Red Leaves of Night by David St. John, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Red Leaves of Night

Red Leaves of Night

by David St. John
     
 

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Possession and loss, rapture and despair: David St. John's narrator in this dazzling collection of poems remains unflinchingly aware that the trajectory between these two states is both brief and irresistible. Like modern Dante's Virgil, he guides us through a mosaic of experiences to depict the vast architecture of erotic desire and communion. The sexual bond,

Overview

Possession and loss, rapture and despair: David St. John's narrator in this dazzling collection of poems remains unflinchingly aware that the trajectory between these two states is both brief and irresistible. Like modern Dante's Virgil, he guides us through a mosaic of experiences to depict the vast architecture of erotic desire and communion. The sexual bond, with its potential for the breakdown of all spiritual and physical boundaries between two formerly separate beings, becomes the site of almost unbearable psychological and erotic tension that runs throughout the collection. The Red Leaves of Nightfinds its breathtaking power in a recognition of the necessary impermanence of such communion, and gives voice to that most courageous of modern men—one who grasps the dangers of ecstasy yet cannot turn away.

Editorial Reviews

New Yorker Magazine
In this fine new collection, beauty is the poet's subject—and the poems themselves become a kind of sensuous portraiture.... Expressive, gestural, and image-laden.
KLIATT
This volume, a National Book Award finalist, is dominated by a narrator-guide, a commentator who brings an interesting lyric distance to a series of poems that explore a relationship that is at once physical, emotional and spiritual. The perspective created is psychologically realistic, simultaneously whimsical and ephemeral, nothing concrete enough to survive forever, nothing trivial enough to be dismissed. The love described here is as mysterious and mystical as the world that spawns it: "Lately, only three things really interest me—/ The unsayable, the unknowable & you." Yet there is no question that this love is as tactile as it is romantic. "If you know little else, know that the distance from the moon/ To your bed is only seconds in the mind, the blaze of an idea. ." This love is displayed in startling and dramatic images, "For an entire year she dressed in all the shades/ Of ash—the gray of old paper; the deeper/ Almost auburn ash of pencil boxes; the dark, nearly/ Black marl of oak beds pulled from burning houses." It is the retrospective control of the speaker that brings a tone to this collection that transcends the immediacy of the affair and adds a quality of the classical to this volume, a recognition of the magnificence and transience of the things of this world. The Red Leaves of Night is unique and compelling in vision and precisely crafted. It is ideal for any library looking to add quality and depth to its poetry section. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 1999, HarperPerennial, 85p, 24cm, 98-7772, $13.00. Ages 16 to adult. Reviewer: James Beschta; English Teacher, Quabbin Reg. H.S.,Barre, MA, September 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 5)
Kirkus Reviews
The opening lines of the first poem in St.John's sixth volume introduce his odd and murky intentions: "The figure you/Remains the speculative whip of my aesthetic." Throughout this repetitive collection, St. John (Univ. of So. Cal. professor) sacrifices clarity for sultry ambience–his uncertain diction fails to support "the very definition of love" he hopes to record. Instead, his poems trade in romantic banalities and lame sententiousness ("Peace is where you find it"); his oily eroticism, however cinematic in style, reads like scenes from a cheap European soft-core movie, with the titilating parts cut out. St John's lovers are all anticipation and post-coital sadness ("Streaks of sweat on satin sheets"); his sexual vocabulary leaves too much to the imagination, his preferred adjectives being "naked," "nude," and "bare." In "Two," a tepid bit of sapphism, the poet lingers on "scarlet nipples" and pubic hair with a "wild fox blaze," but more typically St. John walks "especially unromantic streets" and, elsewhere, smells "a sexual musk." St. John's poems lack polish and blend together in metaphoric heaps of fog and moisture, mirrors and dreams, sunlight and smoke, and, yes, moon and stars. A few poems of singular style emerge from the fetid muck: "Memphis" smartly extends the conceit of Elvis as a classical god, much in the way "Chevalier D'Or" imagines an aging rock star as a medieval troubadour. The clever rhymes of "Night" force a certain sharpness that otherwise eludes this bard of greeting-card desire.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060930165
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
01/01/2000
Series:
Harper Perennial
Pages:
96
Product dimensions:
6.08(w) x 9.15(h) x 2.89(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Figure You

The Figure You
Remains the speculative whip of my aesthetic

As in the latest chapter I've been writing
Called "The Erotics of the Disembodied Self

Although I suppose the figure

You still suppose yourself to be is nevertheless

& upon reflection nothing more than the presence
Of someone else's moon-stunned body

Held quietly against your own just like the air
Or any other absence by which we learn to mark

The passing of yet another impossibly forgiven
& long-punishable night

Meet the Author

Prizewinning poet David St. John is the author of ten collections of poetry, including Study for the World's Body: New and Selected Poems, which was a finalist for the National Book Award, as well as Where the Angels Come Toward Us, a volume of essays, interviews, and reviews. He is the co-editor, with Cole Swenson, of American Hybrid: A Norton Anthology of New Poetry. He teaches at the University of Southern California and lives in Venice Beach.

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