Born in Fresno, California, on July 24, 1949, David St. John was educated at California State University, Fresno, where he received his B.A. In 1974, he received an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa.
His many books of poetry include: The Face: A Novella in Verse (HarperPerennial, 2005); Prism (2002); In the Pines: Lost Poems (1999) Study for the World's Body: New and Selected Poems (1994), which was nominated for the National Book Award; Terraces of Rain: An Italian Sketchbook (1991); No Heaven (1985); The Shore (1980); and Hush (1976).
He is also the author of a volume essays and interviews, Where the Angels Come Toward Us (White Pine Press, 1995) and has edited numerous collections including The Pushcart Book of Poetry (2006) and American Hybrid: A Norton Anthology of New Poetry (2009) which he co-edited with Cole Swenson.
The poet Robert Hass says of St. John's writing:
It's not just gorgeous, it is go-for-broke gorgeous. It is made out of sentences, sweeping through and across the meticulous verse stanzas, that could have been written, for their velvet and intricate suavity, by Henry James.
His awards include the Discovery The Nation prize, the James D. Phelan Prize, and the prix de Rome fellowship in literature. He has also received several National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships and a Guggenheim Fellowship. St. John currently lives in Los Angeles, where he teaches in the English Department at the University of Southern California.