Remembering Lizzy McDaniel

Remembering Lizzy McDaniel

Photo: John Sarsgard

Lizzy McDaniel, exceptionally gifted poet, scholar, and French translator, passed away on June 19, 2018 at the age of 35, after a battle with antibody-negative autoimmune encephalitis, a rare form of the disease. Lizzy was an extraordinary human being whose grace, wit, and original poetic practice changed all those who came into contact with her.

Lizzy was born at the Bethesda Naval Hospital, Maryland and grew up in South Carolina. She lived for many years in New York City, where she received her Bachelor’s degree and MFA in creative writing from The New School. In addition to being a brilliant poet, Lizzy was a singer of opera. Her knowledge of philosophy, art, and music was endlessly rich. With great sensitivity and care, she gathered history’s secrets, often weaving them into her poems. Her unique poetic voice moves with agility between the fiery and the delicate, boldness and nuance. In her poems, interiority opens onto the world, and so transforms.

Lizzy’s chapbooks include Partial View (Green Zone Editions, 2009) and Angel Applicant (2014). Her poems appeared in the literary magazines MAGGY, Gerry Mulligan, and Sal Mimeo, as well as in the anthology Like Musical Instruments: 83 Contemporary American Poets, edited by Larry Fagin and featuring photography by John Sarsgard (Broadstone Books, 2014). For a period of time, Lizzy lived in Paris where she worked on a project under the title Between the Two Tongues, which she pursued through Columbia University. The project, focused on Mallarmé, deployed an innovative approach to poetic translation, in which she turned untranslatability into a fertile ground for creating “fresh couplings of sound and sense” in multiple expressions. This open-ended creative practice, inspired by a Mallarméan poetics of potentiality and seeking to participate in the writing of collaborative text, voix mixte, built on the notes toward the poet’s unfinished Hérodiade. Parts of this project are collected in Angel Applicant.

In the last years of her life, Lizzy battled an illness on which much medical research remains to be done. She passed away at her family’s home in Sunset Beach, North Carolina. Lizzy is survived by her sister Kate McDaniel, her mother Jean Fowler, and her stepfather Tom Fowler. Many dear friends survive her as well. We honor her and remember her with love.


This moon is useless
I must have another
planets chime in their pockets
I’ve missed them for how many weeks?
gas waits to be flame
the ocean may sit on my lap
with plenty left over
if I discover a new species
it will not be grateful
like a human thing
gasping on the lawn
but I’ve hatched a plot
to outsmart the squid
to read by its bioluminescence
Dostoevsky, Giordano Bruno
and Poems of A. O. Barnabooth

Lizzy McDaniel