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David St. John was born in Fresno, California. He attended California State University, Fresno, and The Writer's Workshop at The University of Iowa. 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 serves as Director of The Ph. D. Program in Literature and Creative Writing. David St. John is the author of nine collections of poetry, including Study for the World’s Body: New and Selected Poems, The Red Leaves of Night, Terraces of Rain, No Heaven, as well as Where the Angels Come Toward Us.  His latest book, The Auroras, will be published in March 2012 by HarperCollins.


Three poems from The Auroras:

I. Dawn Aurora

The nothing you know is as immaculate a knowing
as any moment moving from a distance into dawn.
All of the awakenings, or the old unconscious lies…
I’d waited all night, holed up in Selene’s derelict houseboat—
drinking tea, drinking scotch, thinking of the rain
that night in Camden Town when she went missing for hours,
coming back only to say, Sayonara baby; thinking of
the way so many things touch their own fates.  The motorcycle

heads for the cliff, or the bus stops just before the bench.
Everything seems more shabby in the dusk; everything glorious
holds its light. Look to your sons, look to your daughters.
Look to the blades rising out of the dark lawn. Don’t worry;
each of your myths remains emblazoned upon the air. The way
the wind moves across the vellum of the mountain,
as the silence lifts its chords from the old piano. In the still dark
& still uncertain dawn, there begins that slow revelation larger

than the mind’s, as the light grows coronal, & the house fills
with those elaborate agendas of the day.  The monastery & philosophy—
this morning, both seem so far away.

II. Lago Di Como

The blood of the visible hangs like blossoms of bougainvillea
as they turn & twist along the lattice of limbs shading your
terrace, stretching like a ruby squid across one corner of the stone
villa above the lake. We sit looking out over the unqualified excellence
of the morning, & there is nothing you might desire to recall. You
believe in a space that is as large as logic, that is as logical as the word.

Tell me. What is the “beautiful,” what is the “lost,”& what lives still, just
at the edge of the sound of the trees? It could be the syllables of habit;
it could be a single phrase of gratitude…or an unbroken prayer. Tell me.
What will stay, & what will hold its grace & lasting ease?

both originally published in “Field”



She lit the piñon incense
She'd brought from the pueblo

& stood naked in the lantern's
Cream light before slipping

Over her shoulders
The black wool ceremonial sheath

Of the corn dance so I could see
If only for that one evening

The true name she'd given
The ancient body of her sacrifice

originally published in “Great River Review”

copyright © 2012 HarperCollins

David St. John


The Auroras by David St John

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