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Miller, Jim Wayne: Home

Researched & Written by Heather Dent

Jim Wayne Miller

Jim Wayne Miller was born in 1936 in Leisester, North Carolina. He graduated from Berea College in 1958 and went on to earn his Ph.D. in German and American literature at Vanderbilt University. He has been professor of foreign languages at Western Kentucky University and has been the director of graduate work in German. He also served as a consultant on educational programs across nine Appalachian regions.

Dr. Miller stressed the importance of Appalachian values which preserve basic American ideals too often forgotten in today’s materialism. Such values include: family ties, respect for man and nature, and the simplicity of life. He expressed the importance of such values through his writing, especially his poetry.

In 1969 Sigma Tau Delta honored him for excellence in teaching, and in 1976 Western Kentucky University presented him an award for scholarship and creativity. Berea College awarded him with the honorary degree of Doctor of Literature in 1981.

Comments from Reviews of his Books

Dialogue with a Dead Man
"Poems so perfectly proportioned, so competent rhymically and rhetorically that they delimit their own possibilities, fill this book which does offer genuine feeling toward the rural south."

The North American Review
"I hope Jim Miller sells a lot of books and enjoys a measure of fame and fortune. No other poet in the South, save James Dickey, has wrapped my mind up and worked on it with powerful word puzzles as profoundly as Miller has."

Boyd Campbell – The Columbus Enquirer
"Death, paradoxically, is the metaphor from which life comes in this book of poetry by Jim Miller, a book which is full of the mountain ways and folklore of Appalachia…There is a sense of deep love, of affection, of loss, yet there is a feeling of continuance also. This continuance stems from a deeper and subtler meaning of death, which is not death at all, but life continued in heritage, tradition—ways of doing and seeing beyond the personal and “clan” way even."

Alice Moser Claudel – Appalachian Journal
"Miller is not afraid to acknowledge and to celebrate his Southern Appalachian country roots, following the tradition of Robert Frost in New England. He also perceives the strength arising from these roots."

Wilma Dykeman – The Knoxville News-Centennial on The Figure of Fulfillment
"The translations drawn from the German by Jim Wayne Miller are excellent, capturing much of the mood and nuance of the original. His efforts are certainly praiseworthy, revealing a truly sensitive and perceptive knowledge of the German language."

Robert K. Schulz – Green River Review
"Jim Wayne Miller’s English versions are very attractive. On occasion Miller sacrifices accuracy for the sake of idiomatic rightness, changing the poet’s meaning somewhat. Which is all to do good since he knows what he is doing and feels no temptation, evidently, to abuse the discretionary powers vested in every translator."

Francis Golffing – Parnassus
"In The Mountains Have Come Closer he has brought together poems of mature technique and vision. His is an important voice in contemporary American Poetry."

An Example of one of his Poems

Restoring an Old Farm House
He kept coming here.
On the low-skied landscape rolling behind his eyes
Country feelings, settled and gray
As weathered farmhouses left leaning in Kentucky fields
Among broomsage and cedars

He kept coming here
A deer drawn again and again to a saltlick

Pulling away a warped, split board, he found beneath
It another just as old but seasoned and straight,
Sawmill fresh. He drew a rusty-headed nail,
Found its shank bright as the day it driven

Dismantling country feelings

Tearing down, building up again
From what was salvaged

In that farmhouse under that low sky in November,
He read his past like a salt-caked sheet of newsprint
Used once to paper a smokehouse shelf

A coming shape, a new room and view,
Rose from the old flooring
Two times mingled, fresh sawdust
Spurned yellow as sunlight from old timber.

List of Works

Copperhead Cane. Robert Moore Allen Press, 1964.
The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same. Whipporwill Press, 1971.
Dialaogue with a Dead Man. University of Georgia Press, 1974.
The Figure of Fulfillment: Translations from the Poetry of Emil Lerperger. Green Press, 1974.
The Mountains Have Come Closer. Appalachian Consortium Press, 1980.

Additional Resources

  • Berea College Vertical File, Special Collections and Archives 

  • RG 11 – Honorary Degrees V, Berea College Archives