Dr. James R. Scrimgeour received his BA from Clark University, his MA and PhD from UMass, Amherst, and he is a Professor Emeritus at Western Connecticut State University. He has published nine books of poetry and over 220 poems in anthologies and periodicals. He has been nominated for several Pushcart Prizes, and he has given over 250 public readings of his work including one at an International Conference on Poetry and History, Stirling, Scotland. He served as Editor of Connecticut Review from September 1992-September 1995. Furthermore, he has published a critical biography of Sean O'Casey (G. K. Hall) along with numerous reviews and articles on poetry and drama, He currently resides in New Milford Connecticut with his wife, Christine Xanthakos Scrimgeour
My Life and Work
As I write this, I am professor Emeritus at Western Connecticut State University, and my wife, (Christine Xanthakos Scrimgeour) and I have just celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary. We currently reside in New Milford Connecticut but spend our summers in Rockport, MA.
We visit the ocean as often as we can. There is something about the eternal conflict between wave and rock that draws us back to the sea to bear witness again and again. "Your poems are all good," a poet friend once told me, "but something magical happens when you are around water," and this may well be the most perceptive critical statement ever made about my work.
Certainly, my poetic life has been a series of surges -- the first coming in graduate school at UMass, Amherst (1967-1970) when writing poetry was the one diversion I allowed myself while working at my dissertation on Despair in British and American Drama.
It was, however, at Illinois State University (1971-1978) that poetry became a part of my professional life. The department threw me into the briar patch of teaching creative writing, and like Brer Rabbit, I did not complain; this private patch has, in fact, over the years, given me one small protected spot in which I have been able to stay fresh, to keep the past in me alive, to maintain some ironic distance from society, and to grow at my own pace in my own way. (A fellow NEH seminarian once told me that I reminded him of an old gnarled tree and I thanked him then and thank him again for the compliment.)
And so I began to build up my credentials in creative writing to go along with my more traditional academic work (my book on Sean O'Casey (G.K. Hall) and articles on O'Casey, O'Neill, Blake and Kierkegaard, and Morality Drama, etc.). I began to give public readings and to publish my poems in the little magazines and small presses. This flurry of activity culminated in my publishing Dikel, Your Hands (Spoon River Poetry Press) in 1979.
After I moved to Western Connecticut in 1979, there was a poetic ebb during which I devoted much of my energy to more prosaic, practical activities: raising my three children, chairing an English Department, etc.
Suddenly, surprisingly, my poetic spirit, stirred by the fresh breeze of NEA Seminars at NYU and Princeton, revived; waves of poems came again in the late 80's, culminating in "The Unthinking Rhythm of the Sea," a long poem about my mother which had been churning within me for over 20 years. It was only after I turned 50 and was looking back at my own life that I could finally write this sad, tragic poem of lost potential. This poem is my long day's journey into night.
The next surge of poetic energy coincided with and grew naturally out of my work as Editor of Connecticut Review 1992-1995. During this time I read and thought a lot about the work of my contemporaries, and I began to take a more serious, disciplined approach to my own work, i.e., I began to write a poem per week -- a practice which I have continued to the present and plan to continue in the future.
This group of poems (1992-1996) includes a long series of Block Island poems, a sequence written at the birth of my first grandchild, some Rockport poems, and features "The Route" in which I retrace the route in modern day Salem that my ancestress took on her way to the gallows in 1692. This long poem became the title poem of my next book of poems published in 1996 by Pikestaff Press.
As our children married and had families of their own, the quality time we spent with our extended family became a source of inspiration and contributed to the next effusion of waves (1996-2005) which includes such diverse groups as my Scotland poems, a second grandchild sequence (including "Rocking with Quinn" one of my favorite poems), a series of poems on the life of my Greek immigrant father-in-law, my Martha's Vineyard poems, a slew of Cape Ann Ocean poems, a long poem on Kafka's father, a sequence of walking in the cemetery poems, a sequence of poems based on Monet paintings, a sequence of poems written on our family vacations in Maine, and a longer sequence of poems that grew out of a trip to Sweden.
Many of the poems from these sequences found their way into We Are What We Have Loved (Hanover Press, 2001) and Brushstrokes of the Millennium (WCSU Foundation, 2004). And the longer Sweden sequence became a book in itself (Balloons Over Stockholm, Fine Tooth Press, 2005).
Since 2005, I have continued to average my poem per week, and I completed one project, a chapbook, (On Thacher island, Last Automat Press, 2008). I am still working on a number of other major projects. See “current projects” for complete details. I continue to be excited and enthusiastic about my work, about what John Briggs calls my “love poems to life.”
University of Massachusetts, Amherst , MA, English, 1968, PhD, English, 1972
Clark University, Worcester, BA, English, 1963
Teaching and Administrative Experience
Western CT State University – Professor Emeritus
33 years at WCSU, taught a wide range of graduate and undergraduate courses in the English
and Writing Departments and served the departments in a variety of administrative
positions including, Chair, Co-chair, and Director of Graduate Studies
Illinois State University, Assistant Professor, English, 1971-1978
Balloons Over Stockholm, Fine Tooth Press, Waterbury, CT, Spring 2005
Brushstrokes of the Millennium, WCSU Foundation, Danbury, CT, February 2004
We Are What We Have Loved, Hanover Press, Newtown, CT, March 2001
The Route and Other Poems, Pikestaff Publications, Normal, Illinois, November 1996
Dikel, Your Hands and Other Poems, Spoon River Press, Peoria, Illinois, 1979
On Thacher Island, The Last Automat Press, Patterson, NY, 2008
Monet in the 20th Century, Pudding House Press, Johnstown, Ohio, July 2002
Entangled Landscapes (with John Briggs) Pudding House Press, November 2002
James R. Scrimgeour: Greatest Hits, Pudding House Press, March 2001
Over 220 additional poems published in various journals and anthologies including:
Bluestem, The Cape Rock, The Chaffin Journal, Connecticut Review, Edgz,
The Eugene O'Neill Review, The Green Mountains Review, Hammers, The
Illinois Review, The Lucid Stone, The Louisville Review, Negative Capability,
For Neruda/For Chile (anthology) Walter Lowenfels, ed., Beacon, The Onion River
Review, Outsiders (anthology) Laure-Anne Bosselaar, Ed., Milkweed, Oyez, The
Pacific Coast Journal, Pembroke Magazine, Poetry Digest, Rio Grande Review,
Riversedge, Runes, Sentence, Spoon River Quarterly, Underwood Review,
Wormwood Review, and Zahir
Honors and Awards
“A Birch” selected for inclusion in “On the Nature Of,” a cantata by Kevin Isaacs presented by
the Arete Music Ensemble, premiere, Los Angeles, 11/13/11
Nominated for Connecticut Poet Laureate, May 2001
Selected for Pudding House Publications' Greatest Hits Chapbook Series, Spring, 2001
NEH Seminar (selected in national competition),"Modern Poetry: New Perspectives,"
Directed by A. Walton Litz, Princeton University, eight weeks, Summer 1989
NEH Institute (selected in national competition), "Studies in Poetic Evaluation with Special
Attention to Modern Verse," Directed by M.L. Rosenthal, NYU, 6 weeks, Summer 1985
Finalist, Capricorn Poetry Contest, 1993 (full length manuscript of poems was one of five
finalists selected from hundreds of national entries)
First Prize, Genealogy Digest poetry contest, 1986
Connecticut Commission on the Arts, books in the permanent collection, Governor's Residence:
Nominated for Pushcart Prize: 4 times by three different editors
Poetry: Readings over 250, the more recent including:
Saturday Scribes, Brewster, NY, April 12, 2014
House of Books, Kent, CT, April 5, 2014
Saint Peters Readers Series, New York, NY, featured reader, January 2013
Quinebaug Valley Council for the Arts and Humanities, Southbridge, MA, March 5, 2013
Saturday Scribes, Brewster, NY, featured reader, October 2012
Naugatuck Valley Community College, April 7, 2010
Duchess Community College, Poughkeepsie, NY, featured reader, April 1, 2010
King School, Stamford, CT, featured reader, April 20, 2009
Sean O'Casey (Twayne English Authors Series) Boston: G. K. Hall, 1978 -- selected by
Macmillan for inclusion on a full text searchable and browsable CD-ROM, June 1997
Wallace Stevens Headnote, American Literature: A Prentice-Hall Anthology, Spring 1990
"From Loving to the Misbegotten: Despair in the Drama of Eugene O'Neill," Modern
Drama, XX (March 1977), 37-53
"O'Casey's Street People: Characterization in O'Casey's Autobiographies," The Sean O'Casey
Review, Fall 1977
"'The Great Example of Horror and Agony': a Comparison of Soren Kierkegaard's Demonically
Despairing Individual with William Blake's Spectre of Urthona," Scandinavian Studies,
XLVII, Winter, 1975, 36-41
Other: Several minor articles, columns, book reviews, and introductions to books of poetry.
Distant Music, a book of poems by John Tamas, with an introduction, Fine Tooth Press, 2008
Editor Emeritus, Member of the Editorial Board, September 1995-97
Editor, 1992-1995, Associate Editor, 1985-1992
What is That Country Standing Inside You (a Bicentennial Anthology of Contemporary
American Poetry) Ed., Explorations Press, Illinois State University, 1976
Scholarly Activity: Workshops, Institutes and Seminars
MFA workshops, WCSU, Presenter, winter residencies, 2012, 2009, 2008
Yale University One Day Seminars (statewide competition): "Rereading A Room of One's
Own," June, 1991,"Wordsworth's Poetry," Spring 1990, "The Lyric Poem," Spring 1989
NEA Seminar and Institute (see above)
Keynote Speaker, CSU/IMPAC, Literary Awards for Young Writers, Fairfield and Litchfield
Counties, Regional Ceremony, WCSU, May 3, 2000
CSU/IMPAC, Statewide Judge, 2005-2010
CSU Conference, Recharging the Sensorium, presenter, April 2007
Western Connecticut State University Service
WCSU, University Senate, 2007-2011, 1996-2001 (Secretary 1997-1998), 1982-1986
9/11 Exhibit, poetry featured, Warner Hall, Fall 2003
Advisor (or co-advisor) to Conatus (Western's Literary Magazine), 1983-1992
Coordinator of Poetry Festivals, Spring 1989, Spring 1988
Coordinator, Creative Arts Reading Series, 1980-1983
New Milford Commission on the Arts, September 1981 to present, Chair 1981-83
Judge, New Milford Commission on the Arts Poetry Contests
Judge, Danbury Cultural Commission Poetry Contests