“I still encourage anyone who feels at all compelled to write to do so. I just try to warn people who hope to get published that publication is not all it is cracked up to be. But writing is. Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do---the actual act of writing---turns out to be the best part. It's like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.” ~Anne Lamott
My body has been hostage to an idea," cries Leslie St. John, and even though this charismatic woman never loses touch with the physical fact of the body in the world, she is at her essence a metaphysical poet. "I'd like to rename every body part," she insists in the first poem here, in the hope that doing so may bring her "one day nearer to what is unnamable." It's a brave imagination that can face the body it lives in as both vehicle and obstacle, and a strong mind that can transcend that dualism. But having lost one eye in an absurd accident ("She Washed My Hair" tells the harrowing story), Leslie St. John has let the poet in her see with a unique third eye, one that sees with an accurate, compassionate, wisdom-inviting gaze. Her language is contemporary, precise and warm with breathing; her poems offer a music that sounds intimate even when one read aloud alone. Of special note is the heartbreaking "Elegy for John Mark, 2002-2004," a sequence on the death of a nephew that turns at the end toward an unearthly lyrical beauty. But in Leslie St. John's world, beauty is like a rope: it can rescue or kill."
~ Jim Cushing
Leslie St. John's poem, "Things that Bend," arrested me, made me eager to keep reading (Is that not part of the writer's obligation to the reader?) the poem from its first line, in which there is a lot of strong but subtle music: inch/window/sill are assonantal half-rhymes, curl/worm half rhyme, and worm/window add a little consonantal rhyme. By the fourth line, after establishing a place, she takes us to another place, the past, I believe, and an other enters the poem. It's a love poem, a poem about time and its damage, I loved the lines, What bends short, bends long— Doesn't break. Neck of tulip, waning Clothes rod. And, yes, the rules. That the heart "splinters into tributaries" is an original way of saying something all of us come to learn if we live a conscious life. ~ Thomas Lux