2017 Viola Award Nominee for Excellence in Storytelling
During his lifetime, Jim Simmerman was the author of five poetry collections, American Children (BOA Editions, Ltd., 2005), and the co-editor of Dog Music: Poetry about Dogs (St. Martin’s). A recipient of fellowships from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, the Bread Loaf and Port Townsend Writers Conferences, the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, the Hawthornden Castle International Retreat for Writers, and the National Endowment for the Arts, he was a Regents’ Professor of English at Northern Arizona University.
Simmerman was the first faculty member to establish a Creative Writing program at Northern Arizona University in the early 1980’s, and he taught hundreds and hundreds of students who would go on to become successful poets and teachers.
He also volunteered at high schools in Flagstaff to teach poetry. The Simmerman High School Prize in Poetry was established after his death in 2006 to pay tribute to his time and efforts in promoting poetry in the high schools and has been run annually by his Literary Executor, James Jay.
When Simmerman died he left several unpublished poems. Also, many of his early poetry has gone out of print and is difficult to find. With this in mind, James Jay and Miles Waggener sought a publisher to work with in order to preserve his poetry for generation of poets to come and to provide access to poems that had never been collected before.
The new book collects much of the early work. For instance, Simmerman splashed onto the national literary scene at a young age with his first book Home. A book praised highly by Raymond Carver: “These are evocative and beautifully rendered poems. Time and again I found myself stopping to draw breath, moved and sometimes startled at the aching rightness of the image, the felicity of the line. Simmerman is clearly among the best poets of his generation.”
Much of Home is collected in the new book.
In the foreword to The Blood and the Bone and the Flesh of It All, William Trowbridge describes how Simmerman’s power as a writer grew over the years, diminished at times from struggles with mental and physical illnesses, and ultimately was channeled into the final poems in this collection:
“Of the poems in this little book, some new and some published in literary magazines years ago, the new ones seem written in an even more pronounced minor key. The subjects of isolation, loneliness, regret, and encroaching hopelessness pervade them. Yet there’s no self-pity here. In the face of all the devastation, Jim manages to maintain his slightly wise-ass tone — if the ‘wise’ also carries a sense of wisdom and resolution in addition to what the phrase conventionally implies.”
This last collection of Simmerman is published by Gorky Press, an award winning press with a populist slant out of Los Angeles and is a gorgeous hardback book that will last and serves well to preserve his poems.
Jim Simmerman was one of the most important writers and poets to live in Flagstaff, Arizona. This final book helps to preserve his wonderful legacy and continue his influence on emerging writers.
The editors for this collection also have deep roots in Flagstaff. Editor James Jay lives in Flagstaff, Arizona, where he has taught poetry at the jail, the public schools, and Northern Arizona University. His poems and essays have appeared in numerous journals and magazines. He received a MFA from The University of Montana and a MA in Literature from Northern Arizona University. Currently, he is a writer for FlagLive, writing the Bartender Wisdom bi-monthly column; the President of the Northern Arizona Book Festival. In 2010 he received the Arizona Daily Sun’s People’s Choice Award for best author and a Viola Award in Literature in 2011. His latest collection of poems was nominated for a PEN Western States Award, a Before Columbus Foundation Award, and poems from the book have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He has served as the Literary Executor for the Estate of Jim Simmerman since 2006.
Editor Miles Waggener has taught high school English in Page, Arizona, creative writing at Prescott College, Northern Arizona University, The University of Montana, and currently directs the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Writer’s Workshop. Miles Waggener is the author of two poetry collections: Phoenix Suites (The Word Works, 2003), winner of the Washington Prize; and Sky Harbor (Pinyon Publishing, 2011); as well as chapbooks Portents Aside (Two Dogs Press, 2008) and Afterlives (Finishing Line, 2013). His poems have appeared in numerous anthologies and journals including New Poets of the American West; Verse Daily; Helen Burns Poetry Anthology: New Voices from the Academy of American Poets’ University and College Prizes; Antioch Review; Cutbank; Green Mountains Review; Crazyhorse; Seneca Review; and Beloit Poetry Journal. He has won individual artist fellowships from The Arizona Commission on the Arts and the Nebraska Arts Council.