David St. John and Anna Journey stopped on their book tour at the New School on Tuesday, October 9th to read from their respective new books of poetry, The Auroras (Harper) and Vulgar Remedies (Louisiana State University Press).
The Auroras is David St. John’s first collection of new poems in eight years, and the book begins with an exploration of the poet’s sensuous, almost brooding relationship with nature. St. John is interested in revisiting the past — indeed he later told moderator David Lehman about his love of discovering new things when re-reading poetry — and in the middle section of the book he looks back at California as it was not too long ago. Most of the poems St. John read on Tuesday night were from this section, and they’re at once dark and curious. This is from "Hungry Ghost":
your own ghost
Had already come
She sat by
you at the small table
& she was so hungry
point she reached over
Reached right inside you
slowly twisted of a moist
Wafer of your hear
In the final section of the book, St. John’s poems turn their attention to death and are best characterized by their ephemeral quality, like a strong but distant note of music.
After her extraordinary debut, If Birds Gather Your Hair for Nesting, from which she also read a few poems, Anna Journey strikes a new, strange and harmonious chord with Vulgar Remedies. In one poem, the well-named Journey travels through time via the shapes and textures of the insides of a fistulated cow to unknown and known realms. Her long, intriguing titles pull the listener into the context of the poems, an influence of Beckian Fritz Goldberg, she said. With a strong sense of rhyhtm and clever use of language, Journey builds upon the peculiarity that her titles immediately establish.
The readings were followed by questions from David Lehman as well as from the audience, stimulating much discussion on the musicality of language and the devil. -- Philip Brunst