as someone who just got
fired from a job they held for 45 years. It’s a wide spectrum of experience you
can get at a diner.
How does your night job as a facilities worker on campus influence your writing?
I work in two buildings. One is the Advanced Engineering Research Building, a very
quiet building. When I’m in there, I have a lot of introspection going on. But
if I spend time in the Evansdale Library, that place is open 24/7 during
the week. I hear snippets of conversation that strike me into writing them
down. They’re totally out of context, but there may be a line that has a hook
What do you get out of writing?
I get a fulfillment of purpose. It’s like a building block of yourself. The more I write, the more I complete who I'm supposed to be.
For examples of McTaggart's work, go to WVUToday.