A Poet’s Heart: Author of Rancho Santa Fe publishes “A Westbound Sun”



Rancho Santa Fe writer James Hurley calls it brave the constant effort to bring poetry to life. He has loved and written poetry all his life, since writing for his college literary magazine, attracted by the carefully crafted cadences and choice of perfect words.

“A Westbound Sun” author James Hurley

(Michael Coy)

“A poem comes from your heart, then from your head. And then you need the ability to count and rhyme, ”he said. “When you have all three, no matter who you are, you can have a poem.”

A collection of poems and writings is contained in Hurley’s first book, A Westbound Sun, which is a long time coming and will be published as it approaches 84 years.

Available in hardcover, paperback and e-book, Hurley sees the book as part of his legacy, he has put his heart into it and hopes his readers will come along. As he says, “If a writer can get into his own heart but not the hearts of his readers, he is not worth much.”

“Throughout ‘A Westbound Sun’ are poems that show us again and again how a loving family, deep friendships and perseverance conspire to conquer the darker forces in our lives,” writes author Robert Bernard Hass in the foreword. “As Jim’s life and book testify, he has endured plumbing his imagination and reminding us that the last and greatest topic in the end is love, and I am very grateful for that.”

Hurley is originally from Waterloo, Iowa and lived in Los Angeles for over 50 years before moving to Rancho Santa Fe about 10 years ago. After graduating from Loras College and working as a journalist for the US Navy, he embarked on a successful career in business communications. As an executive and consultant, he was responsible for public affairs, investor relations, crisis management and corporate governance. He also produced documentaries.

Hurley has always written, but switched from literature to business writing for many years. About three years ago he decided he was “running out of catwalk” and needed his writer’s heart to keep writing this book and getting it all down.

“This book is all of Robert Frost’s fault,” Hurley observed.

Hurley met the poet, his darling and lifelong mentor, in 1959 at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. “I was a stocky would-be poet. He was clearly one, ”he writes in the poem The offered hand. “I have awakened in those color-blind eyes an old desire to guess an ideal rhyme that contains God and science born in a similar way.”

In 2019, 60 years after elbow to elbow, Hurley finally started work on his memoir about the meeting. He wrote, wrote, and rewrote his essay capturing the moment, and eventually had it published in the Robert Frost Society’s peer-reviewed journal, the Robert Frost Review.

Hass, the company’s managing director, became a friend and literary companion and wrote the foreword to his book.

When Hurley learned more, he was alarmed to find out that society had not had a permanent home since 1978.

Using his expertise and connections with business and civic leaders in San Diego, he helped create a new home for society at the Central Library downtown. Opened in 2020, it is a center for the research and study of Frost’s work and 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 contains some older writings, but the majority, 28 poems, he has written in the past two and a half years.

The volume surprised even himself, but he seemed to find inspiration daily – in the poem illusion, he writes that he was woken up to write by the clink of a spoon in an empty coffee cup at the breakfast table.

He wanted to write every day, usually from 10:30 a.m. and sometimes well into the night, to print out pieces to edit and revise by hand.

The book includes short stories like the rousing “The Broken Day of Bernie McCarville,” a retelling of a true story of his maternal grandparents in 1915, and vignettes about six public figures he met and what he was made of learned from his encounters – from the poet’s mentor James Hearst, Louis Armstrong and Ernie Banks of the Chicago Cubs.

“Over time, I’ve found that the only thing you have to fear as a near-savvy person is the fear of becoming accomplished yourself,” he wrote.

The poems fly the reader to places in Hurley’s past, nature, and memories of friends and family. About his wife Jennifer, an impressionist painter, he writes: “If you had never chosen me, I would never have seen the hue of burnt sienna or phthalo blue. Renoir said that emotions are the keyword: I owe you that I become completely myself. “

The pages contain insightful and personal poems, including a poem he wrote on his mother’s deathbed, a tribute to her and his eight siblings, which he read as a funeral oration during their funeral.

The book’s title, “A Westbound Sun,” is an indication of age and serenity, Hurley said.

“I’ve often thought that sunset was a more reflective time than any other time of the day,” said Hurley. “It also speaks of a feeling of mortality, not in a sad but in a joyful sense.

“As I got older, I learned that you were looking for yourself,” he mused. “It is a timeless feeling to be in a sense of balance.”

This fall, Hurley intends to take his book tour on his way back to his Midwestern roots. He has also planned several on-site events:

  • August 14: A 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 12pm to 2pm
  • August 18th: Reading at Soul of Yoga Encinitas, 7-8pm Owner Ryan Stanley will moderate traditional yoga sounds (carillon, bells, drums, bowls) and combine them with readings of his poems. The studio is located at 162 S. Santa Fe Rd., Suite A70 in Encinitas.


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