Even as a young child, James Reiss was drawn to such poets as Homer, Dante, Spenser, Milton and Keats, whom he described as “devoted to narration.”

As a poet and later a novelist, Mr. Reiss was also devoted to narration, to the point that former California Poet Laureate Carol Muske-Dukes described him as “a committed story teller.” In fact, the latest of his six books of poetry was titled “The Novel.”

Mr. Reiss, of Wilmette, who died Dec. 2 at age 75 of a heart attack, also published a novel in April, “When Yellow Leaves,” and was a professor emeritus of English and founding editor of Miami University Press at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

“He always felt that poetry should tell a story rather than just be an abstract idea or a series of words running together that might sound interesting,” said Mr. Reiss’ wife, Mary Jo McMillin.

“He wrote every single day,” she added.

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