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Poems by John N. Miller

John N. Miller continues to join seamlessly the three focuses of his work: boyhood in Hawai’i, adulthood in central Ohio, and World War II in both Pacific and European theaters. His Hawai’ian poems here (Section III) are extensions and enrichments of those in Second World War in Hawai’i (2005) and the third section of his previous book, In Passing (2014). “Ballad of the White Rose” cuts to the center of the gruesome Nazi oppression. The Ohio experiences are complemented by poems set in his current retirement community in Virginia (see “Piano Andantino”).

Miller’s wit and learning are wide-ranging, from Pegasus to “naghood,” from Quixote to Ahab. He is equally skilled and inventive in a variety of closed verse forms (“Sir Penmore Meets the Giant”) and open ones (“Torch Fishers,” “Winter Operation”), and with characters as diverse as Penelope and the urban homeless. His often caustic voice has embedded in it gentleness and empathy, as grain in wood (“Tearing Through Vienna”).

I would single out in this new collection Miller’s reimagining of classical myths, and events and figures in American history. Note, for instance, Icarus’s fall into an oil slick, and Venus’s bawdy riff from her half-shell, as well as his take on Ben Franklin (“An American in Paris”). After the Invocation is full of surprises, delight, and wisdom. John Miller is a “connoisseur of the old art of survival,” a vital presence in American poetry.

—Dabney Stuart, author of Only the One Sky


Though born in Ohio (1933), JOHN N. MILLER grew up in Hawai’i (1937-1951) and earned his graduate degrees at Stanford, where he worked under Yvor Winters. In 1997 Miller retired from Denison University, his undergraduate alma mater, and now lives with his wife Ilse in a retirement community in Lexington, Virginia. His poems have appeared in a wide variety of journals, three full-length collections—In Passing, Second War in Hawai’i, and In and Out of Their Elements—and two chapbooks.


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In Passing (2014): John N. Miller’s meditations on family, childhood love, grief, mortality, history, and place take us deep into the heart of lives acutely observed. Whether he’s writing about war veterans coming home, fishing with his father, or old friends passed on, his voice is calm and clear, with hope and acknowledgment of what it means to be a thoughtful human being.

(6"x9" paperback, 134 pages, ISBN: 978-0-9821561-25-0, $16.00).

January 17, 2017—A Word’s Worth Review:
“Classical myths, important characters in American history, childhood experiences, and the homeless in our country's cities — Miller offers us a panoply of poetic experiences in a seasoned voice that reflects delightful wit and empathetic nuances of the inner life — humor and elegance are gently entwined.” Read the Review