Poetry forms the main body of James Applewhite’s work, but Seas and Inland Journeys: Landscape and Consciousness from Wordsworth to Roethke (1985) is a critical work in which Applewhite examines the subject that has been so important to his own poetry—the relationship of landscape to the poet’s creative perceptions. The work gives particular attention to the Romantic poets William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge as well as to William Butler Yeats and Theodore Roethke. Applewhite also edited two volumes, Brown Bag (1971), with Anne Lloyd and Fred Chappell, and Voices from Earth (1971).
James Applewhite has been widely recognized as an important lyric poet whose work articulates the scenes and voices of the contemporary South, as his many awards attest. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1976, the Associated Writing Programs’ Contemporary Poetry Series Award in 1981, and the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association poetry award in 1981 and 1986. He received a prize in the International Poetry Review competition for 1982 and won the North Carolina Poetry Society award in 1990, the American Academy of Arts and Letters’s Jean Stein Award in Poetry in 1992, and the North Carolina Award in Literature in 1993. In 2008, he was inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame.
Applewhite, James. “Illegible Fields and Names in Marble.” Sewanee Review 103 (1995): 522-537. This thoughtful autobiographical essay discusses the world that created Applewhite’s poetic consciousness. The poet re-creates the world of Stantonsburg, where he grew up with his parents and many members of his father’s family.
Gwynn, R. S. “What the Center Holds.” Hudson Review 46, no. 4 (Winter, 1994): 741-750. In this lengthy review article, Gwynn discusses Applewhite’s A History of the River as part of a general discussion of contemporary American poetry. He notes the poet’s deep attachment to North Carolina and says that he can sometimes endow his subjects with “epic grandure,” but he faults him for sometimes using imprecise imagery.
Lensing, George S. “Roads from Stantonsburg: The Poetry of James Applewhite.” Southern Review 31, no. 1 (1995): 139-161. Lensing discusses the relationship between Applewhite’s native geography and his writing. He examines the forces of contemporary life which alienate the poet from the natural world and the unpretentious men who are the poet’s heroes.
Levine, Philip. “A Conversation with Philip Levine.” Interview. TriQuarterly 95 (Winter, 1995): 67-83. In this lengthy interview, Levine talks, among other things, about the importance of place for one who wants to write. Although he does not specifically discuss Applewhite, he offers readers an overview of the state of contemporary American poetry.
Publishers Weekly. Review of A History of the River. 240, no. 4 (January 24, 1993): 83. In this review, the author describes Applewhite’s knowledge of his culture as “impressive” but says that his descriptions are sometimes “excessively nuanced.”