Q & A with Connecticut Authors: James Whitley
October 12, 2022 • Features & News, Q & A

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When: October 23, 2022 | 3:00-5:00 p.m.
Where: Hartford Public Library


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COVID is still with us, although easing off a little, thank goodness. Did you have a favorite comfort genre to turn to when things were looking bleak? Something that lifted you away and to a different place for a while?

I read poetry almost daily and, during the pandemic, that did not change. One book that I discovered (thankfully) during the early part of 2020 when isolation and fear were running rampant as we tried to protect ourselves and our loved ones from the deadly virus was Ross Gay’s multiple award-winning CATALOG OF UNABASHED GRATITUDE. His writing is so beautifully human and the poems reminded me of how connected we are as members of the human family despite any physical distance between us.

Where do you get your inspiration?

Primarily from life and living. I have found that when I feel nothing is inspiring me to write, I don’t have to force myself to write anything. If I wait a while and get comfortable with waiting, I can focus more on my relationships, my experiences, music and other art that moves me, travel that allows me to see new places and people in new ways, etc. Sooner than later, the next idea(s) will come and force me to start writing again.

Who made reading important to you?

First, it was my mother who was a voracious reader and almost daily could be found curled up, somewhere in our home while I was growing up, getting lost in a book.  She taught me very early that anyone can take advantage of that solitary, energizing, and thoughtful space by opening a good book and immersing yourself in it.

Where is your favorite place to read? 

Anywhere that’s relatively comfortable! Unlike some of my other favorite activities—like eating great food or watching a thought-provoking movie—reading can happen almost anywhere for me. On planes and trains, in hospital waiting rooms, on beaches, in bed, etc., it is easy for me to find a good place to read.

What book do you return to most often, whether passages or whole? 

There are so many, but a few books that I return to often and continue to learn from are the BIBLE, Paulo Freire’s PEDAGOGY OF THE OPPRESSED, and Robert Hayden’s COLLECTED POEMS. I enjoy these books for very different reasons, but each one calls me back multiple times each year. Other authors whose various works I revisit often include Rita Dove, Jorie Graham, Patrick Lencioni, Dr. Seuss, and Carl Phillips.

What are you reading now? 

This year, I have been indulging in a lot of works by authors that are new to me like Ocean Vuong, Edwidge Danticat, Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harris. I love discovering writers that challenge and inspire me to be more creative and thoughtful, and I’ve been fortunate enough to find several authors that fit the bill this year.




James R. Whitley was born in Mount Vernon, New York and holds degrees from Cornell, Boston, Harvard and Northeastern universities. His poetry has been widely published in literary journals and nominated for both the Pushcart Prize and The Best of the Net. His first book, Immersion, won the 2001 Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award. His second book, This Is the Red Door, won both the Ironweed Poetry Prize and a 2009 Massachusetts Book Award. His third book, The Goddess of Goodbye, written in homage to his mother, was published by Word Press in 2010. He is also the author of two poetry chapbooks—Pietà and The Golden Web. Currently, he serves as a Dean at Post University in Waterbury, Connecticut.




In SONGS FOR SOLO VOICE, poet James R. Whitley trains his sights unflinchingly on the experiences of desire, betrayal, loss, and other matters of the heart. Throughout this collection, the poems radiate an undeniable heat even as they continue their exacting investigation with a cool lucidity. Vaulting expertly through a wide array of poetic forms, the collection reveals a creative spirit at play, despite the serious subject matter. With uplifting music and a distinctive voice, the poet gifts us with these able-bodied verses, these sturdy songs of resilience to guide us through the wreckage of relationships gone wrong and mine the debris for enduring nuggets of hope

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