Notes from the Exhibition Catalogue
Jack Stillinger, Ph.D.
Jim’s poems are notable for being short, thought provoking and (maybe the cause of the provocation) full of the best sort of contradictions and complexities. I think he would fit Eliot’s definition of the chief qualities of the seventeenth-century Metaphysicals (the business of yoking contraries in a single thought or impression), so one could, if one wanted to, call Jim a twentieth-century metaphysical. And there is a strong element of whimsy in his poems, which could be developed into an argument for designating Jim a neo-whimsical-say, the founder (since he fostered the work of many other poets) of twentieth-century whimsicalism in American poetry. Both ideas are fanciful, of course, but either could be the basis of a serious talk about his poems.
Professor Emeritus of English
Center for Advanced Study
University of Illinois, Urbana–Champaign