Elizabeth McLagan was born in Corvallis, Oregon. She graduated from Oregon State University with a degree in history and soon after began writing poetry. She received an MFA degree from Eastern Washington University in 2002. Poems have been published or are forthcoming in The Southern Review, Boulevard, LA Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Third Coast, Poetry Northwest, 32 Poems, on the website Verse Daily, and elsewhere.

Her honors include an AWP Intro Award, the Frances Locke Memorial Award from The Bitter Oleander Press, and the 49th Parallel Poetry Award from Bellingham Review.

She was a founding editor of CALYX in 1976 and in 1980 published A Peculiar Paradise: A History of Blacks in Oregon (Georgian Press, Portland), listed as one of 100 notable Oregon books. McLagan is retired from teaching at Portland Community College.


"I’ve informally studied a number of painters, such as Diebenkorn, Celmins, Klee, and Magritte. Not only their art but also their writings or methods. There’s something about these two practices that rearranges the imaginative connections.

My intent hasn’t been so much about abstract meaning as about experience, and by experience I mean what does it feel like to be lost, confused, delighted as much as anything else. Magritte’s landscapes with floating rocks, trees with doors in their trunks, or interiors with lakes constitutes a similar disordering of the senses.

I used to try to push away the externals, as if I were clearing a space off an internal desk, trying to make my mind like a blank canvas. But that involved self-judgement and resulted in mental inflexibility, a building of walls that would sometimes make openness even harder to achieve. A better strategy is to accept every stray thought with loving curiosity.

So, rather than a blank canvas maybe you are stepping into a mental stream. Yes, there are rocks and logs and whatever impeding the flow, but the water of irrational imagination is flexible and moves around and between obstacles and flows freely onward.” from The Bitter Oleander