Jim Brosnan Brings a Poet’s Spirit to JWU

Professor Jim Brosnan, award-winning poet, Pushcart nominee, and organizer of several writing groups and conferences, almost dedicated his career to pharmaceuticals instead of poetry. Three of his uncles were pharmacists, and it seemed the sensible career path for a young Brosnan. After a year at Mass College of Pharmacy, however, Brosnan decided to transfer schools and switch his major to English.

Professor Jim Brosnan, Ph.D.

The longtime Johnson & Wales professor has dedicated his entire career to the craft of writing, and he has the credentials to prove it. He is a five-time finalist in the New England Association of Teachers of English Poet of the Year competition and has won awards by the National Federation of Poetry Societies. A member of the Maine Poets Society, his work has appeared in literary magazines all across the US and worldwide, including Ireland, Canada, Singapore, Wales, India and the UK.

At JWU, Brosnan teaches various creative writing courses and serves as an advisor for The Maze, the university’s literary magazine. Outside of the classroom, he runs the Weybosset Hill Writers group, which includes both current students and alumni.

“At JWU, students are focused on what they want to do.”

Teaching is in his blood, and before his time at JWU Brosnan taught at a technical school and other educational institutions including Notre Dame College and the University of New England. But he maintains that the JWU student is different, and it’s part of why he has been here for nearly thirty years. “At JWU, students are focused on what they want to do,” he says. “So they walk in the door and you know they want to run a hotel, they want to do graphic design or they want to train handicapped kids how to ride horses. It’s just marvelous, and over my 27 years I have not found very many students that were not directed.”

Brosnan’s first published book is a collection of poems and photography titled “Nameless Roads

Over his career at JWU, Brosnan has remained in touch with many alumni. “When you figure out how many students you come in contact with over the years, there's a few special ones that surface,” he says. He has been invited to birthday parties, weddings, and readings from former students — most of whom were not majors in the College of Arts & Sciences.

Nameless Roads

Brosnan’s first published book is a collection of poems and photography titled “Nameless Roads,” meant to evoke a New England immersion. “The whole idea of having photos in between is for people to read 6 or 7 poems, but then to immerse themselves in New England,” he says. The book cover and interior art was designed by a JWU Graphic Design student in Brosnan’s creative writing class. “I first started talking about the book a couple of years ago, and Lauren Carlson came up after class and volunteered to help,” he recalls.

Brosnan entered “Nameless Roads” into a national poetry contest, and was awarded a silver medal in the finals with 5 other writers. “There was a certain point system for book cover design,” Brosnan says. “The other contestants spent thousands to have professional designers from New York do their book covers. I had Lauren design the cover as part of a senior project, and it came in second place.”

“The passion and dedication [he] has to his craft was what inspired me — it was a great opportunity to work with him as a student and as a designer,” Carlson says. “He helped me develop my voice and style as an author, but more importantly, he gave me the tools and strategies to be able to improve upon my work. His strong connection with nature, observation, and introspection made it a joy to design his work.”

The Creative Process

At home, Brosnan has endless loose-leaf binders full of poetry dating back to 1997. He submitted some to various poetry publications, and from these poems came his first four chapbooks.

Pine Point, Maine

When it comes to his tool of choice for writing, Brosnan writes on both computer and paper. He notes that he has several fancy leather journals that people have bought for him over the years, but they remain largely blank. Instead, when inspiration strikes, he’ll use whatever is on hand. “The majority of my poems come from these,” he says, reaching inside his suit pocket. He produces a fistful of different colored 3x5 index cards.

Maine Marshes

He works in the office space of a freestanding garage in his backyard, built specifically for writing. Filled with bookcases, a work table, and a sound system, it’s where much of his daily writing gets accomplished. In addition to his home in Massachusetts, Brosnan also has a four-room house in Maine near the ocean. “Sometimes I just go up there, that’s where I worked on my doctorate,” he says. “If I get the opportunity, I just drive up, and I sit at the kitchen table and put instrumental music on. And I do a little munching, and it just generates ideas.”

Excerpt from Nameless Roads by Professor Brosnan

Brosnan isn’t a reclusive writer, however; he participates in a seemingly endless stream of conferences, writing workshops, and professional events and contests. He directs a writers conference with his wife Donna every year in Ocean Park, Maine — the oldest writing conference in the country (now in its 80th year). It is a five-day conference complete with workshops, lectures and one-on-ones with professional writers and networking.

Books and more

Part of being a working writer is self-promotion; something that Brosnan admits isn’t in his wheelhouse. He can talk about writing all day long, but when it comes to plugging away for sales, it’s more of a challenge. One of the ways he’s able to easily do this is public readings; he’s read from his book at several events in local libraries and bookstores. Most recently, he was one of two featured poets at the Plymouth Public Library.

While “Nameless Roads” has been doing well and Brosnan has enjoyed traveling to promote it, he hasn’t been resting on its success. His second collection, “Long Distance Driving,” will be published in 2020. The collection of poetry and original photography will focus on travel through many states west of the Mississippi River including, but not limited to Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansa, Idaho and Wyoming.

Brosnan is an avid traveler and has visited 39 states as well as several Canadian provinces including Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Cape Breton Island and Quebec. His travels will be well-documented in his next collection of poetry.

Between traveling, teaching, writing, conferencing, and advising, Brosnan’s life is quite literally filled to the brim with writing. It might be natural to assume that once in awhile, it becomes exhausting and too much work to string sentences together. But Brosnan simply smiles at such an assertion. “It doesn’t ever — ever — feel like work,” he says. “My alarm went off at a quarter past four this morning, and I had two classes to teach, and I’m still excited about finding time to write.”

To learn more about Brosnan’s poetry and to buy his books, visit his website or email him at opmewriter@gmail.com.