Kirk Nesset’s Saint X chronicles the muted joy and despair of a millennial age, charting love’s ills and the grind of mortality. His figures are bizarre but familiar: people born under punches, shaken awake by rattles and flares, latter-day pilgrims who stare at the statue that stares at America; people for whom disobedience is still a first duty, and death but a question of style. Wearing bandages rather than smiles, they’re misshapen champions downed by self-bludgeons, perversely on foot while the saddled horse follows—and yet in each case, in each poem, they are honored if not saved by nuanced reflection, measured perception, and the pleasures of song.

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Saint X

• Pub. Date: October 2012
• Publisher: Stephen F. Austin University Press
• ISBN: 1936205769
• Price: $15.95

Latest Book Reviews

Kirk Nesset’s Saint X is exquisite, exuberant, exhilarating, exemplary, exceptional, exceedingly excellent. Nesset’s poems merge the sacred and profane in a seamless vision. Each poems’ lush language, its specificity and heart, make Saint X a holy (and holy moly!) read. — Denise Duhamel

In the poems of Kirk Nesset, in full-throated and rollicking iambs, we find love and death dancing to the tune of language, and doing so at the edge of the abyss. Never mind the absurdity of our private tarantellas, wonky polkas, and blundering bunny hops—these poems are here to help. These poems are just in time. — Alan Michael Parker

At war with the middle, nakedly sane, these poems make you look again, think twice, think again, and feel glad that such an unsettling imagination is at work in poetry. — Li-Young Lee

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Saint X . . . explores regret, the expressive beauty of words and things, and the circularity of existential seeking . . . Nesset implies that the artist is sometimes a saint, as he or she embodies the best, most generous and miraculous expressions of a humbled, tormented, loving humanity. — Julie Ann Brandt, PLEIADES (34:1)

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Saint X . . . serves as a “how to” book, offering ways to live when hope feels an impossibility, warning us of the pitfalls of fear and doubt, reminding us that we are solo natives who travel through this life alone and who will all ultimately face the same fate . . . And [the poems'] voices don’t let us go. They don’t offer much time to think or reflect. Instead, they hurl us a hundred miles an hour into the unrelenting future of our lives, allowing us to feel the unsteadiness, the uneasiness, of all this world presents to us. — David Crews, THE ADIRONDACK REVIEW

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Nesset has found the language of the lost. — Christina Rau, FJORDS

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His short fictions are infiltrated by poetic visions and in Saint X his poems are flash glimpses (with elegant language and elevated diction) into the narratives of worlds and characters that hold the rest of their back-stories just beyond the edge of the page, leaving your imagination to continue inventing the myths, after the book is closed. — Shawnte Orion, BATTERED HIVE

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Saint X arrives in the night to fill the void — the liminal space between the sheets, between awake and asleep, dreams and nightmares, lightning and thunder. Nesset unravels lumpier corners of the universe and undresses them slowly, leaving the reader with a series of poems that are as cryptic as they are captivating. “We did and we did, blindly alive/in our dreaming, at war with the middle,” Nesset writes in the titular poem. Reading the words, you feel at war yourself — imbued by ripened, blind pineapples, imbibing each image as the scenes melt in your thoughts. At war with? Put your finger on it, I dare you. Saint X lurks behind each page, and, certain you will catch the genderless, faceless perpetrator, you finger over them as fast as your eyes will let you. But Saint X is always one step ahead; take your time. In strawberry light, in naked sanity, Saint X will appear not at once, but all together. From the song of Nesset’s poetry, you will feel a heavy presence long after the book returns — spine-out — to a shelf. Faint whispers at first, a low rumble growing: then it’s gone. — Eric Ellis, RINGSIDE REVIEWS

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Full of peculiar, recognizable figures . . . colorful and precise. – POETS QUARTERLY

Excerpt from Saint-X

TIME ON THE DOWN OF PLENTY

On Slaughter Beach I lay me down
on the sand between surf and calliope, there
where oceania meets glitz: plastic
mosques and minarets and transvestals, sub-
verts, countersexuals—Spanky Sparklenuts,
Afterbirth Boy and Crab Apple, Candace
the Grimace and She-Who-Eats-Only-Fish.
Nighttime it was, brine-sour, my head sunk
in shadow. Above, boardwalkers walked—catcalls
and titters. Such was my time on the down
of plenty; such is my way when inwardness
knells. How had I let myself poison
my passion? How had I failed to feel,
knees in the dust? What’s done’s done, said
my head—just do what you do. Mingle
with toothless epicures; enough moral
engorgement. The camel and gnat strain on
as they must. The sea, neon-tinged, hisses.
And the misshapen champion—feckless, un-
daunted, plucked—cavorts in his fiberglass grotto,
flexing his liver, his terrible guts.

 

SOME OF THE MOST STRIKING WOMEN
I HAVE KNOWN HAVE BEEN MEN

At Brass Rail Cocktails at Fulton and 8th—
salmon and purple art-deco, across from the block-long
fake-granite bank—they stare out through smoke,
one muscular leg crossed on the other, black hair
tumbling behind; the eyes haunt and enchant. At
the professional conference they quarrel,
so smart it hurts, decrying the jellyfish theory,
the orphic pronouncements, evangelical protestantism, toad-
stools, the cannon and canon, skunks, canine and feline,
and later, Chester the six-foot mechanical chicken, swiped
by kids off a roof; they hold difference aloft like a banner,
they pause to salute it. A dozen or so lifetimes ago, who
was so watchful as this? The hills humped their backs
in the rain, sprouting venomous flowers—the ocean snoring
and raving, at war with the glacier, the lean ghosts adrift,
capsized, capsized and raised, crashing their way up the beach.
Daughters and sons of oblivion, wielding your scepters
in Burbank and Kirkland, will you still hunger, prey to the gnat
and mosquito, will you pawn your very lute for ten shillings?
Will you still say, dying of thirst in salt water, here’s where
you finish, and here I begin?