William James

working class poetry // punk rock performance

5.01.17 // Reading List, April 2017


As evidenced by the annual publication of yet another "Is Poetry Dead?" article in a major newspaper, this past month was National Poetry Month. As such, other than finishing up a novel I had started in late March, I spent all of April catching up on my backlog of poetry collections. Turns out that over the past few months, even not trying to, I've read significantly more poetry than I have any other genre; turns out that even if you take the poet away from poetry,  you can't take the poetry out of the poet. Anyway. Without further ado, here's what I read in April: 


  •  "Zone One"  (Coleson Whitehead, fiction)
  • "Litany for the City"  (Ryan Teitman, poetry) 
  • "Garbage"  (A.R. Ammons, poetry) 
  • "Pecking Order"  (Nicole Homer, poetry) 
  • "Up South"  (Robert Lashley, poetry) 
  • "Right Now More Than Ever"  (Nate Pritts, poetry) 
  • "Debacle Debacle"  (Matt Hart, poetry) 
  • "Wine For A Shotgun"  (Marty McConnell, poetry) 
  • "Oh God Get Out Get Out"  (Bill Moran, poetry) 
  • "The Chambermaid's Style Guide"  (Angelique Palmer, poetry) 
  • "Dread"  (Ai, poetry) 
  • "The Virginia State Colony For Epileptics and Feebleminded"  (Molly McCulley Brown, poetry) 
  • "Colonies"  (Tomasz Różycki, poetry/translation by Mira Rosenthal)

4.3.17 // Reading List, March 2017


  Over the years, one of the most frustrating poets for me to read has been Dean Young. I absolutely enjoy his work, but it is obtuse as hell, and every time I've tried to read a full book of his in the past, I've ended up quitting some portion of the way through. Other titles have languished on my bookshelf unread for years; for my March reading, I decided to challenge myself by reading every Dean Young poetry collection I own, in chronological order. Beyond that, I read some more fiction, and revisited a non-fiction title I haven't read in years. Enough exposition though - here's the list. 


  • "Black Aperture"  (Matt Rasmussen, poetry) 
  •  "The Brief, Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao"  (Junot Diaz, fiction)
  • "Skid"  (Dean Young, poetry) 
  • "Elegy on Toy Piano"  (Dean Young, poetry) 
  • "Embryoyo"  (Dean Young, poetry) 
  • "Primitive Mentor"  (Dean Young, poetry) 
  • "Fall Higher"  (Dean Young, poetry) 
  • "Stiff: the Curious Lives of Human Cadavers"  (Mary Roach, non-fiction) 
  • "Stone Mattress"  (Margaret Atwood, short stories) 
  • "Trances of the Blast"  (Mary Ruefle, poetry) 
  • "The Intuitionist"  (Coleson Whitehead, fiction) 
  • "Rabbit Cake"  (Annie Hartnett, fiction)
  • "Pelican"  (Emily O'Neill, poetry) 
  • "Blood Song"  (Michael Schmeltzer, poetry) 

3.1.17 // Reading list, February 2017


 A bit of an inversion from January, where I read mostly fiction, memoir, or essay, my February was almost entirely poetry. Not anything to complain about, good heavens, no! But I did discover a couple of new-to-me authors whose other works I'm already eager to devour. About half of this list was my first time reading, the rest were revisiting works I'd read before, and still love.


  • "Collected Poems"  (Jack Gilbert, poetry)
  • "Blood Dazzler"  (Patricia Smith, poetry) 
  • "Kingdom Animalia"  (Aracelis Girmay, poetry) 
  • "How Her Spirit Got Out"  (Krysten Hill, poetry) 
  • "Hum"  (Jamaal May, poetry) 
  • "Black Movie"  (Danez Smith, poetry) 
  • "The Homeboy Songs"  (Robert Lashley, poetry) 
  • "Incendiary Art"  (Patricia Smith, poetry)
  • "Prelude to Bruise"  (Saeed Jones, poetry) 
  • "The Sellout"  (Paul Beatty, fiction) 
  • "John Henry Days"  (Coleson Whitehead, fiction) 

2.1.17 // Reading list, January 2017


One of my goals this year is to maintain a reading log of every book I read. It's also a convenient excuse to use this pretty sweet pocket notebook from Zeb Love - hand crafted, using test prints from his various screen printing projects. These books are one of a kind, so you can't have the one in this picture, but you CAN buy a 3-pack of your own here!


  • "Notes on the End of the World"  (Meghan Privitello, poetry)
  • "Gun, with Occasional Music"  (Jonathan Lethem, fiction) 
  • "Mother Night"  (Kurt Vonnegut, fiction) 
  • "Deadeye Dick"  (Kurt Vonnegut, fiction) 
  • "Hocus Pocus"  (Kurt Vonnegut, fiction) 
  • "The Argonauts"  (Maggie Nelson, memoir/criticism) 
  • "Bright Dead Things"  (Ada Limón, poetry) 
  • "Bad Feminist" (Roxane Gay, essays) 
  • "Jane: A Murder"  (Maggie Nelson, poetry/memoir) 
  • "The Long Patrol"  (Brian Jacques, fiction) 
  • "Triss"  (Brian Jacques, fiction) 
  • "The Spitboy Rule"  (Michelle Cruz Gonzales, memoir) 


1.15.17 // CHRONOLOGY

Personal journals: November 29, 2006 - September 30, 2016

photo provided by the author

photo provided by the author

For over a decade, I've kept a journal. I don't always write in it religiously every day; some days I write profusely, other times weeks, even months will pass. I estimate that roughly 90% of my poems have first taken shape in a handwritten draft found on one of these pages. Some have since gone on to the Great Abandoned Drafts Sub-directory In the Sky, never to be considered again. A few have found homes in various literary journals, magazines, my first book...

It's wild to look back & see a literal decade of my life unfold in moments. It's sobering to think that so much of my entirety as a human is documented & bound in not more than a pound or two of dead trees.  There are times where I don't recognize the person who wrote the words I read - I suppose this is a good thing. I suppose this is a marker of progress.

As the years have gone by, I've gotten less & less formal with my journaling. Was a time long ago that I would meticulously chronicle every event, every thought, every observation I had; these days, there are haphazard notes, ideas for poems, bits of flotsam & jetsam that I scribble down only for the moment so I remember it a day or two later. One thing I haven't let go of - the instinct to write everything out by hand first...the drive to "feel" a poem leave my thoughts, to take on corporeal form of sorts, the desire to build muscle memory out of creativity, if for no other reason that that it just seems the right thing to do.

I remember thinking years ago that maybe one day, if/when I was a Famous Poet, someone might take an interest in these old journals...would want a glimpse into the mind that created the work I had chosen to publicly share. How quaint! How narcissistic, really! The poems I write, the ones that make their way to the laptop, to the Dropbox folder, to the submission portal - those are for you as much as they are for me.

Let these dusty old memories stay in the dust. Let them be that fodder for my future self to dig up once more, to peruse with the fascination of an archeologist, and then to return, one more time, to the drawer from whence they came. The day will come when I can no longer remember what I did in the misspent years of my youth! What fortune awaits me, to have this archive to show for it.

W. James// 1982-XXXX


Hardcore Stadium // Cambridge, MA



Liturgy For the Underground // Birthright // Kneeskinner // Letter to Myself Following A Second Failed Suicide Attempt 

deadbeats & gloryhunters (w. Old Gray) 


Shea Stadium // Brooklyn, NY




Liturgy For the Underground // yr sixteen & just came home from yr first hardcore show // Homesong // Kneeskinner // Letter to Myself Following A Second Failed Suicide Attempt // Benediction of the Unpaid Rent 

deadbeats & gloryhunters (w. Old Gray)


Everybody Hits // Philadelphia, PA



Liturgy For the Underground // Homesong // Kneeskinner // Strange Language // Letter to Myself Following A Second Failed Suicide Attempt // Benediction of the Unpaid Rent 

deadbeats & gloryhunters  (with Old Gray) 

10.5.16 // NEW! RADIANT! ACTION!

I recently had a suite of poems from my flood series published over at Fourth & Sycamore. This is a really great journal run by the folks at the Greenville Public Library in Greenville, OH; I was first turned on to it when my pal Jeremy Radin had some work from his "Dear Sal" series published, and I'm thrilled to have joined their ranks. Someone I don't know apparently commented that the last poem in my suite "reminds [him] of a psalm from the Old Testament" which might even make my father proud. If you haven't yet read them, perhaps you'd do me the kindness of taking a look?

I was co-featured as Poet of the Week over at The Odyssey a couple days ago. It was my privilege to share the spotlight with Nathan Say...we both had sort of different, but also a lot the same answers to the same questions. Give it a read here if you like - I promise I wasn't TOO grouchy.

On the "What's BillJim Reading These Days" front, I've been working my way through Matt Hart's new double feature, "Radiant Action" (H_NGM_N Books) and "Radiant Companion" (Monster House Press) which has been having the effect of making me reallyholyshitexcited about writing poems again. So I'm doing just that. I hope whatever you've been reading has lightning-bolted you into making something gorgeous happen.


9.2.16 // poems finding homes

Howdy, y'all

I've had a couple of poems find homes in some journals that were gracious enough to accept me.

My love letter to house shows, Benediction of the Unpaid Rent was published in the August issue of STIRRING.

I also have a poem in the September issue of Rogue Agent

I am immensely grateful to the editors of these journals for allowing my poems to grace their archives. I hope you enjoy reading them.

6.24.16 // Utah Arts Fest, Day One

Holy crap, am I terrible at keeping up to date with blogs. The worst...anyway...

I'm currently in Salt Lake City, UT for the 40th annual Utah Arts Fest. Last year was such a blast that I had to come back & do it again. Arts Fest is easily one of my favorite events to be a part of, and I'm thrilled/honored/humbled to have been included for a second year. I'm reading this afternoon at 3:30 (Mountain Time) so if any of y'all happen to be in the area, it'd be great to see you in the crowd.

In other news, I started a poetry journal. It's called Beech Street Review. We're reading for our first issue until July 31st. Hopefully I see some of you in the inbox.

I'm gonna try really hard to post some actual updates from Arts Fest. Maybe even do more than one blog post in a month. In the mean time, here's a pretty picture of a sunset, taken from the window of a plane.

Until next time,


NATIONAL POETRY MONTH | 30poems//30days | 5.30

When I told my partner I'd finished my poem for today, she replied "Oh, cool! What's this one about?" To which I responded "Uh...religion? I think?" Since the very first deconstruction poem I ever wrote (you can read that one here) I've never actually known what any of these poems were going to be about, sometimes even after I've written them. Sometimes I think I know...usually the poem proves me wrong. I once did a deconstruction of a Bane album in which the first line - one I eventually threw away after realizing it was going nowhere - was "I WANT TO SEE SOME FUCKING BUTTERFLIES!" One thing I've learned: if I think I know where a deconstruction is taking me, I don't.

Today's poem takes its source text from a record that's probably on my all-time 'desert island' list. Lyrically, it's a series of micro-essays on time, and its controlling effects on humanity. I'd encourage you to actually seek out the lyrics to this one (after you read my poem, of course) and give them a read. 

POEM: http://www.williamjamespoetry.com/napowrimo2016
PASSWORD: "3030deconstruct"

NATIONAL POETRY MONTH | 30 poems//30 days | 4.30

Here's today's poem, sourced from my absolute favorite album by Poison the Well. I'm rather fond of how this one turned out; I'd even go so far as to say it's my favorite poem so far of this (admittedly small) batch. As usual, the link to the poem & the needed password to access it is linked below. For your enjoyment while reading, here's an embedded stream of the songs that made the poem possible!

Password: "3030deconstruct"

NATIONAL POETRY MONTH | 30 poems//30 days | 3.30

For National Poetry Month this year, I am writing 30 different poems using the lyrics to 30 different albums from my music library. Each day, I'll post a link to the day's poem, and (when available) a YouTube link to a stream of the source material, should you wish to explore it.

The poem for April 3 was written using the lyrics to the album "Pass The Flask" by The Bled.
POEM: http://www.williamjamespoetry.com/napowrimo2016/
PASSWORD: "3030deconstruct"

NATIONAL POETRY MONTH | 30 Poems // 30 Days | 2.30

For National Poetry Month this year, I am writing 30 different poems using the lyrics to 30 different albums from my music library. Each day, I'll post a link to the day's poem, and (when available) a YouTube link to a stream of the source material, should you wish to explore it.

The poem for April 2 was written using the lyrics to the album "The Underdark" by Funeral Diner. 
POEM: http://www.williamjamespoetry.com/napowrimo2016/
PASSWORD: "3030deconstruct"

NATIONAL POETRY MONTH | 30 Poems // 30 Days | 1.30

For National Poetry Month this year, I am writing 30 different poems using the lyrics to 30 different albums from my music library. Each day, I'll post a link to the day's poem, and (when available) a YouTube link to a stream of the source material, should you wish to explore it.

The poem for April 1 was written using the lyrics to the album "Jane Doe" by Converge. 
POEM: http://www.williamjamespoetry.com/napowrimo2016/
PASSWORD: "3030deconstruct"


In case you didn't know it, April marks another National Poetry Month here in the Ol' U-S-of-A. If you're connected to even a single poet on any form of social media, you knew this already. Much like I have in year's past, I'm endeavoring once more to write a new poem every day this month. This time around, I'm exclusively writing deconstructions - this is where I take lyrics to some of my favorite records, reorder them alphabetically, and write entirely new work using only the words that appear in front of me. I've written deconstruction poems as part of my 30/30 in the past, but never dedicated an entire month to just that form. Here's hoping for a successful finish.

I'm already a day behind, but I thought since I'm writing poems using album lyrics, it might be fun to provide y'all with a chance to check out the source material if/when you're unfamiliar with it. I'll do a couple catch-up posts to get us all on track, and then will continue to post here, on this blog, every day with a convenient YouTube video when possible.

How about you? Are you writing poems this month? If we're friends on Facebook, please feel free to tag me when you post them! I'd love to read along.

Best of luck to y'all! Happy National Poetry Month! Let's make it a great one.


Mar. 19, 2016 // up.date

Now that everything has been set & confirmed, I can finally get around to announcing this: I'll be featuring this summer at the legendary Green Mill, the birthplace of the poetry slam. Of course I'm taking the train. I'm hoping to put together a couple more shows to supplement this trip...nothing set in stone yet, but a few things are in the works. I do have a couple other readings happening in the near future - more about those here. 

I've finally managed to update this here website with some of my more recent publications, as well as adding a few videos from my rebel hearts & restless ghosts book release show last month. You can click the TEXT or MEDIA links to your left (or in the drop-down menu, if you're reading this on a phone) to see all of that.

Right now, my workshop students are discussing in depth this wonderful poem from the latest issue of Sundog Lit. I highly recommend giving it a read, as well as the rest of the issue (and not just because I have a poem in the contents).



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