A Poet’s Heart: The Rancho Santa Fe Writer Publishes “A Westbound Sun”
Rancho Santa Fe writer James Hurley calls it courageous, the continuous effort to help poetry find a resurgence. He loved and wrote poems throughout his life, ever since writing for his college literary magazine, drawn to carefully crafted cadences and choosing the perfect words.
“A poem comes out of your heart, then out of your mind. And then you need to know how to count and rhyme, ”he said. “If you have all three, you can have a poem no matter who you are.”
A collection of poetry and writings is featured in Hurley’s long-awaited first book “A Westbound Sun”, published as he nears his 84th birthday.
Available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book, Hurley considers the book a bit of his legacy, he has put his heart into the work and hopes his readers will come with us. As he puts it, “If a writer can enter his own heart but not the hearts of his readers, he is not worth much. “
“Aptly distributed in ‘A Westbound Sun’ are poems that show us over and over again how a loving family, deep friendships and perseverance conspire to overcome the darkest forces in our lives,” writes author Robert Bernard Hass in the front. “As evidenced by Jim’s life and book, he continued to probe his imagination and remind us that ultimately the last and greatest theme is love, and for that I am very grateful. “
Originally from Waterloo, Iowa, Hurley lived in Los Angeles for over 50 years before moving to Rancho Santa Fe about 10 years ago. After graduating from Loras College and serving in the US Navy as a journalist, he launched a distinguished career in corporate communications. As an executive and consultant, he handled public affairs, investor relations, crisis management and corporate governance. He has also produced documentary films.
Hurley has always written but has turned from literature to business writing for many years. About three years ago he decided he was “out of the way” and that his writing heart needed to keep writing this book and doing it all.
“This book is entirely Robert Frost’s fault,” remarked Hurley.
Hurley met the poet, his favorite and longtime mentor, in 1959 at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. “I was a burry, a poet in the making. He was clearly one, ”he writes in the poem The offered hand. “I caught an old desire in those color blind eyes to find an ideal rhyme containing God and the science born alike.”
In 2019, 60 years after sitting shoulder to shoulder, Hurley finally began working on his memoir on the reunion. He wrote, rewrote, and rewrote his moment-capturing essay again and ultimately had it published in the Robert Frost Society’s annual peer-reviewed journal, the Robert Frost Review.
Hass, the executive director of the Society, became a friend and literary companion, writing the front of his book.
Upon learning more, Hurley was alarmed to discover that the Society had not maintained a permanent home since 1978.
Through his expertise and relationships with business and civic leaders in San Diego, he helped create a new home for the Society at the downtown Central Library. Opened in 2020, it is a center for research and study of Frost’s work and the collections of his rare books and letters.
A condensed version of the 1959 encounter “A Personal Rebuke from Robert Frost” appears in “A Westbound Sun”. Almost an anthology, the book includes a few older writings but the majority, 28 poems, which he has written over the past two and a half years.
The volume even surprised itself, but seemed to find inspiration on a daily basis – in the poem Illusion, he writes that he was awakened to write by the rhythm of the clicking of his spoon in an empty coffee mug at the breakfast table.
He aimed to write every day, usually starting around 10:30 a.m. and sometimes writing until late at night, printing parts for editing and reworking by hand.
The book includes short stories like the moving “The Broken Day of Bernie McCarville,” a retelling of a true story of his maternal grandparents in 1915, and vignettes of six public figures he met throughout. about his career and what he learned from meeting them – from mentor poet James Hearst to Louis Armstrong to Ernie Banks to the Chicago Cubs.
“Over time, I have discovered that the only thing to fear about being close to accomplished people is the fear of becoming accomplished myself,” he wrote.
The poems transport the reader to places of Hurley’s past, in nature, and to memories of friends and family. Of his wife Jennifer, an impressionist painter, he writes: “If you had never chosen me, I would never have seen the shade of his burnt or phthalo blue. Renoir said that emotion is the signal: I owe it to you to become fully me.
The pages contain revealing and personal poems, including a poem he wrote on his mother’s deathbed, a tribute to her and her eight siblings which he read as the eulogy during his funeral.
The title of the book “A Westbound Sun” is a reference to age and serenity, Hurley said.
“I have often thought that sunset was a more contemplative time than any other time of day,” said Hurley. “It also speaks of a feeling of mortality, not in a sad but joyful sense.
“As I got older, I learned that what you seek is looking for you,” he mused. “It’s a timeless feeling to be in a sense of balance.”
This fall, Hurley plans to do his book tour on his way back to his Midwestern roots. It also has several events planned locally:
- August 14: Reading and Q&A at the San Diego Central Library with Robert Bernard Hass, author, critic and executive director of the Robert Frost Society.
- August 15: Book signing at Warwick’s in La Jolla from noon to 2 p.m.
- August 18: Reading at Soul of Yoga Encinitas, 7 to 8 p.m. Owner Ryan Stanley will host and combine traditional yoga sounds (chimes, bells, drums, bowls) with readings of his poems. The studio is located at 162 S. Santa Fe Rd., Suite A70 in Encinitas.