OCC English Instructor Showcases 51 Poems in his Latest Book

JAmes

As a poetry writer for more than 45 years and author of 13 books, OCC English faculty David James says his writing life has influenced everything he does as a teacher.  

“As a working writer, I know what students go through to place words on the page, and I can share my habits, techniques, and tricks of the trade with them. I can empathize with their critical and creative process; sometimes, I can even give them helpful advice.” 
 
James has helped students in their writing and creative process for more than 20 years at OCC. With over 31 act plays produced throughout the U.S. and Ireland, and five of them off-Broadway in New York City, he believes his greatest gift is to bring real-life experiences into the classroom for students. 
 
“I’ve always felt that I had to walk-the-walk in order to teach. For example, when I began teaching playwriting, I started to write plays,” he added. “That first-hand experience gets transferred into the classroom, creating a relevant learning atmosphere.”   
 
His latest book "Alive in Your Skin While You Still Own It" came to life during his sabbatical at OCC in 2018-2019 after rediscovering some of his published poems from the 70s and 80s. It is his seventh full-length book. 
 
“Without a computer or flash drive at the time, these poems had been forgotten over the years,” James said.  “After going through some boxes in my basement, I found poems that still resonated with me. In the end, I selected 10 of my poems from 40 years ago and combined them with 40 or so new poems to create Alive in Your Skin While You Still Own It.” 
 
With thousands of other poems he has created, James said he could put together three or four more books just from old work. 
 
A new role as Poetry Society of Michigan President 
 
As a life-long poet, James recently took a leadership role representing the profession as president of the Poetry Society of Michigan. He said his goals during his two-year presidential stint include creating unique and interesting conferences for the group, growing membership, getting more people involved in writing poetry and to diversify the membership and bring in underrepresented groups.  
 
“In this position, I feel a little bit like an ambassador, promoting the writing and reading of poetry wherever I can,” he said. 
 
The importance of poetry 
 
As an instructor and writer, James said people often ask, ‘What can poetry do?’  His answer is a good poem can open a tiny door in your heart and shine a piece of the world into you; you can be enlarged and changed by the experience.  
 
“You can see beyond the veil; you can feel what someone else might feel like; and your imagination can be awakened to new and wonderful possibilities,” James explained. 
 
“As a poet, I want my poems to grab your heart and brain and shake them until I get your attention long enough to say: Look around and live!” 
 
To hear James read from his own work, please visit the Vincent Voice Library.   
 
About OCC  

Offering nearly 100 degrees and certificates, OCC is Michigan’s largest multi-campus community college and No. 1 transfer institution in the state. The College provides academic, career training and enriching experiences, designed to empower students to reach their potential and enhance our community. More than 1 million students have enrolled in the College since it opened in 1965. A seven-person Board of Trustees governs OCC. Board members are elected on a non-partisan, at-large basis, serve as volunteers and are not paid. Mission statement: OCC is committed to empowering our students to succeed and advancing our community. Learn more at oaklandcc.edu.  

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