David St. John Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

In addition to his own poetry, David St. John has contributed to the translation of God’s Shadow: Prison Poems (1976), by the Iranian poet Reza Baraheni. In 1995, St. John recorded one of his own poems, Black Poppy. His essays and interviews are published in Where the Angels Come Toward Us: Selected Essays, Reviews, and Interviews (1995). This volume is valuable because it contains six important interviews with St. John spanning the years from 1976 to 1994, in which he talks of his own poetry extensively and explains his poetic principles.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

In his relatively brief career, David St. John has received considerable attention and numerous awards. His poems have appeared in more than three dozen anthologies and textbooks. His prose, which includes profiles of other writers, reviews, and critical essays, has been included in nearly twenty essay collections. In 1975, he received the Discovery prize from The Nation, and for his first poetry collection, Hush, he won the Great Lakes College Association New Writers award in 1976. The National Endowment for the Arts awarded him fellowships in 1976, 1984, and 1994-1995. He won a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship for a year in 1978 and received a grant from the Ingram Merrill Foundation. His second poetry collection, The Shore, won the James D. Phelan Prize in 1980. The American Academy of Arts and Letters awarded him a Rome Fellowship in 1984. Study for the World’s Body was nominated for the National Book Award in Poetry, and two other volumes, In the Pines and The Red Leaves of Night, were nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for poetry in 1999. St. John received an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2000 and the O. B. Hardison, Jr., Poetry Prize in 2001. He has regularly contributed both poetry and critical essays to a number of major periodicals, including The New Yorker, Antaeus, Georgia Review, The New Republic, and Poetry.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Nichols, Travis. “Poetry Makes Strange Bedfellows.” Review of American Hybrid: A Norton Anthology of New Poetry, edited by David St. John and Cole Swensen. Poets and Writers 37 (March/April, 2009): 16-17. Notes how modern poetry in its synthesis of experimental and traditional forms of poetry creates some very novel poems.

Plumly, Stanley. “Of Lyricism, Verbal Energy, the Sonnet, and Gallows Humor.” Review of The Shore. The Washington Post Book World, November 2, 1980, pp. 10-13. Poet Plumly singles out some perceived defects in several poems but in the end gives the collection high praise.

Publishers Weekly. Review of Study for the World’s Body. 241 (June 27, 1994): 66-67. Studies the use of imagery and rhythmic lines and their relation to the metaphor of dance in several of St. John’s poems, turning then to poems in which narrative, language, and imagination play a major role.

Roberts, Katrina. “David St. John’s Study for the World’s Body.” Review of Study for the World’s Body. Agni Reviews 41 (1995): 206-211. Roberts discusses St. John’s style and the cohesive elements in this collection, such as his elegiac tone and psychological realism.

Shoaf, Diann Blakely. Review of Terraces of Rain. Southern Humanities Review 27 (Winter, 1993): 93-96. Shoaf comments on St. John’s narrative skills, his Italian subjects in this collection, and his technical mastery.

Stitt, Peter. “Poets Witty and Elegiac.” Review of No Heaven. The New York Times Book Review, September 1, 1985, p. 11. Reviewing No Heaven, Stitt discusses St. John’s subjects and themes and his psychological poems.

Terris, Susan. “About David St. John.” Ploughshares 31, no. 4 (Winter, 2005/2006): 191-196. A profile of St. John that examines his life and influences.

Tillinghast, Richard. Review of Study for the World’s Body. Poetry 166 (August, 1995): 290-292. Tillinghast looks at St. John’s poems as expressions of a romantic rhapsody, comparing them to the lyrics found in songs written by rock musicians.

Torrens, James S. “Color Him Black.” Review of The Face. America 190, no. 16 (May, 2004): 23-24. Examines this work in which a writer is having a film made about his life and ends up learning about himself.