James Schevill

James Schevill is a poet, playwright, and Emeritus Professor of English at Brown University. He has published numerous collections of poetry, many plays which have been produced in the United States, Canada, and Europe, and a novel based on his experiences in World War II. He lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife, Margot.

Listed in: Poetry · Literary Criticism, Theater · American Literature · Literary Studies




“Fantasies to me, as I wrote in an earlier 1983 edition of American Fantasies, are the active, visionary links between reality and imagination as my characters pursue their destinies. Although we pretend to be a pragmatic, materialistic country, our fantasies, once suppressed by tradition, peer increasingly through the media into our private and public behavior.

The Complete American Fantasies is a poet-playwright James Schevill’s most compelling and encompassing volume. The work of years, it mirrors his own and the country’s most vital experience at all level: love and marriage, war service, street life, the predations of industrial power and political manipulation. The book is filled with the sounds of American speech, piercing lyrics, telling satire, surprising insights into every aspect of our lives, and sheer human understanding.”

M. L. Rosenthal




From a poetic career that spans more than half a century and that is still producing poems as fresh and honest as the first, comes James Schevill's New and Selected Poems, redefining the achievement of this uniquely American vision. Schevill's poetry, acclaimed and criticized, has been rigorously selected here by the poet himself down to the best and most representative of his significant output.




5 Plays 5 · Lovecraft's Follies, The Ushers, Mother O, Shadows of Memory, The Last Romantics
By James Schevill

In 1970 Adrian Hall’s production of Lovecraft’s Follies by the Trinity Repertory Company was praised in The New York Times as a “hilarious extravaganza—with music—that is also an earnest attempt to come to grips with the guilts and terrors of the Age of Technology.” The sucess of this production heralded James Schevill’s arrival as an important American playwright dedicated to a new kind of theatre that he calls in the introduction to this book, “Poetic Realism.”




Ambiguous Dancers of Fame · Collected Poems: 1945-1986
By James Schevill

This second volume of James Schevill's collected poems is a companion to his remarkable ongoing sequence of poems, The American Fantasies, published by Swallow in 1983. This collection extends the scope of the poet's concern with American power and influences to Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. In these poems, Schevill reveals again the range of his lyrical and dramatic powers. As M.I.

“Schevill has a sense of the poet’s place in shaping the world through precise images that offer insight and humor…He elegantly blends seemingly dissimilar topics to produce works that shimmer with meaning.”

Joseph Levandoski, Library Journal




In a time that emphasizes media spectaculars, the short play offers an exploration of minimal possibilities yet has the power to fix history in a moment's structure, a flash of revelation. The short play is a powerful and innovative theatrical medium, relying upon compression and clarity rather than amplification, and reducing character and action to a spare, dramatic core.

“At a time when we hear all too much of a nonverbal (that is, mindless) theatre, it is a joy to hear the poet’s voice; and when it is James Schevill’s, it is no voice from the stratosphere it is down on earth, not just a lyric but also a satiric voice, the voice of a theatre both poetic and political.”

Eric Bentley




American Fantasies · Collected Poems, 1945-1981
By James Schevill

In this collection, Schevill brings together a series of poems that he has been working on since his first book was published in 1947. Diverse characters, both real and imaginary, reveal fantasies of American life and history. The dramatic voices of the characters contrast with the subjective voice of the narrator as he moves through time and space, remembering and anticipating.

“James Schevill's The American Fantasies has a Rushmore largeness, a compendious nature, straightforward presentations covering continent-vast experiences over a long period of time, formidable richness of true feelings in a monumental unity of tone and strength. The reacher lives in a large scope of lively realities, their objectivities compounded by layering speculations. This book has a dazzling number of magnificent poems.”

Richard Eberhart