John High

"[The Desire Notebooks is a] beautiful book; luminous, mysterious, hypnotic." --Carole Maso


New Poetry
“Sometimes questions are answers and answers are questions in these dialogic verses. Death, love, history, sorrow, language, joy and prayer are subjects masterfully interwoven in John High’s bardic and ecstatic lines. ‘you are everything you are not’ is an exquisite sequence. In the words of the poet: ‘The story never leaves you.’” —Uche Nduka
"Imagine a novel whose setting is dark and indeterminate, whose nameless characters are shadowy, and whose circular plot unfolds timelessly -- and you will be imagining John High's 'a book of unknowing.' These powerful poems, whose language rushes past in a torrent of disorienting yet evocative images and sounds, will pull you out of this world and into another, that matters a great deal more, where all that you think you know becomes doubtful." —Norman Fischer
"...High turns elegy to discovery while retaining the truth of sadness, and matches brevity with a generosity that not only grasps, but also loves, the human condition." —Cole Swensen
About John High's Prose
“Soaked in night visions and pierced through by jagged memory, John High's work tells that peculiarly American story in which, as Faulkner once said, 'The past isn't forgotten, it isn't even the past.’ John High's Virginia backwaters call to mind the feral, hallucinogenic American landscapes of Cormac McCarthy's Child of God, as well as Faulkner's Sanctuary…” —Albert Mobilio
“In what is best described as a book length prose poem, he [John High] attempts to uncover the un-narrative that lies beneath all tales of loss and redemption. In this tale set in Russia, he moves unhesitatingly across centuries, fusing the spiritual travails of the Middle Ages with the economic woes of post-Soviet life. This self-reflexive tour de force reminds us that high art need not be free of religious and political ideation. His prose gives the lie to the distinctions between poetry and fiction; its intricately gnomic language suggests the eternal and the apocalyptic almost offhandedly, without resorting to elaborate stagecraft. High conjures dreamscapes which retain the bracing tactility of the real...—The Village Voice Literary Supplement
Poetry Translation

About John High's Books

“Zen student, NEA grant recipient, Fulbright Fellow, trail-blazing genre-bender and accomplished poet and translator John High here reveals his Bloodlines: Selected Writings. Drawing on four books, High includes the critically acclaimed novel-cum-serial prose poem The Desire Notebooks, which resembles Anne Carson's novel in verse Autobiography of Red in its fragmented narrative and compression of mythic allusions and aesthetics with daily contemporary life. High moves from straight, sober syntaxes and slow lyric rhythms for his more narrative work, to a tumbling form that relies less on conventional punctuation to make sense and more on sound, restrained urgency, a sad playfulness and a rush of images and observations: ‘finney intermittently swept up in this boat. the cargo carries rot oranges, tangerines, gnawed walnuts. cliffs obliterated in a blue heat. black steamers in the northern lights & these naked boys swimming on the shore. absence in the plot causes them to think of themselves.”

Publisher's Weekly

"John High's writing works the same magic inside me as Denis Johnson—he can send you swooning into space and break your heart with his poetry, but his lyricism always arises from this earth: from the gritty, the visceral, the real. Some chapters croon to you, others bring you to your knees, there's wild humor here, gambling, knife-throwing, boys coming into full being, music, magic, ghosts and a blood-red earnestness that washes through every page. The work is a wonder. And if you think I'm exaggerating here, I bet you won't once you read the book. "

—Karen Russell

"John High is consummately an artist and a visionary. Through his barbeque-smoked voice, the dead and the lost, the innocent and the doomed speak to us with an urgency we cannot forget. He writes as if his being were at stake, as if our being were at stake. Like St. Dominic in Fra Angelico's fresco, with all the world's 'blueslime, pestilence mosquitoes, rain' swirling around him, John High concentrates, in his own words, with the 'clarity of the sun beating down.' Bloodline maps a poetic line that shoots from the American South to Moscow, from Zen aphorism to jazz-inspired improvisation, from suffering and redemption to suffering and redemption."

—Forrest Gander

"John High's writing has an element of music, sometimes a story, in which sensual detail is like 'the changes and shifts of dream that go unnoticed in gesture.'"

—Leslie Scalapino

"John High's poems...move me by their authenticity, their urgent and deep emotional content.... They had to be poems. Moving in and by image and intuition, they discover, as they go, the shapes and patterns by which thoughts, concepts, and states of feeling sing themselves forth."

—Denise Levertov