Advance praise for Portable Light...
“Be both ordinary & mystic,” Mike James advises in a poem from his marvelous new collection, Portable Light. Throughout the book, James takes his own advice to heart. His poems coax ordinary objects and actions to reveal their inmost secrets and ours. From the earliest poems collected here to the latest, James writes with the seeming effortlessness that is the sure mark of a master.
—Howie Good, author of Famous Long Ago
Mike James proves himself to be a master of the telling detail, the unexpected phrase that lends a pithy insight or two. His sense of rhythm never falters through these fine selections from a career filled with shifts and twists.
—Raymond Luczak, author of once upon a twin: poems
“If I look in the mirror, a few words are written all over my face./Some days it’s too much to read them,” Mike James says in “You Caught Me Love Dancing,” just one of many haunting, deceptively small poems in this collection, which is filled with gorgeous words and big ideas. Riffing on James’ recurrent theme of wings as getaway, grace, and salvation, these poems border on noir, and inch toward flight.
—Alexis Rhone Fancher, author of EROTIC and poetry editor of Cultural Daily
Reading a Mike James poem is like walking into someone else’s dream. One has to look for a path through. Once found (and one will find it because James leaves just enough bread crumbs to guide us without telling us how to walk), the landscape reveals itself to be both foreign and familiar. Foreign because his deft navigation in and out of surrealism can leave one shaking and disoriented, yet thrilled at the surprises that emerge from one line to the next. Familiar in that way that all great poetry is familiar: it speaks to the true heart of the human experience. These poems, collected, range from traditional free-verse to prose poems to experimental ghazals. Each poem, regardless of form, is an exploration of Robert Bly’s idea of “leaping poetry.” James’ exploration and re-telling of myth and fable takes us from the narrative we know to completely unexpected places. His cadence, rhythm, and musicality reverberates from each line without blatant pyrotechnics. Instead, James prefers the slow burn that starts with a smoldering whiff of burning leaves that, as the reader spends more and more time inhabiting this sparse yet precise lexicon, builds into a mighty blaze of perfect lines.
—Shawn Pavey, author of Survival Tips for the Pending Apocalypse
About the Author
Mike James makes his home outside Nashville, Tennessee. His poetry is widely published. He has read and performed his work at universities and performance venues throughout the country. His many poetry collections include: Leftover Distances (Luchador), Jumping Drawbridges in Technicolor (Blue Horse), Crows in the Jukebox (Bottom Dog), and Peddler’s Blues (Main Street Rag.) He has served as an associate editor for Kentucky Review and Unbroken.
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