The newest chapbook of poetry by David James of the Hope College English faculty, writing as D.R. James, reflects life as transition, from boyhood to middle age.
The collection, “Split-Level,” has been published this month by Finishing Line Press. While the title is literally drawn from the eponymous opening poem’s reference to split-level homes, it speaks symbolically to the dualisms in the collection. The 18 poems follow the narrator from childhood in a growing suburb west of Chicago during the Kennedy era, to pride and wistful recollection as the parent of grown children and the son of an aging parent, to thoughts on teaching, faith and the effects of getting older.
All of the poems were previously published in a variety of journals. The cover is by artist Meredith Ridl, whose father Jack Ridl, is a poet and an emeritus member of the English faculty at Hope.
James’s prior poetry publications include the full-length collection “Since Everything Is All I’ve Got” (2011) and the chapbooks “Why War” (2014), “Psychological Clock” (2007), “Lost Enough” (2007) and “A Little Instability without Birds” (2006). He has had poetry published in numerous journals, including Hotel Amerika, North Dakota Quarterly, Oberon, Passager, Rattle, Ruminate and Sycamore Review, as well as in the anthologies “Poetry in Michigan/Michigan in Poetry” (2013) and “A Ritual to Read Together: Poems in Conversation with William Stafford” (2013). James goes by D.R. rather than David to distinguish his work from that of another poet, David James, who writes from the east side of the state.
James is an adjunct professor of English at Hope, where he teaches writing and literature, and is coordinator of academic coaching with the college’s Academic Success Center. He has been a member of the faculty since 1987, and also taught at Hope full-time from 1982 to 1984.
Former director of Hope’s writing center and August Seminars, he helped develop the college’s writing across the curriculum program and led summer faculty-development workshops on the teaching of writing. He also helped develop Hope’s initial PATH writing program for gifted and talented adolescents.
Prior to joining the Hope faculty, he taught English, French and theatre at Holland High School, Saugatuck High School and the now long-closed St. Augustine Seminary for high school boys, formerly located in what is now Saugatuck Dunes State Park. He has been a consultant to school districts and intermediate school districts on the teaching of writing at the kindergarten through 12th-grade level, and facilitated several K-12 writing projects for Ottawa and Ionia County teachers.
James graduated from Hope in 1976 with majors in English and French. He received an M.A. in literature and composition from the University of Iowa in 1980, and an M.F.A. in poetry from Pacific University in 2013. He and his wife Suzy Doyle have six grown children and three grandchildren.