About Les

Les James is an emerging writer and artist whose work explores the interplay of poetry, prayer, philosophy, and protest in the interweaving of themes inspired by nature, science, and social justice. Rooted in her experiences as a Black woman, this work grows out of her artistic, contemplative, and activist practices centering blackness as an expression of the divine, as well as her academic studies in biology, learning sciences, organizational psychology, and social transformation. 

Les has had her writing curated in various anthologies and online publications, including The Future of Black: Afrofuturism, Black Comics, and Superhero Poetry; The Center for Humans and Nature: Stories & Ideas; Michigan Quarterly Review; among others. Her visual art has been curated in EcoTheo Review, Geez, Edge Effects, Syracuse Cultural Workers’ Peace Calendar 2024, and elsewhere. 

A 2023 Bread Loaf-Rona Jaffe Foundation Scholar, Les has also received support from the Diverse Intelligences Summer Institute, Collegeville Institute, Peter Bullough Foundation, Foundation House, and Kenyon Institute.  

Originally from the lands of the Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi Nations (Chicago metro), Les identifies as a Black, sci-fi fantasy loving, cis-gender female person of the global majority who enjoys extended walks, expansive conversations, and extra spicy food. 

Published Work

Creative Writing & Poetry

Forthcoming

"Here be dragons" | Writing the Land: Virginia anthology. NatureCulture LLC

“Nature being” | When We Exhale: An Anthology of Black Women Rooted In Ancestral Medicine, Black Freighter Press 

“Home is where the heart is” | When We Exhale: An Anthology of Black Women Rooted In Ancestral Medicine, Black Freighter Press

“Maybe Mother Earth is an angry Black woman too” | When We Exhale: An Anthology of Black Women Rooted In Ancestral Medicine, Black Freighter Press

2024

"Who am I?" | Locating a Collective Lyric I, The Hopkins Review

2023 

“Odd sympathy” | 1619 Speaks, Sims Library of Poetry 

"A universe within" | Stories & Ideas, The Center for Humans and Nature 

2022 

American dreams / Wake-up call” | Fractured Union: American Democracy on the Brink (Special Issue), Michigan Quarterly Review Online, University of Michigan

The struggle is real” | Consilience, Issue 8: Entropy

"Dark natured" | BLUU Notes An Anthology of Love, Justice, and Liberation, Black Lives of Unitarian Universalists, Skinner House Books

2021 

“Why Black women write horror stories” | The Future of Black: Afrofuturism, Black Comics, & Superhero Poetry anthology, Blair

"Why Black women write horror stories" | The Black Liberation Blueprint, Blackroots Alliance

On purity and truth: A reflection on the Robert E. Lee Monument (1890-?)” | 2020 Visions: Imagining (Post-) COVID Worlds Series; Edge Effects; Center for Culture, History, and Environment; University of Wisconsin-Madison

2020 

“Mother prayer” | Issue 001: Black, Gumbo Magazine, Gumbo Media

Artwork and Photography

2023 

"Protest Shrine" | 2024 Peace Calendar, Syracuse Cultural Workers

2022 

Locked In, Locked Out, Interlocked” (photo collage) | EcoTheo Review, EcoTheo Collective 

“Intersecting” (chalk pastels, digitally modified) | 2023 Art Calendar, Glen Allen Cultural Arts Center

"Snails in Scotland" (photography) | Issue 65: Sex, Geez magazine

"Feelings" (photography and digital collage) | Issue 65: Sex, Geez magazine

2021 

"On the James" (photography) | Take Me Away - Summer Fun and Vacations juried group show, Art Works Gallery - Richmond

"On truth and purity" (photography) | 2020 Visions: Imagining (Post-) COVID Worlds Series; Edge Effects; Center for Culture, History, and Environment; University of Wisconsin-Madison

"Carried Away: Cedar Rapids, IA Summer 2008" 1 &2 (photography) | Best Depiction of Theme Award, Flood Awareness Week juried group show, Art Works Gallery - Richmond

"LA Escape" (photography) | Juried group show, Art Works Gallery - Richmond

2020 

"Biloxi Shrine" 1 & 2 (photography) | Flood Awareness Week juried group show, Art Works Gallery - Richmond

Awards & Fellowships

2023 

About You, About Me Workshop, Collegeville Institute

Bread Loaf-Rona Jaffe Foundation Scholar, Bread Loaf Environmental Writers Conference

Artist Residency | Peter Bullough Foundation

2022 

Artist Residency | Foundation House

1st Prize in the Humor for Serious Subjects category, Thinking Funny Humor Writing Contest

2021

Resident Artist - Storyteller | Diverse Intelligences Summer Institute [virtual]

2020

Resident Artist - Storyteller | Diverse Intelligences Summer Institute [virtual]

2019

Resident Artist - Storyteller | Diverse Intelligences Summer Institute

2017 

Writing Spirit, Writing Faith Workshop, Collegeville Institute


Offered but Unable to Attend / Accept

2023 

Oak Spring Garden Foundation Scholarship, Writing the Landscape 

Creative Writing Residency, Visual Arts Center of Richmond

Professional Activities

2023 

Organizer | Contemplative Co-working for Writers Retreat, Mountain Light Retreat

Artist Talk | Introduction to Creative Writing, St. Edward's University [virtual]

Reader | "A Voice, A Light: Protest Poetry Virtual Showcase," Kitchen Table Literary Arts and The Poetry Foundation

Artist Talk | Wild Goose Festival

Panelist | "The Future of Black: 21st Century Second-wave Afrofuturism," Poetry Society of Virginia

Artist Talk | Peter Bullough Foundation

Artist Talk | Blue Stone Writers [virtual]

2022 

Panelist | "The Future of Black," American Writers Festival, American Writers Museum

2021 

Panelist | "Just Work: A conversation on the progress we've made and what still remains to achieve Black liberation," Blackroots Alliance [virtual]

Presenter | "In our nature: A theopoetics of science project" poster, The Mind, the Human-Earth Connection, and the Climate Crisis, Summer Research Institute, Mind and Life Institute [virtual]

Presenter | “The AI Q&A: A design fiction look at different points of view” | Midwestern Conference on Literature, Language and Media, Northern Illinois University [virtual]

Reader | Storytellers' Showcase, Diverse Intelligences Summer Institute [virtual]

2020 

Contributor | "The dictionary as a work of fiction," What Kindled Your Interest in Minds? Many Minds Podcast, Diverse Intelligences Summer Institute

Presenter | “Levels of mind as levels of matter” poster, Cultivating Prosocial Development Across the Lifespan: Context, Relationships, and Contemplative Practices, Summer Research Institute, Mind and Life Institute [virtual]

Reader | Storytellers' Showcase, Diverse Intelligences Summer Institute

2019 

Presenter | “Body, heart, mind & spirit: Emergent images for inspirational & intuitive practices” session, Mystic Soul Conference: Radical Wholeness, Mystic Soul Project

Presenter | “Embodying race as an emergent concept,” Embodiment and Race Conference, Department of Philosophy and Religion, Clemson University

Presenter | “Emergent levels: A framework for reimagining complex & cognitive systems,” Complexity in the Humanities and Sciences Conference, Department of Philosophy, University of Memphis

Reader | Storytellers' Showcase, Diverse Intelligences Summer Institute

Education

 Master of Arts in Individualized Studies, Goddard College, Plainfield, VT

Graduate coursework for Master of Arts in Social Transformation, United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, St. Paul, MN

Master of Arts in Learning Sciences, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL

Organizational Psychology Certificate, John F. Kennedy University, Pleasant Hill, CA

Bachelor of Science in Biology, Mary Baldwin College, Staunton, VA

Contact Info