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James H. Sutton

James Hercules Sutton is a multi-award-winning poet born in Boston in 1943. He writes primarily on themes of love, God, country, peace, and the self, responding to the life of his times by writing about the times of his life.  He is perhaps the strongest writer of sonnets in the United States and uses the format almost exclusively to write both stand-alone and narrative longform poems.

His work has an intellectual bent and often reference people, places, and works that Literature majors and the politically savvy (and scholars of either) would be the most at home with. However, he has many books of poetry that are approachable by the common reader as well, especially Harry’s Love and The Last Samurai.


James is the son of Greek immigrants from the Lowell neighborhood who hailed originally from Thessaloniki, in northern Greece. After a fruitful career as a labor organizer for teachers, he is now retired to his passion of poetry but continues political criticism through his work.  He lives in Des Moines with his wife Nancy, and enjoys doing one thing a day.

As a youth, when he wasn’t singing opera professionally, he attended and graduated from Boston Latin School. Thereafter, he left his musical career behind to receive a B.A. from Brown University in 1964, attending on a Latin scholarship; an MFA in Poetry at the University of Iowa’s Writers Workshop in 1968; and a Ph. D. from the University of Iowa College of Education in 1988. While at Iowa, he was student body president during the 1968 riots. He pioneered a degree in Higher Education Administration before it was a finalized degree field, and is the first, and only, person to submit a Ph. D. dissertation to the Education Department in sonnet format.

He studied writing with John Berryman, George Starbuck, and Marvin Bell. As labor organizer, prior to collective bargaining, he organized Iowa’s Community Colleges; then as lobbyist, successfully obtained legislation enabling collective bargaining for public employees, the only such legislation ever passed in a Right-to-Work state.

James won the 1997 Mellon Poetry Prize for best long poem in the US and Great Britain for his book, The Last Samurai, available on Indie Quill. He has won a number of other prizes throughout the years, both regional and national.

He is one of the most fruitful and practiced sonnet writers in the world at current, albeit appropriately obscure for the right and liking it that way.


The “hermit-clam” image is the logo of his fictional publishing company, Clam & Doomsday™.  It was created from the concept that “Characters create pearls from their irritations–beautiful, but dissoluble.  The writer, on the other hand, creates diamonds from his pressures, and diamonds last forever.”

One thought on “James H. Sutton

  1. Oh my my “George Starbuck”? This is too funny! Best. – s.ye
    http://www.betterthanstarbucks.org/why-better-than-starbucks

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