The Face: A Novella in Verse

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9780060593667: The Face: A Novella in Verse

David St. John is among the most innovative and accomplished poets writing today. In crafting The Face, a daring book-length sequence of poems, he has created a highly original novella in verse.

The poems evoke the disintegration of a man as he confronts the failure of love and descends into a hellish dark night of the soul. They explore the drama of the shattered self in a variety of voices, calling on memory to speak and imagination to make beauty from the shards. Slowly the speaker reassembles his life and finds a new faith in himself and in the world. David St. John's poems reveal a swirling cinematic poetry of visionary scope -- meditative and confessional in some moments, ironic and playful in others.

Deeply passionate and raw in its candor, The Face may be for this generation of poets what Robert Lowell's Life Studies and John Ashbery's Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror were for theirs.

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About the Author:

Prizewinning poet David St. John is the author of ten collections of poetry, including Study for the World's Body: New and Selected Poems, which was a finalist for the National Book Award, as well as Where the Angels Come Toward Us, a volume of essays, interviews, and reviews. He is the co-editor, with Cole Swenson, of American Hybrid: A Norton Anthology of New Poetry. He teaches at the University of Southern California and lives in Venice Beach.

From Publishers Weekly:

St. John's ninth collection is roughly plotted around a midlife crisis: "Each day, in the mirror, that face smeared a bit more brutally/ Across the glass." In order to push the narcissism to its limits, St. John confronts his speaker with a forthcoming biopic of his own life, complete with poor scripting by an ex-, "Infanta," and a young cinematographer "with a pierced dick." Fuguing around writing process-oriented repetitions of "assembling" and "dissembling," the speaker utters an Eliotic cri de coeur ("I have invented a whole philosophy of shatterings"), complains about the script ("That tapestry of travesty") and alternately fantasizes about and feels revulsion for the "hot" young woman cast to play him, with "a certain angel-butch Joan-of-Arcish kind of thing." September 11, as a key recent event in the speaker's life, is presented as a set piece with "flakes of flint falling/ Through long fingers of flame. Black leaves. Feuilles de noire." Faulty cell phone communication, straight talk on cultural decline ("remind us why anyone gives a shit, OK?") and a lengthy diversionary prose poem listing varieties of masks follow, until, at the premiere of the movie of his life, the speaker "hurls," crawls outside and sees a vision of his own face assemble in the sky. Despite some entertainingly arch moments (on literary couples: "all that flesh made word") and anecdotes of self-abnegation, most readers will have put it together and walked out long before that.
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