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About this poet

Primus St. John was born in New York City, New York, in 1939. He attended the University of Maryland and Lewis and Clark College. His collections of poetry include Communion: Poems, 1976-1998 (Copper Canyon Press, 1999), which won the Western States Book Award; Dreamer (1990), which received the 1990 Hazel Hall Award for Poetry; Love is Not a Consolation: It is a Light (1982); and Skin on the Earth (1976). He is also the editor of the anthologies From Here We Speak (1993) and Zero Makes Me Hungry (1976). His work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. Through the National Endowment for the Arts, St. John helped to initiate the Poet's in the Schools Program. He has been a professor at Portland State University for more than thirty years, teaching English literature and creative writing. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

Ars Poetica

Primus St. John
At the edge of the forest
In the middle of the darkness
There is a hand,
As cold as copper,
Like a river
Stretched over wide stones.
Despite the hard rocks
And the furious wind
I love her
Like a flock of birds
Or a mild herd come to drink
For the exquisite rage
And sleek moss of her art.
There is something about a poem
That is violent
That is just another way to die,
Each time we realize our mysteries
We are weakened.
When I am writing I often scatter
Across a lascivious empire
Of passionate flowers.
They all seem so subversive
Even the ones with all their clothes on
They are so obsessed with the minute
Implication of who they are.
I believe if there is a struggle
It should go on
Where real lovers are.
I no longer regret
That I have smelted into one piece
For the sake of this poem.

From Communion: Poems 1976-1998 (1999). Used by permission of Copper Canyon Press.

From Communion: Poems 1976-1998 (1999). Used by permission of Copper Canyon Press.

Primus St. John

Primus St. John

Primus St. John was born in New York City, New York, in