I write poems to shine a light on the spaces between things.

My poems exist in the terrain between gesturing and articulating. They sing along to images; they erase former apparitions and reconstitute them. Poem by poem, they build towards narratives that are book-length. I don’t aspire to “collections,” a term that reminds me of figurines locked in a curio cabinet. Instead, I hope that my books read like verse novellas: pulling you along with scraps and oddities that reappear to shape stories and conjure characters who take you by the hand.

My Books: Poetry & Prose

Timber Curtain
Mary Randlett Portraits
I Almost Read the Books Whole
The Stenographer’s Breakfast
The Bled
The Car That Brought You Here Still Runs

I Almost Read the Books Whole

Soon to be released from Factory Hollow Press, (COVID Delayed) 2020. This short collection of fake book jacket blurbs written as little prose poems is funny, wry and barely wise. It has a beautiful cover by Bianca Stone. She’s an amazing artist and the creator of poems, poetry comics and children’s books.

BUY for $10

Timber Curtain

The ultimate book about gentrification and loss. It’s also a poetry book. And an adventure story with the ghost of a dead poet, a real live girl and an old Victorian apartment house in the middle of Old Seattle, sitting on stolen Duwamish land.  The bulldozers come for it, but something about the place can’t quite be erased. The poems shine from the rubble. Published by Chin Music Press in 2017. Finalist for the Washington State Book Award. Timber Curtain was written alongside the documentary film Where the House Was, a film co-written and produced by Cali Kopczick, directed by Ryan Adams and edited by Ian Lucero. The film follows the tear-down of the old Richard Hugo House in Seattle. 

BUY for $14.95

The Bled

Winner of the 2011 Grub Street National Book Prize in poetry and the 2011 Washington State Book Award

“Frances McCue’s book is the most moving account of a spouse’s death that I have ever read…detailed here with astonishment and heart-rung love.”

James Tate, on THE BLED

The Bled is a book of poems set in Marrakesh and traces the story of my husband’s death while our family was living in the Red City. It won the 2011 Washington State Book Award and the Grub Street National Book Prize in Boston. It is published by Factory Hollow Press.

BUY for $14

“The Bled is beautiful, heartbreaking, heart-mending, astonishing in ways I can’t begin to describe.”

The Stenographer’s Breakfast

The Stenographer’s Breakfast is my first book, told through the perspective of a court reporter, a woman taking “dictation” from the men around her. The book won the Barnard New Women’s Poetry Prize in 1991 and is published by Beacon Press.
You can order it from your favorite bookseller or from Beacon Press.

BUY for $15


“If you want to communicate, use the telephone.”

– Richard Hugo

I write prose when what I want to say is too complicated for the phone and too spelled out for the unsayable texture of poetry.

Mary Randlett Portraits

Here’s a book of art history. In it, I describe artists, writers and arts advocates in seventy mini-essays.

My prose with Mary Randlett's portraits.

Mary Randlett Portraits is a curated tour of photographer Mary Randlett’s portraits of visual artists, writers and arts advocates in the Puget Sound region from 1949-2013. In seventy mini-essays, I describe Randlett’s relationship to the subjects and their influences on the rest of the culture around them. Starting with painters Morris Graves and Mark Tobey, weaving through poets Theodore Roethke and Carolyn Kizer, this collection brings alive a vibrant era in the arts. Published by University of Washington Press in 2014.

BUY for $44.95

Mary Randlett Portraits (video)


Mary Randlett’s ‘Portraits’ chronicle region’s arts scene

by michael upchurch, the seattle times

The Car That Brought You Here Still Runs

“This book completes her two-decade pursuit of Hugo and his work — it is an astute psychological portrait of Hugo and a superb reintroduction to his work.”

Seattle Times

The Car That Brought You Here Still Runs is a road trip book about traveling in search of the towns poet Richard Hugo visited, fished in and wrote poems about. Finalist in History/Non-Fiction for the 2011 Washington State Book Award. Published by the University of Washington Press and available at your favorite bookseller, one of mine is Elliott Bay Book Company. $30.

BUY for $30

What critics say about The Car That Brought You Here Still Runs

“As it explores – even bolsters – his mystique as the poet of the modern American West, it simultaneously critiques that romanticized vision. Its brilliant strategy is to complicate genre…. The photographs themselves are enough to recommend this gorgeously produced book. Often stark, these black and white portraits of places Hugo’s poems memorialize illuminate skeletal glimmerings of towns…”

Rain Taxi

“This is a book worthy of its subject: smart, beautifully written, with stark images and poignant reticences.”

City living

McCue unleashes her full powers of dissection on both the poem (Degrees of Gray in Phillipsburg) and the town, parsing Hugo’s motivations and intent and bearing witness to P-Burg’s mining past and reinvention as a tourist town.

the missoulian

“Hugo’s own story merges with McCue’s observations and interviews with the poet’s friends (including Lois Welch, Bill Kittredge and Annick Smith) in a way that adds texture, detail and insight to a journey that’s both literary and deeply personal.”

Lively times

“Whether you love poetry or just love to read of those pursuing their passions The Car That Brought You Here Still Runs by Frances McCue is for you.”

The philipsburg mail

The Car that Brought You Here Still Runs . . . blends McCue’s innovative travel writing and small town history with Randlett’s starkly evocative black-and-white prints to greatly deepen our understanding of this beloved Northwest writer.”

Real change

The Car That Brought You Here Still Runs is a deeply felt meditation on how and where Hugo created his poetry.  McCue’s book is greatly enhanced by the photography of Mary Randlett, who saw what Hugo did in the thickets of the Duwamish River and a restaurant in Cataldo, Idaho, and the weathered bleachers at a school in Dixon, Mont.

The Oregonian

A beautifully vivid and poignant meditation on the landscape of the heart and how we are shaped by the poetics of place.

Kim Barnes, Writer