John High


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


"This book—and it really is a Book—walks the paradoxical intersection back and forth—between substance and spirit—with restless, spare steps. Fleeting images of the monastic life—as an assurance and a dream—can't quite dissolve the secular disappointments and losses behind each sentence. This way the book becomes for the reader what it is for the writer: a searing study of Here as an enfolded Everywhere."

—Fanny Howe

“In this book-length elegy rendered in the sparest strokes, the silence of the dead meets a zen stillness centered in the author’s own practice. John High handles his subject with the most delicate distance--we never fully see the brother as he mourns, but we sense him always, getting larger and larger, as only the dead can do, until he has become indistinguishable from the world he left. In this lovely book, 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

“In Here, John High has created a cinema of the page Tarkofsky himself might treasure. This book-length elegy for a brother is also a gathering of icons for the end of the world, a world of nostalgia and sacrifice and unremitting vision, the ‘normal grandeur of abandon,’ the poet might let slip, as his extraordinary scenes float before us. Blood, snow, branches, a one-eyed boy, questions for an empty sky, all flare in this film, this pilgrimage to a place, here, that seems, after all, as death sometimes does, to be traveling as well towards us. It would be too cruel to say this book is one John High was born to write. Let’s just say: how lucky the dead man was, to have been so loved.”

—Joseph Donahue

"Reading this poem, we become aware of the 'leaves and ghosts of leaves,' crows, jays, tulips, lilacs and rain. Writing the natural world begins and ends with a 'vanishing out here among us.' And time, the 'empty boat,' implies the emptiness that is form. John High's lucid and compassionate text is threaded through with photographs taken by poet and Zen priest Norman Fischer."

—Norma Cole