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Susquehanna Life

Artist-in-Residence, James Magill By April Line

Jul 28, 2014 04:33PM ● By Erica Shames

Artist-in-Residence, James Magill

By April Line

James Magill is a poet.  But he’s also a retired employee of The United States Department of Justice, a former resident of Alaska, and has been appointed to Pennsylvania’s Statewide Independent Living Council by both Tom Ridge and Mark Schweiker.  He has Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Bloomsburg University, calls Bloomsburg home and spends his days working on creative pursuits.

    Magill has published his poems in online forums, and in a great number of small, community service publications like The Community Mennonite Fellowship Bulletin, The Keystone, a newsletter for and by citizens with disabilities, and  in news publications including The Danville News.  His poetry was listed in the now-defunct VS Arts and Artists Registry, which was under the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts’ umbrella. 

    Though much of his poetry appears in publications that serve people who are disabled, Magill said, “I’d rather not comment on physical disabilities. I’d rather be known for what I create than for something that happened to me.”

    Magill has given talks about poetry, and said, “I am always well received.”  He offers the following advice, “I always start by suggesting, get rid [of the words] me, my, and mine.”  He also says that poets should, “listen to others much, but listen to yourself more.”

    Magill’s sparely-worded style and the volume of work he’s completed is his primary hope for income at present. Funding for the arts is spare, but Magill remains hopeful that someone will award him a grant or publish his 65-page collection of poems titled, “Reflections on the Human Condition.”   He said that publishing the volume is his primary goal as a writer. He spends a lot of time looking for grants and other compensation for writing, and said “That, in itself, is a full-time job.”

    A lot of his poems deal with loneliness, aging and disability; but Magill staunchly resists the idea that he writes sad poems. “I deal with reality when I write.”   And said that his goal as a writer is to “express or accent emotions, and to delineate some of the weaker and stronger aspects of human experience.”  Further, he said, “I enjoy what I do.  I want to create things.”

    With no formal education in literature or creative writing, Magill’s intuition led him to a concept that poetry educators have been touting for decades. “It’s a technique I developed to say in just a few lines what it would take another writer a page or two to say,” he said.  

    So, less is more. He shared an anecdote of the last time a journalist asked him about his signature brevity. “I wrote a two-page response and said, ‘Here. I can do both.’” 

    Most of Magill’s poems top out at a dozen lines; some are as short as four or five.  His writing process is unique.  He does not spend much time at the keyboard.  He estimates he spends 5 to 20 minutes writing at a clip, and that he does not write every day.  He said, “I don’t really have a market for [my poems] right now.  If I did, I’d crank it up again.”

Standing Tall

By James Magill

Not many bother anymore 
Seldom hear that knocking at the door 
Sure do miss a friendly "hello;" 
Open friends sometimes close their minds. 
But there's no bending of the knee 
Even though these legs do so easily tire, 
Because these arms are made of iron 
And this chair has wheels of fire. *

Read more of Magill’s poetry at

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