D. R. James

D. R. James (Poetry) | Saugatuck, MI

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D. R. James is the author of the poetry collections If god were gentle (Dos Madres Press 2017) and Since Everything Is All I’ve Got (March Street Press 2011) and five chapbooks, including most recently Why War (2014) and Split-Level (2016) both from Finishing Line Press. Poems and prose have appeared in various journals, such as Caring Magazine, Coe Review, Diner, Dunes Review, Friends of William Stafford Newsletter, Galway Review, HEArt Online, Hotel Amerika, North Dakota Quarterly, Passager, Rattle, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Sycamore Review, and The Writer’s Chronicle, and anthologies, including Ritual to Read Together: Poems in Conversation with William Stafford (Woodley) and Poetry in Michigan / Michigan in Poetry (New Issues). James lives in the woods east of Saugatuck, Michigan, and has been teaching writing, literature, and peace-making at Hope College for 33 years.


If god were gentle (Dos Madres Press, 2017). Poetry.
Since Everything Is All I’ve Got (March Street Press, 2011). Poetry.


  • Split-Level (Finishing Line Press, 2017). Poetry.
  • Why War (Finishing Line Press, 2014). Poetry.
  • Psychological Clock (Pudding House Publications, 2007). Poetry.
  • Lost Enough (Finishing Line Press, 2007). Poetry.
  • A Little Instability without Birds (Finishing Line Press, 2006). Poetry.

Blurbs, Press & Reviews

“There is, in D. R. James’s elegiac collection, If god were gentle, a surfeit of intelligence and sentiment even as he engages the most ordinary stations of our living. The familiar—parenting, loving, dying—is re-visioned with distinct poetic beauty that is preserved in the “salt and ice” of disciplined craft and gentle irony. James is a reliable and consistent observer of our times who, thankfully, brings to his verse the welcome vulnerability demanded of truth-seekers.”
—Kwame Dawes, author of City of Bones and Duppy Conqueror: New and Selected Poems

“While titles like “Writing My Way Out of This Paper Bag” and “Right Before Whatever the Next Thing Is Kicks In” are irresistible, at the heart of If god were gentle is a determination to confront pain and regret with language, language that slices away excuses and self-defense. This is an act of bravery.”
—Susan Blackwell Ramsey, author of A Mind Like This

“D.R. James has a way of working in first person that requires the poet to put aside the diary and journaling just for now. He takes us, not to himself, but through himself into experiences that should bring out the best in us. His “I” is a place where vulnerability has a collision with whatever comes along. James is not searching for the Paradisio. He hunkers down into the well-earned safety of being right here.”
—Jack Ridl, author of Practicing to Walk Like a Heron and Losing Season

“In Split-Level, garages become temples, sons become oceans, and the poet becomes a crow navigating connection and collapse. These poems are located and lost. Caught and dislodged. Familiar and full of awe. D. R. James breathes into us an awareness of life’s strange realities with reverence, tenderness, and humor. The past and the present play across the page like the memory of a cornfield plowed under by a subdivision.”
—Rob Kenagy

“(Since Everything Is All I’ve Got) is D.R. James’s book of wonders. It brims with the hard-earned wonder that comes through love and loss, and through his assay of the mysteries of the heart, the psyche, or the soul. In the spirit of Thoreau, these poems plumb the depths of experience, probing as far as language and feeling will allow. Distrustful of sham or self-delusion, James is nonetheless hopeful and in search of what is authentic, reliable, and real at the center, something that literally re-minds us that we are vividly alive. These poems chart his journey to those moments when we sense that our lives–in joy and in sorrow–are truly here and inescapably now and everything is all we have.”
—Fred Marchant, author of The Looking House and Full Moon Boat

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