NEW YORK (AP) — J.D. McClatchy, a revered and versatile man of letters praised as a poet, librettist, educator, editor and translator, died Tuesday night at his home in Manhattan. He was 72.
Publisher Alfred A. Knopf announced that McClatchy, known as “Sandy” to his friends, had been battling cancer and died at his home in Manhattan.
“Sandy always had time to gossip in the midst of myriad deadlines, and I marveled at the hours he logged in his dedication to the literary arts,” Knopf editor Deborah Garrison said in a statement Wednesday. “His own work was a major contribution to American poetry, yet he rarely mentioned it because he was busily engaged in editing or enlarging the work of others.”
As a poet, McClatchy was acclaimed for drawing upon a rich and unpredictable range of influences, from classical music to Japanese history, and his curiosity about private and political life. His books included “Star Principal,” ”The Rest of the Way” and “Hazmat,” a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2003. But he also took on numerous other art forms and responsibilities. He wrote libretti for “The Magic Flute” and “Orpheus Descending,” among other operas. He was a longtime professor at Yale University and editor of The Yale Review, one of the world’s oldest literary journals. He was a former president of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the editor or co-editor of works by Thornton Wilder, James Merrill and many others, and the executor or co-executor of the literary estates of fellow poets Merrill, Anthony Hecht and Mona Van Duyn.
Joseph Donald McClatchy Jr. was born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, studied at Georgetown and Yale as an undergraduate and received a Ph.D. from Yale. He is survived by his husband, Chip Kidd, an associate director of cover art at Knopf, and three sisters.
“Sandy was a remarkable person: a brilliant poet and teacher — the inspired and tireless editor of Yale Review — one of the most successful librettists of our time — a powerful and generous presence in our literary culture,” his friend Joyce Carol Oates wrote in an email to The Associated Press. “He will be terribly missed.”