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The Red Leaves of Night Hardcover – March, 1999


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Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

The opening lines of the first poem in St.Johns 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 ambiencehis 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 Johns 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. Johns 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 DOr 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. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

About the Author

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, the Prix de Rome Fellowship in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and a grant from the Ingram Merrill Foundation. His work has been published in countless literary magazines, including The New Yorker, Paris Reviews, Poetry, American Poetry Review, Antaeus, Harper's, and The New Republic, and has been widely anthologized. He has taught creative writing at Oberlin College and Johns Hopkins University and currently teaches at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 85 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers; 1st edition (March 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060192836
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060192839
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.3 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,317,872 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 10, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I found David St John's The Red Leaves of Night to be a captivating and stimulating read - both in its thematic sophistication and elegance of language. St John shows a capacity for precise and economic use of language which results in a clarity which fully reveals the strength of his poetic imagery. This strength manifests most clearly in the many sensual metaphors which he uses to describe the human body. These wonderful images accumulate throughout the collection and their highly visual nature makes the poems come alive with images of the naked bodies which populate the text. The poems impressed me with their thematic sophistication, the clarity with which they expressed ideas, the intimacy of their detail and the honest nakedness of the subject matter. The Red Leaves of Night is a collection of immediate, passionate and powerful poetry.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Diana Capul on April 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book was gorgeous. I immediately slid into his perception of places and relationships; his tone and language flowed well and were easy to follow, including everything from contractions in "Nocturnes & Aubades" to a faintly antiquated tone in "Troubadour." The naked body does not inhibit him, either; his descriptions mythologize the natural beauty of the nude. Also, in a contemporary sense, his choice to leave out punctuation for several poems is brave, for he does it well. I only wish I could form poems as lovely as his. Even though the title poem leads the reader "to some newly solitary / & distant home," the journey there is worth it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sarah Welsh on April 14, 2000
Format: Paperback
These meditations on sexual intimacy, memories of love & desire, the passage of daily and historical time, color, place, and language are both devastatingly beautiful and raw in their emotion. St. John deals in abstractions, but I would not call him an abstract poet. Perhaps you could call it invention, perhaps it is metaphor or alchemy - he is toying with the line between the concrete and the abstract. _The Red Leaves of Night_ begs the question of when a detail - the color of a woman's clothing or the tune she hums - is concrete and when it becomes a mere thought, an abstraction. Ultimately, St. John suggests that concrete and abstract are two sides of the same coin - that every word and every object has the potential to be (or to signify) both, though that potential is neither neutral nor safe.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Christopher A Gerben on April 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
David St. John's "The Red Leaves of Night" is a must-read for all lovers of sensual, intellectual, and entertaining poetry. St. John's use of language is simply elegant while his descriptions are vivid and tangible enough to transform the text into a picture book. As he writes in the poem "Music", "It became my passion to explain everything/ With music even the randomness of starlight or death" we as readers plead for more lessons because we know he is speaking the truth! David St. John's collection is a modern example of what poetry is and what it can truly be!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 22, 1999
Format: Hardcover
St. John is one of our masters, and The Red Leaves of Night is a gift to all readers of poetry who believe in the power of language to enact desire, embody mystery, and restore wonder. The sequence of Aubades and Nocturnes is dazzling; the final section of the book is very nearly transporting.
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