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About James

Baltimore County
James Arthur was born in Connecticut and grew up in Toronto. He is the author of The Suicide's Son (Véhicule Press 2019), Hundred Acre Wood (Anstruther Press 2018), and Charms Against Lightning (Copper Canyon Press 2012). His poems have also appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, The New York Review of Books, The London Review of Books, The New Republic, Ploughshares, and The American Poetry Review. He has received the Amy Lowell… more

The Suicide's Son

My second full-length poetry collection, The Suicide's Son, was published in 2019 by the Montreal-based publisher Véhicule Press.

Individual poems from The Suicide’s Son were first published in 32 Poems, Alaska Quarterly Review, American Poetry Review, Hazlitt, The Hopkins Review, Little Star, Literary Matters, The London Review of Books, Narrative, The New York Review of Books, Poetry Northwest, The Southern Review, The Walrus, and The Yale Review. Poems also appeared in the Academy of American Poets' Poem-A-Day project, in Resistance, Rebellion, Life: 50 Poems Now (Knopf 2017), Still Life with Poem: 100 Natures Mortes in Verse (Literary House Press 2016), The Next Wave: An Anthology of 21st Century Canadian Poetry (Palimpsest Press 2018), Resisting Canada: An Anthology of Poetry (Véhicule Press 2019), Best Canadian Poetry in English 2016 (Tightrope Books 2016), Beyond Forgetting: Celebrating 100 Years of Al Purdy (Harbour Publishing 2018), and Here: Poems for the Planet (Copper Canyon Press 2019).

Though I work mainly in free verse, I often think of poetry in formal (i.e. structural) terms, and I try to write poems whose meaning is determined at least partly by the repetition and organization of sound. Many of my poems contain rhyme and what I think of as “runs” of iambic or anapestic meter, but I’m very interested in trying to capture what I think of as a kind of asymmetrical beauty, so I often establish metrical expectations only for the sake of breaking them. I aspire to write poems that are rhythmically well-constructed, down to the level of the syllable, but also indivisible in their parts, so that the reader cannot easily separate the poem into discrete metrical feet or metrical phrases; disorder, or a pattern that is varied to the point of seeming disordered, is beautiful, from my perspective, and I want to convey that beauty rhythmically.

I think of myself as an oral poet, and write more for an audience than for a readership, though publishing is of course an important part of my professional life. When performing, I recite my poems from memory.

Praise for The Suicide's Son:

"In The Suicide’s Son, we encounter [Arthur's] mastery of individual lyrics, but the collection is more than the best of his journal publications. It gathers in the mind as a single text as Arthur both poses and answers questions about the ideas, objects, and traits we broadly inherit—as family members, as members of a culture, as animals—and how we respond to the often troubling content of that inheritance."

-- Literary Matters

"Nothing is inscrutable or imprecise. It all adds up to maximum impact conveyed directly from the words to the reader’s brain, and via brain to heart."

-- 32 Poems

"Rootlessness ebbs and flows, all while the cogs and underpinnings churn and grind each poem into a solid object that transcends the quotidian. These words are ordered to last."

-- RHINO Reviews

"The poems in James Arthur’s new collection, The Suicide’s Son, convey a mastery of resonance and form while dealing with topics that are relevant and real."

-- Montreal Review of Books

Hundred Acre Wood

My chapbook Hundred Acre Wood was published in 2018 by Anstruther Press in Toronto. The collection is loosely organized around the theme of fatherhood.

Individual poems in Hundred Acre Wood first appeared in The Academy of American Poets’ Poem-A-Day project, The American Poetry Review, The Best of Canadian Poetry 2016, Hazlitt, Little Star, The New York Review of Books, The Southern Review, and The Walrus.

Charms Against Lightning

Charms Against Lightning is my first collection, published in 2012 by Copper Canyon Press as a Lannan Literary Selection. As a group, the poems describe a gradual change from being a shadow to being a human being.

Poems from Charms Against Lightning appeared in 32 Poems, AGNI, The American Poetry Review, The Antioch Review, Best New Poets 2010, Brick, The Fiddlehead, Fox Chase Review, The Laurel Review, Literary Review of Canada, Many Mountains Moving, Narrative, New England Review, The New Republic, The New Yorker, Ploughshares, Poetry, Poetry International, Puerto Del Sol, Rattle, Shenandoah, and Third Coast.

Charms Against Lightning was shortlisted for The Believer Poetry Award and also for the League of Canadian Poets' Gerald Lampert Award.

praise for Charms Against Lightning:

"Few debuts have been more hotly anticipated than James Arthur's Charms Against Lightning. His work leading up to Charms garnered nearly every award, fellowship, and grant an emerging poet could hope to win. And for good reason: in an era where poetry often amounts to little more than broken prose, Arthur distinguishes himself as an unusual craftsman, a practitioner of true vers libre."

-- Poetry Northwest

"Arthur works his magic in lines that are tightly formed yet sculpted to flow and break for maximum effect. He summons the richness of everyday detail ... as a foundation from which the broader contexts of human experience take flight. And always there is sound, and rhythm. Keep these poems close for their poetic juju against the suddenness of life's lightning strikes, and for the forgiving melody to which Arthur choreographs the tender dance of being human."

-- The American Poetry Review

"An entrenched strangeness exists in Arthur's work, derived not from linguistic hijinks but from common observations ... his tone is casual and confident, the effect slightly off-frame or out of focus, yet constantly arresting."

-- The Believer

"Arthur's debut poetry collection, Charms Against Lightning, is so confident that is almost seems to have sprung fully formed from the pen of its creator, though the crowded acknowledgments page testifies to the fact that is has been many years in the making. It is worth the wait."

-- West Branch

"Arthur is in awe of the transient, the unstable, the airy. In concert with this, his rhythms also float. Ever aware of the fragility of life and, beyond that, the instability and changeability of the whole universe, Arthur writes poems that gather and dissipate ... Arthur is a poet of big gifts delivered lightly."

-- Rattle