Janet McMillan Rives

Janet McMillan Rives was born in Hartford, Connecticut and grew up in Storrs until moving to Tucson, Arizona midway through high school. She is a graduate of the University of Arizona (B.A.) and Duke University (M.A., Ph. D.) She taught college economics for thirty-five years and retired as Professor Emerita of Economics from the University of Northern Iowa. She resides in Oro Valley, Arizona.

Her love of poetry began during her youth in New England when she discovered the poetry of Robert Frost. She has been reading poetry her entire life and writing poetry since the 1980s. She is active in small poetry writing groups in Tucson. Her poems have appeared in such publications as Lyrical Iowa, Ekphrastic Review, Sandcutters, The Avocet, The Blue Guitar, Creosote, Crosswinds, Fine Lines,The Raw Art Review, and Beyond Words and in anthologies such as Voices from the Plains, The Very Edge, and Night Forest. Her first chapbook of poetry, Into This Sea of Green: Poems from the Prairie, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2020. In 2023 Kelsay Books released her collection, Washed by a Summer Rain: Poems from the Desert.. Her new collection published in 2024 is Thread: A Memoir in Woven Poems.


Thread: A Memoir in Woven Poems is available from Finishing Line Publications.

Washed by a Summer Rain: Poems from the Desert: 48 pages,
Amazon or Kelsay Publications

Into this Sea of Green: Poems from the Prairie: 26 pages
Amazon or Finishing Line Publications

"This refreshing memoir weaves poetry and prose into a tapestry depicting a childhood of wonder and joy bound to the days of "our long and lucky lives," as Janet McMillan Rives can write now. With chapters moving around in time and place, with lines of poetry that sharpen the focus, she takes us vividly into what the child once saw as a cathedral of trees, to explore memory and beauty and poetry itself, to discover the connections threading past to present. In that green cathedral, the child wonders what friends and details and experiences she will remember when she's old. This tender, lyrical book is the answer."
–Meg Files, author of The Beasts.

"Only connect!" wrote E.M. Forster. "Live in fragments no longer." Janet McMillan Rives exemplifies this calling. "I remember connections," she declares, and it's true. Rives' recollections are painterly. She shows us "blue green agave, muted orchid skies at sunrise, subtle pink reflecting off the mountain side, cool cloudless azure skies." But the thread that securely binds together this hybrid of memoir and poetry is Rives' "open-hearted, open-minded" capacity to connect-with history, place, and most of all, people, especially her readers. "There is no one left in my circle who lived through these moments with me, no one with whom to share. So I write," writes Rives. And-lucky us!-we read. We connect. Thread widens the circle of the writer's life to welcome and include anyone fortunate enough to become interwoven with this honest, lyrical book.
–Rachel M. Srubas, author of The Desert of Compassion, The Girl Got Up and other books.


In Thread: A Memoir in Woven Poems, the author reveals connecting filaments of nature, place, family, and friendship over her lifetime. From a "Snow Day" in childhood to years living "In Paris" to the "Blaze" of a southwest desert to being "Called to Stay" in the Midwest to finally moving "Ahead" into retirement, she weaves prose narrative through her poetry. These hybrids capture the transitions of life in a lyric tapestry.

Excerpts: Janet has placed some excerpts here to provide a feel for the prose-poetry hybrid she also calls woven poems. Enjoy!


When Janet Rives returned to Arizona twenty years ago, she began the keenly observed poems in Washed by a Summer Rain: Poems from the Desert. Glimpses of history, flashes of nature's colors, and introductions to those with whom Rives has shared this vivid place offer insight. Unflinchingly, Rives conjures a grief, deals with the pandemic, travels to the border, and faces wildfire beyond her yard. Her lyrical voice shines in "Gadsden Purchase":
    "You walk to the beat of your father's heart,
    you breathe in the fire of your mother's spirit
    you are the alma, the soul of this place."
Rives lifts us and asks us to hope with her as she is replenished with whatever grows, creeps, flies, and flourishes across the seasons.
–Marge Pellegrino, Coauthor of Neon Words: 10 Brilliant Ways to Light Up Your Writing

Desert Autumn

No crimson canopy
no leaves crunching

     no open windows
     cold mornings
     scuffed cornfields

     no orchard outing
     baked apples
     acorn squash.

Just a sunrise
   somewhat later
a sunset
   a bit earlier
the scent of air
   not on fire.

I recommend Janet Rives’s Into This Sea of Green to all of my writing friends and students. Her book overflows with precise and descriptive language, and this artistic look at the world through which she travels is a testament to her observational skills. “Called to Stay,” “Amish Roofers,” “The Trees Tell the Story,” “No Caboose,” and “Sandhills Wildflowers” pull the reader into past scenes, important conversations, and memories that illustrate a life well lived.
–David Martin, Editor of the Fine Lines Journal

Through the Sandhills

We drive west, keeping pace
with an empty coal train
under an uncluttered sky,
the earth, too, almost barren.
Even the towns seem sparse--
Ashby, Bingham, Ellsworth, Lakeside--
not much to them.

The land between takes on
a calming shade of green
reminding me of Capulin volcano
a place where I found peace.
Forest greens appear
along streams and hedgerows
punctuating a landscape
so subtle.

Even my mind becomes
set free from worries, choices.
And my heart? Overflowing
taking all this in.

God, it is gorgeous.

Contact: Janet Rives