Leland James – a prolific, award-winning poet whose latest book is an allegorical fable of World War II.
Leland James is the author of three books of poetry. He has been published in over fifty journals and magazines worldwide, including The South Carolina Review; The Spoon River Poetry Review; New Millennium Writings; The London Magazine; Vallum; Orbis; Magma; Osprey, Scotland’s international journal of literature; Arc; HQ, The Haiku Quarterly; Form Quarterly, and The Society of Classical Poets Journal. He was the winner of The Little Red Tree International poetry prize, the Portland Pen Poetry Contest, the Writer’s Forum short poem contest, and an International Publication Prize winner in an Atlanta Review poetry competition; also he was runners-up for the Fish International (Ireland), the Welsh, The London Magazine, and the Society of Classical Poet’s Poetry prizes. He has placed or received honors in dozens of other competitions, including, Aesthetica Magazine; Morton Marr, The Southwest Review; the Golden Quill Awards; and the Bridport Prize. Leland received the Franklin-Christoph Merit Award for Poetry in 2008 and was nominated for a 2014 Push Cart Prize. www.lelandjamespoet.com
How did you become a writer?
I wrote my first poem when I was twelve. It was not a decision, as in “I want to be …” when I grow up. It was who I was and what I did. I had to.
How do you write? What is your process?
I write nearly every day, only events and travel sometimes interrupting. I start with a phrase, usually, that runs through my mind vaguely connected to some meaning. I start in and let the first lines guide me as to form, sometimes open sometimes metered and rhymed. Then I see what happens. I don’t consciously plan where the poem will end or what its meaning will be. Then I revise, revise, revise …..
Who are your favorite authors?
This is mood thing. I swing from William Blake to Sylvia Plath to T.S. Eliot to Shakespeare. I like Robert Frost, Theodore Roethke, Richard Wilbur …. I bounce all over the place.
What authors have inspired you?
Probably Frost, but not his writing more than many others. He couldn’t get published in the USA and had to publish in the UK before getting a birth at home. My experience has been the same.
What books are on your bedside table?
All the Fun’s in How You Say a Thing, Timothy Steele; The Poets Ear, Annie Finch; How Does A Poem Mean, John Ciardi (all serve as anthologies as well and guides. These books are perennials. Currently, I’m reading World Order by Henry Kissinger and Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver.
What writing projects do you have planned next?
Oh, how long do you have. Two more children’s book length narrative poems in the same form poetry as my recent book, Animal Land. Then a couple book length collections on different themes. A half dozen individual poems in progress. Reading programs scheduled for both children and adults. And getting the winter’s wood cut and split, and then the snow shoveled.
What advice do you have for young writers?
Don’t listen to free verse proponents tell you not to write formal verse. Don’t let formal verse proponents tell you not to write free verse. Study the books mentioned above. And most important recall what Aristotle said about learning to do anything: “You learn to learn to play the flute by playing the flute.” You learn to write by writing.
What was your favorite book as a child?
The Uncle Wiggily stories read to me by my grandmother.
His Latest Book
My latest book is a book-length narrative poem, Animal Land, an allegorical fable of World War II. It is a first cousin to Orwell’s Animal Farm. Perhaps the best way to describe the book is to provide an excerpt from a review that I thought was right on:
Poised skillfully between Aesop’s fables and The History of World War II, Leland James’ enchanting allegorical tale relates the story of the war with a cast of cleverly chosen animals. Brilliantly illustrated by Anne Zimanski, “Animal Land” is a must-read for children from nine to ninety. A page-turning mixture of wonder and horror with a message for our own times proclaimed at its closing by a wise old owl.
– Johnmichael Simon, chief editor Cyclamens and Swords Publishing.
Animal Land was published in 2015 by Little Red Tree Publishing in New London Connecticut. They have a nice page on their website dedicated to the book. It is available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and through any bookstore, at $19.95. Horizon in Traverse City, Petoskey, and Charlevoix have the book (and two others of mine), as does Brilliant Books in Traverse City.
More about all of my books at www.lelandjamespoet.com
My books are also sold at readings I do free of charge at libraries, book stores, and for gatherings in private homes. More on this at my website.