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Gerald McCarthy was born in Endicott, New York, the eldest son of an Italian mother and Irish-American father. He left home at seventeen to join the Marines, served a tour of duty in Vietnam, then deserted the military. After his release from military prison and civilian jail, he worked as a stonecutter, shoe factory worker, and peace activist. He attended the Iowa Writers' Workshop and taught writing at Attica Prison and in migrant labor camps, jails, and schools. McCarthy has published two earlier collections of poetry, War Story (1977) and Shoetown (1992), and his work has been anthologized frequently. He has lived and traveled widely in Italy, having been selected twice as visiting artist at the American Academy in Rome. He teaches writing at St. Thomas Aquinas College and lives with his wife and three sons in Nyack, New York.