Poetry Friday: Last Call…For A Little While

By Gillian Ferris & James Jay

When times are tough, many people head to their local pub for some company, conversation and favorite drink, whether it be water or whiskey. But that’s not an option right now in most of Arizona – and the nation – as bars and restaurants are closed to the public during the Covid-19 pandemic. In this week’s Poetry Friday segment, Flagstaff poet and bar owner, James Jay, offers us some hope, poetry, and a toast to the time when we can all get together again.

Read more and listen to the full interview here.

Writing for future generations: New poetry collection by James Jay looks at life from behind the bar

By Gabriel Granillo, Arizona Daily Sun

“If you’ve ever lost something at Uptown Pubhouse, chances are James Jay has found it. Hoodies, notebooks, ell phones, wallets. With more than two decades in the bar business, he’s found it all. Also a poet since his young adult years, Jay never married his two professions — until now. In 100 nimble pages, Jay captures the pain, joy, heartache, love, despair and beauty in moments as honest as a drink or two might make you.”

Read the full review here.

Reviews for Barman

“You might be envious of the people James Jay has the chance to meet—a barman’s constant stream of lives leaning against his copper coated counter. But what you should be envious of are his words—the way pulls them from the people and the bottles and the dim lamps their inner stories. James Jay’s words make shape of starlight. They reveal air as speech. They add texture to this thick life. These poems show people at their most intimate moments—vulnerable, open, and full of human emotion—just like James Jay and just like his words. Take this book with you where you go because these poems are human. With them, you will never be lonely. “

Nicole Walker, author of Sustainability: A Love Story

“In the tradition of Philip Levine and Jim Daniels, these are poems that sweat and get their hands dirty—by someone unafraid, in the words of Philip Larkin, to ‘let the toad work squat on my life.’ Beneath that toad is a poet whose mental toughness is combined with a kind and gentle heart. Time and again, Jay uncovers the uncommon in the commonplace, sometimes from his experience as proprietor of one of Flagstaff’s premier bars. Work, both physical and spiritual, is the abiding element in this impressive collection, in which even love poems must be written ‘On the back of tomorrow and its scrawled to-do list’—and are no less moving for that.”

William Trowbridge, author of Vanishing Point

“James Jay, Master of Reality. From a musical standpoint, any musician will tell you the third album ain’t easy to write. Kerry King, lead guitarist and founding member of heavy metal band SLAYER, says a band will emulate their heroes on their first two albums but by the third album they will find themselves alone & that’s when they’ll find their own voice.

James Jay shines as a unique voice within the pages of Barman. This is a collection of forty-nine poems in one hundred four pages. This is Jay’s Master of Puppets, his Reign in Blood, his Black Sabbath #3.Here is a poet who sounds like he can recite poetry from memory.Here is a poet driven enough to write his third, tend a bar, be a father & husband but will always have time to talk and visit with patrons either old friends or new ones. (Little did we all know, he knew my wife’s favorite drink before I ever met her). Here’s a poet who may stop everything to pick up pen & paper to write down a couple lines rolling in his mind. Here’s a poet, older, wiser, but still the same poet we all know.

My first reading of Barman started on the #7 city bus. From the eastside to downtown, these poems spilled into the streets as the people who came on & off the bus manifest themselves within the pages. Barman became an anatomy chart of Flagstaff. James Jay observes and reflects in a familiar way. He speaks the words I want to say. I am honored to say he is a good friend & colleague.

Flagstaff, here is your son, your father, your grandfather, your husband, your uncle, your cousin, your colleague, your friend, your very self. Barman is a testament of these very streets that makes us who we are.”

Erik Bitsui, writer, DJ, and founding member of the Northern Arizona Book Festival

“We all know the trope of the writer who drinks. In fact, Irish poet and playwright Brendan Behan has a quote about it. He says, “I am a drinker with writing problems.” But what of the person who sits behind the bar? Whose heavy hand pours the drinks for those to imbibe and perhaps by whom to be inspired enough to scribble a poem on a napkin or receipt. In his new poetry collection, Barman, James Jay, owner of Uptown Pubhouse, explores the role of the bartender. In the introduction of the collection, “The Barman’s Box,” he equates literature to a lost and found box in a bar. He writes, “So much is lost and we look to Literature to find the lost: the intoxicatingly fearful-joy of dancing with those beautiful girls at the Bobcat Junior High gymnasium, the smell of tulip as the frost melted from its petal, the last words you spoke before you died in your hospital bed.” In 100 nimble pages, Jay captures the pain, joy, heartache, love, despair and beauty in moments as honest as a drink or two might make you.”

BARMAN WAITING IN THE SKY, originally published in FlagLive!

Praise for The Journeymen

The Journeymen has been nominated for a PEN Award, a Before Columbus Society Award, and poems from the collection have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

“In a bar in Little Rock, I listen to a poet reciting his own work and nod my head at the cadence. The man beside me asks me if I know any poems for truck drivers these days.
‘Take a look at Pablo Neruda,’ I tell him. ‘There maybe D.A. Powell and yes, James Jay.’
‘James Jay?’
So I tell him about James Jay and his new book, The Journeymen. Find I can actually remember some of the ‘letter from the united states department of poetry and then most of ‘The Briefly Unemployed Bouncer’. His mind is an ’83 Dodge Colt.’ My new friend laughs and nods. He once owned a Dodge Colt. His was unreliable. If I could, I would give him the whole of Mountain Rivera but I know I would start to cry at the story—a life that echoes the men in my family as starkly as the flattened planes of their aging faces. The Journeymen is that rare thing—a book as meaty as its subjects, as thick as silence, and as satisfying as a perfect blues riff.”

Dorothy Allison, author of Bastard Out of Carolina

“James Jay’s new collection is like the best kind of public house where revolutionaries sit alongside prizefighters, medieval saints and 20th-century felons take shots at the bar, and Old Angel Moonlight waits by the pool table to sweetly sucker you with his hustle.”

Jim Ruland, author of Big Lonesome