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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