Bookstore » Praise

Praise for February Mission

About the Book
February Mission is a rich and various collection of James N. Harrell's most recent poems and plays. It's wonderful to see his mature -- and lyric -- sensibility express itself in so many different ways. The poems range from the simple lyric to moving historical reference to displays of subtle wit, as in the poem entitled 'Cogito Ergo Iamb,' in which the somberness of death and erotic vitality are wonderfully mingled: 'For the iamb says it best --/When the bedsprings' peppy rhythms/Wake the dead.' What a delight!
As one who all too rarely has time to venture outside of the technical literature of my specialized profession, I was overwhelmed by the way that this collection of poems and plays by James Harrell grips both the mind and the heart from the very outset. From the beginning, the reader is flown backward to a time of intense turmoil, both militarily and personally to the relentless bombing of densely population civilian areas of Germany culminating in the bombing of Dresden in February, 1942. The emotions and tears of those fliers, involved from 56;a distance57;, blanket the passages as the reality of the resulting human cost emerges. Interspersed are the experiences and emotions, the serious and the light encounters of one who returns home to a life full of incredible experiences magically captured in verse. On top of this, Jim Harrell is a great storey tellers as illustrated by his three alluring and capturing plays that have something for everyone. Enjoy! I did!
My suggestion in reading Harrell’s presentations is to NOT read sequentially through the poetry section and the plays. I would have developed my admiration for the compositions in total by first reading the foreword by Mr. Harrell’s brother, Stanley, which is essential to understanding the diverse nature of the presentations, and then proceed to the poem entitled February Mission, and then to the play entitled The Visitor. I suggest reading each of these three times, focusing on content the first time, composition including rhyme the second time, and cogitation the third. After pursuing this introductory pathway, the mental stage is set for maximum enjoyment of the remainder in total or in part. Like the best composers of music, Harrell, as a composer of poetry and prose, writes at various levels for various participants. All will enjoy.
Jim Harrell’s poetry penetrates the human soul with beauty, depth and clarity. While masters of the canvas create beauty and harmony with color and shape, Jim Harrell paints nature’s complex mysteries, as in, Death of a Lizard, with words that profoundly awaken the reader’s consciousness, prompting one to ask, “What is life all about?” Harrell’s experiences and journey through life offer us, through his poetry, valuable lessons as in A Coming Together and speak to the horrors of war, as in February Mission or the Bombing of Dresden. In this book Harrell proves that he is a master artisan of words. His poetry has touched my soul and offered me hours of joy, and undoubtedly, will provide an enjoyable experience to all who read his works.
James Harrell’s poetry shows his ability to make poetry from any of the varied experiences of his life and his imagination. He draws on a wide range:   probing discussions with dear friends, memories of depression days in a rural area; the reactions of a dying patient to a visitor; the terror and anguish of a youthful flyer on a bombing mission, the delight of being with a lover as well as the sadness of parting; and even the wider questions raised by the death of a lizard.  In all of his poems, one is aware of his intense eye, which observes both the outer world and the landscape of his mind, translating it to us with clarifying imagery.  And all his observations are filtered through the screen of his fierce dedication to the demands of form, rhythm, and rhyme, which makes his poetic achievement even more remarkable
February Mission, a treasure of a book, exhibits the many gifts that make Jim Harrell a powerful writer .First is his mastery of language, his ability to turn words into rare combinations that produce the aha effect in the reader. A partial list of his other gifts would include his humor, his impressive talent for characterization, his sensitivity to the world around him translated seamlessly onto the printed page.( At least, he makes it seem easy as he writes poetry on many subjects.)Do read this unusual book that combines poetry and drama in 253 pages that seem much too short.
Within this book's pages is the record of a writer who has lived widely and well. Haunting poems of the Second World War take their place beside love lyrics, beside fables in verse, beside meditations on home ground, on distant lands, and on the great cycle of life that permeates it all. Jim Harrell presents the hard-earned wisdom of a lifetime within these pages, and does so with admirable humility, authenticity, and good cheer.
Everyone should be so fortunate to have an uncle like Jim Harrell. Poet, playwright, world traveler, a searching intelligent and soaring spirit, repository of the experiences of a lifetime which few can imagine. A great part of the joy in reading his poems and plays is to get an insight into the mind of a truly remarkable man. Enjoy.
James Harrell continues to give us a glimpse of the remarkable journey he has lived across the 20th century.  His latest collection of poems and plays in February Mission takes the breath away as we bear witness to his remarkable word portraits filled with style, grace, and texture that seem to whisper to us from the past.  The title poem “February Mission” is one of the most powerful war poems to have come out of World War II.  The piece is a dramatic reminder of the horror of war and the price paid by both victor and victim.  Harrell has painted a poignant canvas that is a stunning contribution to our literary sensibilities.  I strongly commend February Mission to everyone, young and old.  Harrell is a master storyteller.