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Michael White 

Poet Writer Professor

Reviews for Travels in Vermeer:



New York Times Book Review: Editor's Choice, June 5, 2015 " . . . While walking along the Schie riverfront, White finds the vantage point of the artist’s “View of Delft” and sees how Vermeer used distance to achieve his transporting perspective: “The artist’s dream, I think, is simply to vanish into his vision.” Following Vermeer grants White another kind of distance, allowing him to vanish into Vermeer’s dream, then return refreshed to his own."


Publishers Weekly: "A poet by trade, White (Vermeer in Hell), confronts ideas about love and loss after being awestruck by Vermeer’s Milkmaid in the Rijksmuseum, in Amsterdam. Thus begins a personal quest to visit most of the Vermeer paintings in the world and see how they affect him—or not. In the course of this raw memoir, White travels to The Hague, Washington D.C., New York, and London to study Vermeer’s paintings up close and in detail . . . . Through his obsession with Vermeer, White has crafted a powerful and affecting memoir that reminds us how art can be salvation."


Kirkus Reviews: " . . . In this lyrical memoir, the author recounts his travels in search of Vermeer, set in the context of love, loss and pain: a difficult childhood, alcoholism and recovery, the grueling death of his first wife and, most recently, a wrenching divorce. Along the way, he tells of two unpromising dates with women he met online; his love for his young daughter; and his frustration over the custody fight that will limit his seeing her. Vermeer's "radiant canvases" serve as an antidote to his enervating sense of loss: "The rapturous inner life of each woman and the infinitesimally detailed and self-contained life of the street are each imagined as an undiscovered heaven on earth." White's descriptions are sensuous, precise and evocative. He describes one painting as a "dialogue between Vermeer's favorite colors [that] pervades the entire atmosphere of the room." A window "seductively refracts the world rather than revealing it, and in so doing makes it seem new and strange." The figures communicate with one another in "a circular, closed system of glances." White praises Vermeer for his sensitivity to "anatomies of intimate, unguarded moments," a sensitivity that White himself brings to his luminous readings of the paintings. An enchanting book about the transformative power of art." 





Originally from Missouri, I had the enormous good fortune to study with the legendary Larry Levis as an undergraduate at the University of Missouri and also as a doctoral student at the University of Utah (PhD, 1993). Since 1994, I’ve lived in Wilmington, North Carolina, and taught at The University of North Carolina at Wilmington, where I currently serve as Chair of the Creative Writing Department. My books are the poetry collections The Island from Copper Canyon, Palma Cathedral (winner of the Colorado Prize, judged by Mark Strand), Re-entry (winner of the Vassar Miller Prize, judged by Paul Mariani), and Vermeer in Hell (winner of the Lexi Rudnitsky Editors Prize). Most recently, I also have a memoir, Travels in Vermeer, from Persea Books. I have published poetry and prose in The Paris Review, The New Republic, The Kenyon Review, The Best American Poetry, among many other magazines and anthologies. My teaching awards at UNCW include the Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award and the UNCW Graduate Mentor Award. I have a daughter named Sophia.


What I do:




I'm a teacher. Talking to students in a classroom is my bliss. I would love to come read for you, or perform any other engagement, appearance, or professorial event. Please contact me directly below. Thanks for your interest.



Praise for Vermeer in Hell:  "Vermeer in Hell is Michael White’s museum of ghosts and shades, of narratives woven masterfully out of the personal and historical alike—out of the lived, the envisioned, the loved, and the terrible. Rarely have I felt the ekphrastic to be as dramatic as in White’s tour through the portraits of Vermeer, with its history of fiery damages, wars and afflictions, but also its own depiction of ‘love’s face as it is.’ Out of Michael White’s vision, each poem achieves for us the delicacy and durability of Vermeer’s own art.”

                                                                                            --David Baker


Praise for Re-entry: "Michael White's Re-entry throws the door wide open onto a world that is fiercely observed and fearlessly, even obsessively, rendered. Here is a book that explores the interplay between interior and exterior landscapes with such generous and beautifully crafted detail that readers will feel they are no longer reading these poems but living them." 

                                                                           --Kathryn Stripling Byer


Praise for Palma Cathedral: "There is a Wordsworthian grandeur to Michael White's poems, a rhetorical and emotional fullness that is breathtaking. His attention to the shifting complexities of the natural world, his precise diction, his finely tuned cadences carry with them an unusual power, an immense gravity. Reading him, one feels the irresistible pull of belief in the retrievals of poetry, in the drift of language into experience, and in the imagination as the central and most persuasive means by which we say Yes to the world."

                                                                                            --Mark Strand


Praise for The Island: "These insuperable features--no surround can be taken in at a glance in such passages, the view and the verse must continually move on in order to contend with the sites--make this a book of grand and luminous peregrinations; never despairing except with the knowledge that such adversaries are not to be overcome; never triumphant except with the knowledge that no other defeat signifies." 

                                                                                       --Richard Howard











Links for Recent Books:




link to publisher's webpage for Travels in Vermeer:


Amazon link:


link to publisher's webpage for Vermeer in Hell:


Amazon Link:







                       ". . . Whatever sang into


my ear between the waves of fever &

delirium; whatever came that morning

when my very palms were bleeding sweat,


& all around, the universe of lies

was crumbling, shedding its illusory skin;

whatever visited, whatever sang


to me that morning, sing to me again."








2015 National Book Award in Nonfiction Finalist

"All the sorrow of love is compressed into White's memoir. So, too, is all the consolation of art. Nothing I've read translates so closely the expectant hush of Vermeer's paintings into language or suggests so eloquently what they hold for a contemporary viewer, not a specialist but an ordinary grieving soul who might travel a quarter way around the world to look at them. Figures it took a poet to get it this beautifully, thrillingly right."

-- Peter Trachtenberg, author of Another Insane Devotion

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