David St. John has been honored, over the course of his career, with many of the most significant prizes for poets, including fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, both the Rome Fellowship and an Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, the O. B. Hardison Prize (a career award for teaching and poetic achievement) from The Folger Shakespeare Library, and a grant from the Ingram Merrill Foundation. His work has been published in countless literary magazines, including The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Poetry, American Poetry Review, Harper's, Antaeus, and The New Republic, and has been widely anthologized. He has taught creative writing at Oberlin College and The Johns Hopkins University and currently teaches at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where he served as Director of The Ph. D. Program in Literature and Creative Writing. David St. John is the author of nine collections of poetry, most recently The Face: A Novella in Verse, as well as a volume of essays, interviews and reviews entitled "Where the Angels Come Toward Us." He is presently completing a new volume of poems entitled, The Auroras.

Apple Orchard

In the apple orchard she sat on a small wood bench
Placed almost exactly at the center of the grove
For moments like these when it was important to stop the world

& let everything, else pass by even the wind with its scent of sweet
& the snowflake petals of the lush apple trees falling around her
But of course as she stood she grew dizzy with the applause of

The paper-faced red poppies of her feet their bleeding laughter
& frank open gazes so shocking to someone so used to the
ordinary guile
Of friends & when at last her composure returned it was as if a

Had uncoiled within her & she cupped the perfect globe of lust
    in her hand

from The Red Leaves of Night (© 1999 HarperPerennial)

XVL. A Traveler

I have traveled so far to remember
Nothing of my former life, though perhaps that is
Truly best. I’ve left everything I’ve ever known.

To come here, to stand in the shape of your shadow.
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

Like the flicker of fireflies, hundreds upon hundreds, wave
After wave, the rippling of illuminations along a face---
Like that silent movie in which the heroine, as clear

As black-&-white, travels at last to the end of her solitude.
Just so we’re not confused about this kind of thing, don’t forget
That it’s I who am like her, or she like me, or I like you---

Whose insistence upon distance I’ve been given to despise.

from “Nocturnes & Aubades” The Red Leaves of Night (© 1999 HarperPerennial)


The night was all fugue & moon. Remember that trip to Capri
We never took? All that talk about the Blue Grotto & of naked rain
On naked bodies. One night, as I sat on the terrace drinking white
Friulian wine, I looked across the garden & saw you in the gold frame
Of the window of the Casa Rustica playing your violin. You wore that mask
Of concentration I knew so well, that focused passion, that blazing gaze. Later
That spring, in Taormina, all of Sicily shaking with lemons & shards…
In the bar of the hotel, the boys from the streets were watching a midnight
Re-run of the day’s soccer match, their voices percussive in the clear
Liquid air. We walked down the steep slope, to a hillside terrace
Carved into the dense punctuation of cypress & umbrella pines. The chaises
Lay side by side. Your legs scissored the air as I swam toward Capri. The night
Was all fugue & moon. The scream of wind through the wet hair of the cypress.

from The Face, A Novella in Verse (© 2004 HarperCollins)

David St. John Moonday poetry reading
photo by Helen Hierta

© 2007 David St. John

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