How to Love the World
Publication: March 23, 2021
More and more people are turning to poetry as an antidote to divisiveness, negativity, anxiety, and the frenetic pace of life. How to Love the World: Poems of Gratitude and Hope offers readers uplifting, deeply felt, and relatable poems by well-known poets from all walks of life and all parts of the US, including inaugural poet Amanda Gorman, Joy Harjo, Naomi Shihab Nye, Ross Gay, Tracy K. Smith, and others. The work of these poets captures the beauty, pleasure, and connection readers hunger for. How to Love the World, which contains new works by Ted Kooser, Mark Nepo, and Jane Hirshfield, invites readers to use poetry as part of their daily gratitude practice to uncover the simple gifts of abundance and joy to be found everywhere. With pauses for stillness and invitations for writing and reflection throughout, as well as reading group questions and topics for discussion in the back, this book can be used to facilitate discussion in a classroom or in any group setting.
James Crews has the perfect touch – the wondrous poems he selects, the spirits behind them, the relationships they hold with one another when arranged together, feel exquisitely right. This is a book we needed right now – and how. How to Love the World is for every one of us—adolescents, teens, adults—who welcomes or misses the fullness of joy and the wholeness of days. As with Crews’s first landmark anthology, Healing the Divide, don’t buy one copy, buy ten. You’ll need them.
—Naomi Shihab Nye, Young People’s Poet Laureate, Poetry Foundation
Poetry is my drug of choice, and I tell people that if they think they don’t like poetry, it’s probably because they haven’t found their poet yet. You’ll find lots of poets to love within these pages, and you’ll also find invitations for reflection and for writing poems of your own. How to Love the World is exactly what we need in these times–or in any.
—Elizabeth Berg, author of I’ll Be Seeing You and The Story of Arthur Truluv
Green Writers Press
Publication: April 9, 2020
The butterfly does not break free triumphant.
Once it claws through the chrysalis,
it stands there shivering, new wings aching
as they slowly fill with blood. It must keep
its tiny eyes shut tight at first against
the brightness and shimmer of a world
it has never seen before—not like this.
It must listen until the soul’s voice whispers:
The flowers are waiting. Leave the skin
of the old life far behind. Open your eyes
and give in to the blue air that will carry you
everywhere you need to go.
In these uncertain times, I can’t imagine a more wonderful companion than James Crews’s Bluebird. I read this book with a flutter in my chest, needing to pause every so often to let the beauty of his words sink in. These uplifting poems comfort us as they remind us of the joys of close attention, the rewards of a slower pace of life, and the inherent wisdom to be found in silence and kindness. Crews has written a book of love poems: to the Earth, to rural living, to his community, to his husband and to each one of us.
–Shari Altman, Literary North
Healing the Divide
Green Writers Press
Publication: April 9, 2019
This anthology features poems by Mark Doty, Ross Gay, Donald Hall, Marie Howe, Naomi Shihab Nye and many others. These poets, from all walks of life, and from all over America, prove to us the possibility of creating in our lives what Dr. Martin Luther King called the “beloved community,” a place where we see each other as the neighbors we already are. Healing the Divide urges us, at this fraught political time, to move past the negativity that often fills the airwaves, and to embrace the ordinary moments of kindness and connection that fill our days.
James Crews’ work has appeared in Ploughshares, Raleigh Review, Crab Orchard Review and The New Republic, among other journals, and he is a regular contributor to The (London) Times Literary Supplement.
Telling My Father
Cowles Poetry Book Prize Winner
Publication: October 1, 2017
In the Yard After a Storm
I placed the acorn cap in my palm
like the smallest alms bowl, held it up
to catch the last drops of rain falling
cold from the tips of shivering leaves.
But as I turned it over, let the water
trickle out, it became the polished knob
to a trapdoor that appears only for those
who wait long enough to see its shadow
hung on mist and air. I pulled, lifted,
then looked down as if into that place
carved out in my mind like a cellar filled
with the murky jars of my worst fears,
their labels faded but the message clear:
To know myself, I must taste each one.
“What Crews’ poems do so well is catalog the moments when fallible humans are good to one another.” Read the full review here.
–Julia Shipley, Seven Days
“The poems trembled like first light on a calm surface — no showy linguistic tricks, just lyric moments, a life revealed in its imperfection and grace.” Read the full review here.
–Diana Whitney, San Francisco Chronicle
“This is poetry at its most powerful; that is to say, at its most subversive. Images and lines and music all combine to transform me even as they carry me from beginning to end in one deft movement. I accept what the poem says unconditionally whether or not, on reflection, I buy into the philosophical theories at its core.” Read the full review here.
–Ray Hudson, The Hopper
The Book of What Stays
Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry Series
2011 Foreword Book of the Year honorable mention in Nonfiction Poetry
Publication: September, 2011
Snow clouds fill the sky like a power
you never knew you had. The man next to you
on this rush hour bus has stuffed plastic bags
into the holes of his coat and huddles close
to look out your window as if the sunset
might burst for once with the red of alpenglow,
as if these piles of snow were only beginnings
of mountains trying to rise up. But you know
the cold and ice will give up these plains again
as a robe gives up the body underneath. Color
always returns, if slowly, to the earth like the self
you thought you already were all winter.
“This is a marvelous book: a debut collection filled with the voice of an old soul, someone who has battled to claim what he knows. James Crews’ compassionate intelligence ranges wide, looking for stories within the stories of news accounts, saints, and mythological figures, sifting through experience and possibility to find moments of intense clarity and feeling.” Read the full review here.
—Teresa Scollon, Foreword Reviews
“The Book of What Stays is one of the very best original books of poetry I’ve read in the past couple of years . . . . I feel that while this book may be the one that stays, there’s a “part two” quickly on the way.” Read the full review here.
—Mike Walker, Coal Hill Review
“In the ‘sweet language of what burns,’ James Crews explores a realm of love and loss . . . these poignant poems call us to the hope of our ‘breathing together.’ ”
—Minnie Bruce Pratt, author of Inside the Money Machine
Winner of the 2017 Grayson Books Chapbook Contest
Publication: August 7, 2017
Waiting for Love
You must save up for it and collect and gather honey.
You can collect as much of it as you like,
keep it in trunks under the bed, in closets
or store it in stone jars as the pharaohs did,
placing gallon after gallon of priceless honey
next to the alabaster heads of sarcophagi
so when they woke wide-eyed and famished
in the afterlife, they’d find something familiar
and sweet to eat. But nothing hoarded stays
hidden for long. Soon enough some looter
will shimmy into that secret room in you and—
ignoring the warnings—he will pry off the lid
of every jar and scoop out what is now
crystallized, shining in his hands, somehow
still delicious after all that time.
“I love the way the book starts with such astute, generous, capacious poems about the speaker’s father and then spirals quite naturally outward to take on larger themes such as love, the natural world, and even at the end, a vision of the end of the world…The poems are characterized by an emotional honesty fueled by compassion Each one is beautifully made, and each claims its space.”
–Leslie Ullman, author of Progress on the Subject of Immensity
How Light Leaves explores with clarity, humor, and kindness the mysteries of our daily existence. Crews’ poems have a tidal sweep as he moves between the universe within and the world without until every word becomes transformative and our ideas about life, and death, are made larger. This is a book that loves the world.
–Jesse Lee Kercheval, author of America, That Island Off the Coast of France