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  Open Field, Understory
(January 1997)

Home:  >Browse Listings   >Authors   >Seay, James
James Seay
James Seay

James Seay

The author of four books of poetry, James Seay was born January 1, 1939, in Panola County, Mississippi. He received a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Mississippi in 1964, and followed it two years later with a M.A. degree from the University of Virginia. He has taught English at a number of colleges and universities, including Virginia Military Institute, the University of Alabama, and Vanderbilt University. Since 1974 he has taught creative writing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Seay's books of poetry include Let Not Your Hart (1970), Water Tables (1974), The Light as They Found It (1990), and most recently, Open Field, Understory (1997), a collection of new and selected poems. In addition, he co-wrote a documentary film about big-game hunting in East Africa, In the Blood (1990), with the film's director, George Butler. He has received several awards for his work, including an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1988.

In an article in Louis D. Rubin's The History of Southern Literature, James H. Justus says that no other Southern poet of Seay's generation has done better than Seay "in not only evoking the village culture of the contemporary South but also transforming its commonplaces into objects and events of talismanic significance.... Acknowledging the totems and detritus of village life — mobile homes on concrete blocks, rotgut whiskey in Clorox bottles, Kotex boxes used by children to trap starlings, abandoned cars — Seay tends to invest such phenomena with mysterious potentiality that transforms them into the stuff of legend" (547).

(Article first posted October 1998)

Related Links & Info

Open Field, Understory
Information about Seay's most recent book of poetry, Open Field, Understory, is available from the Louisiana State University Press home page.


  • Let Not Your Hart. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1970.
  • Water Tables. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1974.
  • Said There Was Somebody Talking to Him through the Air Conditioner. Winston-Salem, N.C.: Palaemon Press Limited, 1985. (Limited edition of 100 copies.)
  • The Light as They Found It. New York: Morrow, 1990.
  • Open Field, Understory: New and Selected Poems. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1997.

Media Adaptations:

Documentary Film:
  • In the Blood. Dir. George Butler. 1990. Co-written by George Butler and James Seay.


Articles and Interviews:
  • Bottoms, David. "Note on the Structure of James Seay's 'It All Comes Together outside the Restroom in Hogansville.'" Notes on Contemporary Literature 7.4 (1977): 6-7.
  • Carr, John. "An Interview with James Seay." Notes on Mississippi Writers 5 (1972): 35-55, 57.
  • Justus, James H. "Poets After Midcentury." The History of Southern Literature. Ed. Louis D. Rubin, Jr. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1985. 535-55.
  • Walsh, William. "An Interview with James Seay." Southern Quarterly 28.4 (Summer 1990): 99-115.

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