SOCORRO, N.M., March 30, 2001 -- New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology celebrates National Poetry Month with an evening with renowned poet David St. John on Wednesday, April 25 at 7 p.m. in the Tech Library, Room 212. A reception will follow.
David St. John has been honored with many of the most significant prizes for poets including an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the O.B. Hardison prize from the Folger Shakespeare Library, a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Rome Fellowship in Literature, and a grant from the Ingam Merrill Foundation. He is the author of seven collections of poetry, including his most recent, The Red Leaves of Night (1999) and Study for the World’s Body: New and Selected Poems (1994), two limited edition books of poetry, and a collection of prose, Where the Angels Come Toward Us: Selected Essays, Reviews, and Interviews (1994). Currently professor of English at the University of Southern California, St. John has taught creative writing at Johns Hopkins University and Oberlin College. He is also editor-at-large of The Antioch Review literary journal.
St. John, who received widespread acclaim and was a National Book Award finalist for his volume of poetry Study for the World’s Body, is justly celebrated for his lush and lyrical language, his precise imagery, and his disarming ability to probe the nuances between ecstasy and loss.
The Red Leaves of Night, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, is the logical extension of St. John’s work, as well as a leap forward as his voice gains authority, dexterity and maturing insight. St. John once again demonstrates the artistry and vision that have prompted critics to compare his work to the poetry of Keats, Mallarme, Yeats, and Rilke.
The poems in The Red Leaves of Night, many of which first appeared in some of our most distinguished literary journals, including Antaeus, American Poetry Review, Poetry, and The Paris Review, are rapturous explorations of human experience. With an intensity of language and emotion, St. John plumbs the duality of possession and loss both of body and spirit. At times unabashedly erotic, his poems inhabit a sexual milieu that nurtures an exploration of the ways we come together and separate, and of the ways in which that physical and emotional communion comes to define us.
St. John draws on a wellspring of allusions culled from history, art, music and literature. The speakers of his poems seems to traverse the globe, guiding us on a journey through the faded European venues and classical antiquities, which spur the imagination, yet humble the human inclination toward cocksureness.
Praise for The Red Leaves of Night
"Expressive, gestural, and image-laden, St. John’s lines fairly hum with the pleasure of their own making."
-- New Yorker
"The melancholic wisdom of St. John’s sixth collection seems hard-won: his is the postlapsarian ‘solitary way’ of love lost daily and sex cheapened by night. Confessionally breathless, the syntax of these poems seems not spontaneous but rather like an exhalation long suppressed….Deploying images that are sharp edged (if bizarre) with the paratactic rush typical of his highly acclaimed work, St. John solidifies his growing reputation…and becomes more than before the wandering, soulful troubadour of whom he writes."
-- Publishers Weekly
"Passionate and totally committed sex has taken place not long before most of these poems begin, and the realization that the affair is over is the aura. They are glamorous poems….full of sensuous imagery…Underlying all the poems, including the comic invocation of Elvis at the center of the book, is the conviction that passionate love making is the finest possible experience."
Praise for Study for the World’s Body
"It’s not just gorgeous, it is go-for-broke gorgeous. It is made out of sentences, sweeping through and across the meticulous verse stanzas, that could have been written, for their velvet and intricate suavity, by Henry James. But that doesn’t quite describe them, since they are also full, almost past ripeness, of a floating, sometimes painful, sometimes wistful, intense, dark and silvery eroticism that feels as if it comes out of some cross between late nineteenth-century symbolist lushness—vague and specific at once—and the kind of 60s and 70s European film that talked about eroticism with a wistfulness so intense that it seemed experience and the melancholy recollection of experience were the same thing. Mallarme and Eric Rohmer, perhaps. Or Rilke and Michelangelo Antonioni."
--Robert Hass, Los Angeles Times Book Review
"Steeped in the European literary tradition, and influenced by such diverse talents as Keats, Yeats, Trakl, and Mallarme, St. John is a leading proponent within his generation of what has been called ‘the international voice’."
--Floyd Collins, The Gettysburg Review
"An elegant manifesto of the claims and consequences of imagination, or reflection and representation. It shows what’s at stake for a writer engaged in observing complex dances of mind and body choreographed by human desire and accompanied by a music heard so deeply…"
-- Katrina Roberts, Agni Review