Born in Jackson, Mississippi, James Kimbrell received an MFA in creative writing from the University of Virginia and a PhD from the University of Missouri, Columbia. He is the author of The Gatehouse Heaven (1998), which was chosen by poet Charles Wright for the Kathryn A. Morton Prize from Sarabande Books, and My Psychic (2006). He and artist Yu Jung-yul co-translated the collection Three Poets of Modern Korea: Yi Sang, Hahm Dong-Seon, and Choi Young-Mi (2002).
Poetry described the works in The Gatehouse Heaven thusly: “by turns plain and ornate, literal-minded and highly stylized, Kimbrell’s poems mediate the claims of dream and memoir, romantic vision and drab reality, the sacred and profane.” The title poem is a meditation on the difficulties of connection between a mentally ill father and his son. In a review for Coldfront magazine, John Deming found My Psychic, which contains elegies to Kimbrell’s mother, to be “a consoling look at grief and the impossibly hopeful ways people can strike back at it.”
Kimbrell has received a National Endowment for the Arts Individual Fellowship, a Ruth Lilly Prize, and a Whiting Writers’ Award.