THE FACE: A Novella in Verse

David St John, Author . HarperCollins $24.95 (63p) ISBN 978-0-06-059366-7

St. John's ninth collection is roughly plotted around a midlife crisis: "Each day, in the mirror, that face smeared a bit more brutally/ Across the glass." In order to push the narcissism to its limits, St. John confronts his speaker with a forthcoming biopic of his own life, complete with poor scripting by an ex-, "Infanta," and a young cinematographer "with a pierced dick." Fuguing around writing process-oriented repetitions of "assembling" and "dissembling," the speaker utters an Eliotic cri de coeur ("I have invented a whole philosophy of shatterings"), complains about the script ("That tapestry of travesty") and alternately fantasizes about and feels revulsion for the "hot" young woman cast to play him, with "a certain angel-butch Joan-of-Arcish kind of thing." September 11, as a key recent event in the speaker's life, is presented as a set piece with "flakes of flint falling/ Through long fingers of flame. Black leaves. Feuilles de noire." Faulty cell phone communication, straight talk on cultural decline ("remind us why anyone gives a shit, OK?") and a lengthy diversionary prose poem listing varieties of masks follow, until, at the premiere of the movie of his life, the speaker "hurls," crawls outside and sees a vision of his own face assemble in the sky. Despite some entertainingly arch moments (on literary couples: "all that flesh made word") and anecdotes of self-abnegation, most readers will have put it together and walked out long before that. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 04/26/2004
Release date: 05/01/2004
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