From Publishers Weekly
This disjointed collection contains St. John's (Hush, The Shore) writings on the work of other poets, interviews with him about his own poetry and one beautiful, imagistic letter about an afternoon in Rome. The essays and reviews about work by Norman Dubie, Marvin Bell, Donald Hall and others are certainly thoughtful, but they would be more at home in collections of their respective subjects than here, where they rarely go beyond worthy criticism to become really good reading. The shorter selections, which usually concentrate on a single poem, are better: intelligently focused, they often offer some softening personal reminiscences. In a meditation on Pablo Neruda's "Walking Around," St. John recalls his first encounter with the poem, in a poetry class taught by Philip Levine. That simple letter about Rome is stunning but seems out of place here, leaving only a longing for less academic material. Instead, what comes next are interviews with St. John in various literary magazines. Read together, they seem repetitious (as when St. John explains several times that while his grandfather was an English professor, his father, an athletic coach, raised him to be a tennis player). As Suzanne Lumis astutely points out in an interview that first appeared in the Denver Quarterly, when asked to discuss current poets, St. John rarely mentions women, aside from an occasional reference to Adrienne Rich (then, in a some-of-my-best-friends-are aside, he insists, "I think that the best writing in America is being done by young women. There's no question about it"). This is for readers already wrapped up in the insular world of high literature, a world St. John describes as "fueled by rumor, by endless and often malicious gossip."
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
About the Author
David St. John's many awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship and three National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships in Poetry. He currently lives in Venice, California and teaches at the University of Southern California