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Poems by John N. Miller

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.

In “Intervals,” he’s philosophical:

“… ‘The farther out we look / the farther back in time we see the stars— / and if, like God, we could look far enough / we’d see the space-born, nebulous / beginnings of creation.’”

In the title poem, “In Passing,” he realizes, recovers, and accepts history:

“A sandstone bluff above a waterhole / made El Morro National Monument / a well-marked campsite. / Here / ‘Ancestral Puebloans, Spanish and American / travelers carved over 2,000 signatures, / dates, messages, and petroglyphs’ / before they passed into obscurity. / Daylight deepened their inscriptions.”

In “Emily Dickinson,” he captures that great poet lovingly in her Amherst garden:

“The garden waited. Birds held magic speech / against the haze of still trees, as the throb / of insects dropped into the sanguine reaches / of her heart.”

In a poem about his childhood, “In Honolulu, 1947,” war becomes the hopefulness of young love, carefully plotted:

“You stood shy / and silent also in that half-moon night / outside our eighth-grade canteen and its music, / lured by a speech I’d carefully prepared / and passed on through a friend.”

These are fine, poignant poems easy to read quickly but with the depth to encourage our return time and time again.

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, two full-length collections—Second War in Hawai’i (March Street Press) and In and Out of Their Elements (Fine Tooth Press)­—and two chapbooks issued by Main Street Rag Publishing Company.


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May 5, 2014 A Word’s Worth Review:
“In this compelling collection of musings about love, survival, grief, history, and mortality, ... Miller expresses his insights in a clear, definitive voice. ... Miller's poems are highly accessible, and he's at his best in a section devoted to his father and their relationship entitled ‘Time and Time Again.’” Read the Review

After the Invocation (2016): “John N. Miller joins seamlessly his boyhood in Hawai’i, adulthood in central Ohio, and World War II in Pacific and European theaters. His often caustic voice has embedded in it gentleness and empathy, as grain in wood. 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

(6"x9" paperback, 104 pages, ISBN: 978-0-9821561-41-0, $16.00).