James Millhaven was born in St. Catharines, Ontario, in 1987. His chapbooks of poetry--Edges, As Well, Thirty, and New & Used--were published by Grey Borders. In 2015, he wrote and co-produced a one play (Untitled #33) as part of the In the Soil Festival.
Millhaven's writing is based in day to day life, where his poetry tells stories that are real though not necessarily true. Form shapes the subjects he explores, and he draws inspiration from writers such as Anne Carson, Seamus Heaney, and Samuel Beckett (amongst others). Millhaven also draws influence from the rhythms of different genres of music and film, and tries to shape his work like those forms. His work has been described as sparse; he has often expressed the aspiration of writing a work that can be edited down to a single word.
James Millhaven lives in St. Catharines with his partner, two cats, and several plants that do not get enough water.
I read some poetry in high school (W. B. Yeats, Allen Ginsberg, Sylvia Plath, et cetera) but was mostly reading novels and short stories.
At probably much too young of an age I read Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs; I was deeply affected by his use of imagery and the rhythm of his sentences. Another book that I read around that time was The End of the Story by Lydia Davis, which was interesting as it seemed to discard most of what is normally in a novel—descriptions of people or places, dialogue, chapters—and instead used something like an unreliable interior monologue which revealed as much as it concealed. Her short, single line stories imply so many things with just a few words, and I've tried to apply that to my own writing since.
I first started writing when I was twelve or thirteen years old, and originally I was trying to write stories but I didn't think they were successfully getting across what I was trying to say. I started to consider myself a poet around nineteen or twenty, which was around when I started applying more form to my work and letting the rhythm of the lines define how the work looked on the page. The work was somewhat narrative still but I began removing more of the specifics and the dialogue, which allowed the implied images to come to the forefront.
Explication. I've never understood exactly why I write a patricular poem or why I write anything, really. Trying to determine why I've written a poem is the reason to have written it in the first place. A poet is successful as soon as someone else can read the work and try to answer the question themselves. My prolonged lapses of inaction—such as the one I am currently in—can be explained as having a lack of questions. A poet's job is to search for questions continously and to distrust any easily found answers as distractions.
It is difficult to remember exactly what lead to "Closure". I do, however, remember the moment I began writing it. The first line entered my head while I was in the middle of something (I was probably playing Oblivion on my brother's XBOX) and I had to write it down immediately or it would be lost. The image was so striking and weird that I knew I had to try to figure out where it came from, and that has been my basic approach since.
(There were probably some paternal issues that I was working through as well.)
I memorized "Dulce et Decorum Est" by Wilfred Owen some years ago as it is the perfect encapsulation of the pain and incalculable horror of the 1st World War, and I say it to myself each Rememberance Day. Besides that poem, the poem I would try to memorize is "The Cariboo Horses" by Al Purdy. I used to read "At the Quinte Hotel" by Purdy at events as it is quite fun. Also, my boss at the bookshop I worked at was friends with Purdy and I imagine she heard him read both on occasion.