John James

John James headshot

John James is the author of The Milk Hours, selected by Henri Cole for the Max Ritvo Poetry Prize and published in 2019 by Milkweed Editions. His poems appear in Boston Review, Kenyon Review, Gulf Coast, Poetry Northwest, Best American Poetry 2017, and elsewhere, and his work has been supported by fellowships and awards from the Bread Loaf Environmental Writers’ Conference, the Academy of American Poets, and Georgetown’s Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he is pursuing a Ph.D. in English at the University of California, Berkeley.


what was it this
morning : you said

redgrass glistens
in surf : the pine

board fence collapsed
along the line : after

the storm a kestrel
in headwind : sand

accumulates on your
feet : puckered seal

skin : the salt-washed
flesh : wreckage towing

upshore : when the
gulls came out I saw

them circling in air :
saw them pecking

seals’ eyes from
torn skin : a boy

downstrand rolling
in dunes : I could see

the stomach’s red
wall : the small hairs

on its flippers : blubber
wretched by shark

bite from the belly’s
swell : later seen

from a dune : black
water : fish spit

pooling : mouth open
enough to see teeth

trailing in sand : his lips
limp : there in

the storm’s wake
I wanted something

to say : the ocean
scraped his insides clean

From The Milk Hours (Milkweed Editions, 2019)



Ilya Kaminsky & John James Reading I September 24, 2019

Reading I September 24, 2019

Seminar | September 24, 2019