J.D. McClatchy Named President of the American Academy of Arts and Letters

February 2, 2009

The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Poet, librettist and Yale professor J.D. McClatchy has been named President of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. A professor of English at Yale and, since 1991, the editor of The Yale Review, McClatchy succeeds another Yale faculty member and former Dean of the Yale School of Music, Ezra Laderman, as president of the 111-year-old national honor society.

On learning of McClatchy’s selection, Yale University President Richard C. Levin said, “In his poetry, opera librettos, essays and translations Sandy consistently reaches the highest standards. His wise judgment, so evident in his work as editor of the Yale Review, is one of the many virtues that make him an ideal choice to lead the Academy.”

McClatchy’s literary archive is housed in the Yale Collection of American Literature at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library (to locate McClathy’s papers and related collections search the library’s Uncataloged Acquisitions Database, Orbis, and the Finding Aid Database).

J. D. McClatchy is the author of six collections of poems: Scenes From Another Life (1981), Stars Principal (1986), The Rest of the Way (1990), Ten Commandments”(1998), Hazmat (2002), which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and Mercury Dressing (2009). His literary essays are collected in White Paper (1989), Twenty Questions (1998), and American Writers at Home (2004).

McClatchy has also written 13 opera libretti , including most notably, William Schumann’s “A Question of Taste,” Ned Rorem’s “Our Town,” Lowell Liebermann’s “Miss Lonelyhearts,” Elliot Goldenthal and Julie Taymor’s “Grendel,” and Lorin Maazel’s “1984.” Among other recent contributions McClatchy has made to the opera world is a new singing translation of Taymor’s heralded production of “The Magic Flute” at the Metropolitan Opera in 2004. His 2006 translation of that opera for the Metropolitan was broadcast live to movie theaters around the world, and subsequently aired on PBS’s Great Performances series; it is now performed every other holiday season at the Met. He has written narrations for performances by the New York Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and frequently writes the supertitles for Metropolitan Opera productions.

New projects include “Little Nemo in Slumberland” with Daron Hagen, and “The Secret Agent” with Michael Dellaira, both set to premiere next year; “Vincent” with composer Bernard Rands, which will open in 2011; and “An Inconvenient Truth,” based on Al Gore’s film, with composer Giorgio Battistelli, commissioned by Teatro alla Scala and scheduled to premiere there in 2013.

He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. He was named a New York Public Library Literary Lion, and received the 2000 Connecticut Governor’s Arts Award. He served as the Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 1996 until 2003.

The American Academy of Arts and Letters was established in 1898 to “foster, assist, and sustain an interest in literature, music, and the fine arts,” and election into the membership body comprising 250 of America’s leading voices in the fields of Art, Architecture, Literature, and Music is considered the highest formal recognition of artistic merit in this country.