BOOKSMITH: SF Launch for John James / The Milk Hours, w/Jay Deshpande, Jessica Laser & Noah Warren

Thursday, September 19, 2019 - 7:30pm

Booksmith hosts Bay Area poet John James for his debut book of poems, The Milk Hours. Reading with him are local poets Jay Deshpande (Love the Stranger), Jessica Laser (Sergei Kuzmich from All Sides) & Noah Warren (The Destroyer in the Glass). Please join us!

Winner of the Max Ritvo Poetry Prize, The Milk Hours is an elegant debut that searches widely to ask what it means to exist in a state of loss.

“We lived overlooking the walls overlooking the cemetery.” So begins the title poem of this collection, whose recursive temporality is filled with living, grieving things, punctuated by an unseen world of roots, bodies, and concealed histories. Like a cemetery, too, The Milk Hours sets unlikely neighbors alongside each other: Hegel and Murakami, Melville and the Persian astronomer al-Sufi, enacting a transhistorical poetics even as it brims with intimacy. These are poems of frequent swerves and transformations, which never stray far from an engagement with science, geography, art, and aesthetics, nor from the dream logic that motivates their incessant investigations.

Indeed, while John James begins with the biographical -- the haunting loss of a father in childhood, the exhausted hours of early fatherhood -- the questions that emerge from his poetic synthesis are both timely and universal: what is it to be human in an era where nature and culture have fused? To live in a time of political and environmental upheaval, of both personal and public loss? How do we make meaning, and to whom -- or what -- do we turn, when such boundaries so radically collapse?

John James is the author of The Milk Hours (Milkweed, 2019), selected by Henri Cole for the Max Ritvo Poetry Prize. His poems appear in Boston Review, Kenyon Review, Gulf Coast, Poetry Northwest, Best American Poetry 2017, and elsewhere. His work has been supported through fellowships and awards from the Bread Loaf Environmental Writers Conference, the Academy of American Poets, and the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice at Georgetown University. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he is pursuing a PhD in English at the University of California, Berkeley.

Jay Deshpande is the author of Love the Stranger, named a top debut of 2015 by Poets & Writers, and of the chapbook The Rest of the Body (both from YesYes Books). His poems have appeared in Boston Review, Denver Quarterly, Narrative, and elsewhere. A graduate of Harvard University and Columbia University’s School of the Arts, he has received fellowships or support from Kundiman, Civitella Ranieri, Saltonstall Arts Colony, and the Key West Literary Seminar. Currently, he is a 2018-2010 Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University. He is at work on a collection of poems and on a book of translations of Egyptian surrealist Georges Henein.

author photo for Jessica LaserJessica Laser grew up in Chicago. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she is a PhD student in English at UC Berkeley. Her first book, Sergei Kuzmich from All Sides (Letter Machine Editions), was published this year.


Noah WarrenNoah Warren is the author of The Destroyer in the Glass (2016), winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford, he is currently a PhD student in English at UC Berkeley. His poems appear in The Paris Review, ZYZZYVA, Poetry, PEN AmericaThe New England Review, NarrativeThe Iowa Review, The Sewanee Review,, and elsewhere. 

This event is free and all ages.

RSVP appreciated but not required.

As with all of our events, seating may be limited; you can guarantee a seat by pre-purchasing the book below -- when checking out, just be sure to include a note that you'd like to attend the event. If you cannot attend the event but would like to request a signed copy of The Milk Hours, order below and put your request in the comments field; if you'd like to order Jay's book, do the same here; for Jessica's book, here; for Noah's book, here.

The Milk Hours: Poems By John James Cover Image
ISBN: 9781571315083
Availability: Out of Stock - Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Milkweed Editions - June 4th, 2019