In addition to her many volumes of poetry, Josephine Miles wrote more than a dozen books developing her theories of poetry and applying these theories to particular poets and eras. Among the most widely read of these works are Eras and Modes in English Poetry (1957, 1964) and Style and Proportion: The Language of Prose and Poetry (1967, 1984). These books are detailed structural analyses of English poetry and prose; all of Miles’s criticism expounds her theory that the structure of language changes to reflect the spirit of the time that the language expresses. Her one play, House and Home, was first performed in 1960 and was published in First Stage in 1965.
Josephine Miles’s contribution to American poetry is valuable and unusual. She combined poetry of political commitment with sound scholarship and theory to produce a body of work that is at the same time of the tower and of the streets. Her work is a challenge both to the poet/propagandist and to the art for art’s sake poet.
Miles’s many awards and honors include the Shelley Memorial Award (1936), the Phelan Memorial Award (1937), a Guggenheim Fellowship (1948), a National Institute of Arts and Letters Award (1956), the Oscar Blumenthal Prize (1959), an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship (1965), a National Endowment for the Arts grant (1967), and an Academy of American Poets Fellowship (1978). She received a Silver Medal from the Commonwealth Club of California (1983), the Fred Cody Award for lifetime achievement (1984), and the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize (1984) for Collected Poems, 1930-1983. Although her critical works have been to some extent superseded, Miles’s poetry has guaranteed for her a lasting place in twentieth century American literature.
Beloof, Robert. “Distances and Surfaces.” Prairie Schooner 32 (Winter, 1958/1959): 276-284. This fine, readable article examines Miles’s poetry in terms of poetic strategies. Beloof’s analysis is detailed, thematic, and logical.
Chase, Karen. Review of Collected Poems, 1930-1983. World Literature Today 58 (Summer, 1984): 423. A very favorable review of Miles’s career. Excerpts from selected poems are briefly discussed to reveal Miles’s versatility.
Guillory, Daniel L. Review of Collected Poems, 1930-1983. Choice 24 (March, 1984): 978. Guillory suggests a favorable comparison could be made between the poetry of Miles and the poetry of William Carlos Williams. Important themes in Miles’s poetry are listed, as well as a thematic and chronological progression.
Miles, Josephine. Josephine Miles, Teaching Poet: An Oral Biography. Edited by Marjorie Larney. Berkeley, Calif.: Acacia Books, 1993. A short biographical work that provides invaluable details of Miles’s life and thoughts from interviews with the poet by Ruth Teiser and Catherine Harroun.
Muller, Erik. Josephine Miles. Boise, Idaho: Boise State University Press, 2005. A short biography of the Berkeley poet that details her life and critiques her work.
Smith, Lawrence R. “Josephine Miles: Metaphysician of the Irrational.” Pebble 18/19/20 (1979): 22-35. An insightful article examining some of the major symbols and themes in Miles’s poetry. Careful attention is given to many of Miles’s poems.