Go ahead, belly up to the tiki bar. Order a fancy cocktail and let the fellow on the next stool entertain you. You’ll wonder if the drink’s going to your head— but it’ll be his ghazals, with their equal parts wisdom and whimsy, that are making you sway. First this poet disarms you by saying “even free verse can pretend at fun,” then he shows you how a simple list poem can be downright aphoristic. Sure, he’s slightly obsessed with Minelli and Mercury and other cultural icons, but he also has “a few things to tell” about the everyday: neighbors, eyeliner, vending machines, TV dinners, and the “darting space between raindrops.” Imagistic, evocative, and nostalgic in the clearest-eyed way, Mike James spins grief, time, memory, and desire with remarkable ease. Don’t believe him when he says he never learned to move with grace. Search the memorabilia nailed behind the bar and you’ll find a picture of him, grooving with all the other back alley saints. He’s a regular here.
—Kory Wells, author of Sugar Fix
About the Author
Mike James makes his home outside Nashville, Tennessee. His poetry is widely published in magazines, large and small. He has read and performed his work at universities and performance venues throughout the country. His many poetry collections include: Portable Light (Redhawk), Leftover Distances (Luchador), Jumping Drawbridges in Technicolor (Blue Horse), and Crows in the Jukebox (Bottom Dog.)
Other Books by Mike James:
Portable Light: Poems 1991-2021, Redhawk, 2022
Leftover Distances, Luchador, 2021
Double Feature (with John Dorsey), Analog Submissions, 2021
Red Dirt Souvenir Shop, Analog Submissions, 2020
Journeyman’s Suitcase, Luchador, 2020
Parades, Alien Buddha, 2019
Jumping Drawbridges in Technicolor, Blue Horse, 2019
First-Hand Accounts from Made-Up Places, Stubborn Mule, 2018
Crows in the Jukebox, Bottom Dog, 2017
My Favorite Houseguest, FutureCycle, 2017
Peddler’s Blues, Main Street Rag, 2016
The Year We Let the House Fall Down, Aldrich, 2015
Elegy in Reverse, Aldrich, 2014
Past Due Notices: Poems 1991-2011, Main Street Rag, 2012
Shotgun Exchanges, Costmary, 2010
Alternate Endings, Foothills, 2007
Nothing but Love, Pathwise, 2004
Pennies from an Empty Jar, Another Thing, 2002
All Those Goodbyes, Talent House, 2001
Not Here, Green Bean, 2000
It is fitting that the titular saints of this book frequent back alleys and tiki bars. The world of this book is dark, but it is shot through with insistent glimmers of humor and light, and as in any good tiki bar, the quotidian seems always just on the verge of the surreal. Yet these saints are more of this world than any other. Saint Jayne Mansfield reminds us, “Sometimes, glitter is homemade. / Sometimes we carry our own glitter kit.” This is a hagiography of making do, of laughter in the darkness.
—Ed Madden, author of Ark and A pooka in Arkansas
Mike James is a volcanic force. Inside him must be a magma chamber of lyricism. His prodigious output is always high-level and this newest book elects saints from among the luminary— St. Tennessee Williams, St. Freddie Mercury. Like other prophets of the quotidian, James uses what’s around him to nail our attention to the church door of the Now. To read any poem in Back Alley Saints at the Tiki Bar is to enter the wilderness and then come out the other side.
—John Lane, author of ANTHROPOCENE BLUES
In his new collection, James reaches into the places in between what is and what isn’t, what you want and what you can’t have, where you were and where you’re going. He has the ability to pull you in by constantly shifting perspectives, allowing you to enter into the poem and explore his world. However, his most poignant strength is his ability to transform abstract concepts into images that shapeshift from line to line, making you question the connections made as well as the connections severed. The beauty of each individual line gives pause reminding the reader that these poems are intended to be sipped like a fine wine.
—Rebecca Schumejda, author of Something Like Forgiveness
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