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John Crews

John Crews is the author of poetry and plays set in the South. At its best his work is skillful and moving. As he took to imaginative writing late in life, and as he has to date published little, his body of work is small and scarcely known — a situation time may remedy.

Crews was born in Monroe, Michigan, on May 25, 1926, but grew up, from the age of 6 months, in Vicksburg, Mississippi. After his high school graduation in 1944, he joined the United States Navy and subsequently attended, on the G.I. Bill, the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. Having earned a B.A. in English, Crews taught in a Mississippi high school during the 1950-51 academic year. Then, for ten years, he worked as a newspaper editor and editorial writer in both Mississippi and Florida. In 1953 he married June Lowrey, by whome he had four children, and in 1961 he returned to school as a graduate student at the University of Virginia. Crews received a Ph.D. in 1966 and joined the faculty at the University of Mississippi, where he taught in the English Department until his retirement in 1988. He and his wife continued to reside in Oxford, Mississippi.

Six of John Crews' poems have been published, in journals and in the third volume of the series Mississippi Writers: Reflections of Childhood and Youth. Three of them, perhaps because he began writing so late in life, are elegies: "Sabbath Coin," "of the dead so little recognized," and "Caught Caught Caught" — which seamlessly fuses the cry of a childhood game with death. "Bread and Wine" and "How" both take as their central image the Christian Eucharist. "Lifeboat" is the dramatic monologue of a sailer who received an undesirable discharge because of homosexual activity.

Crews has written four plays. In 1988 Easter's Children, set in Mississippi in the 1930s, won second place in the New Orleans Contemporary Arts Center's contest for Southern playwrights and was given a staged reading in New Orleans. Playwright Terrence McNally, the contest adjudicator, declared Easter's Children to be "rich in language, poetic in vision and deeply moving in expression of human suffering and redemption." Another of Crews' plays, Of Two Minds, presents the struggle of a strong-willed chancellor of the University of Mississippi during the ferment leading up to the Civil War. In 1992 it was given a staged reading in the University's Barnard Observatory (named after that chancellor), as part of the celebration of the building's restoration. Ghostly Company and A Violent Season focus on racial struggle in the 1960s and 1980s, and The Peculiar Hand of God, a play-in-progress, is about the conflict between a nineteenth century evangelist and his recalcitrant and independent sister-in-law.

JVB
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Publications

Poetry:
  • "Bread and Wine." Christian Century 98.5 (18 February 1981): 157.
  • "Caught Caught Caught." Carolina Quarterly 35.1 (Autumn 1982): 17. Rpt. in Mississippi Writers: Reflections of Childhood and Youth. Ed. Dorothy Abbott. Vol. 3. Jackson, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, 1988. 83-84.
  • "Lifeboat." Poetry Now 7.1 (1982): 10.
  • "Sabbath Coin." Texas Review 4.1 & 2 (Spring/Summer 1983): 101. Rpt. in Mississippi Writers: Reflections of Childhood and Youth. Ed. Dorothy Abbott. Vol. 3. Jackson, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, 1988. 84-85.
  • "How." Cumberland Poetry Review 6.1 (Fall 1986): 17.
  • "of the dead so little recognized." Cumberland Poetry Review 6.1 (Fall 1986): 18.

Bibliography:

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