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Illinois Center for the Book


Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Devin Johnston  

Pen Name: None

Genre: Poetry

Born: 1970 in Canton, New York

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Illinois Connection

Devin Johnston received his Ph.D. in English from the University of Chicago in 1999.

Biographical and Professional Information

His research interests include Contemporary and Modern American literature and Creative Writing in Poetry and Fiction. He has written several works of poetry, and he is currently writing a book of essays on birds, pastoralism, and poverty in modern poetry. Also a former poetry editor for the Chicago Review from 1995-2000, Johnston co-founded, and co-edits, Flood Editions with Michael O’Leary.


Published Works Expand for more information


Titles At Your Library

Creaturely and Other Essays
ISBN: 1933527226

Turtle Point Press. 2009

"The author puts forward a bracing theory of partial empathy....Johnston's searching book of thought-probes goes a long way toward allowing the reader the grounding that would allow him to make empathic contacts with the animals over which he ponders....Each time another animal becomes extinct a special and irretrievable way of looking at the world is gone....Perhaps the more people that read this book, the more this absence would be poignantly felt."—The Brooklyn Rail

"Creaturely, like its subjects, eludes definition. It's a book of exquisite essays—or are they prose poems—that tessellate into something larger: a meditation, perhaps, or a vision. Johnston's subject is at once the absolute otherness of the creatures with whom we share the world's everyday spaces—dogs, owls, mice, squirrels, crows—and the worth of our attempts to get to know them. Modest, calm, and beautiful, this is an exceptional book."—Robert Macfarlane

Devin Johnston teaches at St. Louis University. He was named a finalist for the 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award for Sources, published by Turtle Point Press.

Sources
ISBN: 1933527161

Turtle Point Press. 2008

“Sparkling with energy and intelligence, these poems are like chips in a mosaic, spare, hard, precise, and with a classic humanity and grace.”—David Malouf

“The poems are exquisite and comprehensive. Their music and surface beauty invite intense scrutiny, asking us to look deeper and better—at the objects they describe, but more importantly at the resources and effects of description itself.”—The Chicago Review

Sources, Devin Johnston’s third book of poetry, returns ad fontes: to sources in Greek and Latin, secret derivations, wellsprings of feeling, and forces of nature. Sonically alert, these poems attend to the world with restless curiosity.

Born in 1970, Devin Johnston, author of two previous books of poetry and a book of criticism, currently lives in St. Louis. He teaches at Saint Louis University and directs Flood Editions, an independent publisher of poetry.

Telepathy
ISBN: 1877004863

Craftsman House. 2002

Precipitations: Contemporary American Poetry as Occult Practice
ISBN: 0819565628

Wesleyan. 2002

Precipitations traces the influence of the occult on contemporary American poetry and positions it within the larger tradition of Romanticism. Devin Johnston focuses on the works of H.D., Robert Duncan and James Merrill, as well as Susan Howe and Nathaniel Mackey, to show how the occult, in its resistance to dialectical thinking, proved attractive to these poets and offered a means by which traditional notions of authorship could be challenged. Johnston argues that for these writers, "the poem is not produced by the individual mind, but precipitates out of a complex network of shared circumstances."

Yeats and Blake have central roles in this study, but whereas Yeats has long been associated with occultism as a literary phenomenon, Johnston argues that Blake’s Romantic organicism has offered a more compelling model for American poets in the latter half of the twentieth century. With close attention to the ways in which recent American poetry has been written and read, Precipitations examines the composition of particular poems within the context of broad debates concerning form, indeterminacy and authorship.

Aversions
ISBN: 1890650161

Omnidawn. 2004

To be averse, to turn one's eyes away, is an act that chills, suggesting not only irrevocable but also unforeseeable consequence. And what we do not see, we so often fear. In ancient Rome, rites of aversion were performed as sacred rituals. But, as Johnston explains, such "rituals involved not the invocation of heavenly spirits, but the placation of ghosts." While the poems in this collection assay a very broad range of subjects, Johnston demonstrates in all of them an awareness of what enormous challenges constitute the turning toward—or away from—the many faces of experience. And at the core of this work is an astute, passionate, empathic examination of our use of language as an active placation of ghosts. "[T]hese forms are only forms // fulfilled, as you are now // no more than this-a tone." Paradoxically, Johnston demonstrates the ways that these ghosted forms nonetheless can offer a music intensely, eerily immediate. Here the breadth and complexity of subject matter and allusion, the deftly drawn images (some in full relief, others sketched in minimal silhouette against a sharply contrasting background), the surprising alliances and complications of emotion and idea, all make it impossible for a reader to turn his or her eyes away.


Awards

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