In 2014, David Starkey founded Gunpowder Press with two immediate goals in mind. He wanted to publish the first books of Chryss Yost, who would later become Gunpowder’s Co-editor, and his late friend David Case. Wednesday, February 3, 2021, is the tenth anniversary of David’s death, and we mark his passing by lowering the price of his only book of poems, the timeless The Tarnation of Faust.
David was not only a friend and mentor to many, including his publisher, he was also a skilled and subtle poet with a wicked sense of humor and an ever-present sense of his own mortality. And yet, as marvelous as it is, The Tarnation of Faust only hints at the brilliance of a poet we lost much too soon.
A prolific poet, Case rarely sent his work to journals; instead, he shared his poems, often via email, with friends around the world. The Tarnation of Faust is a manuscript he had been working on most of his adult life. As years passed, poems were added and deleted. This book includes many poems from that manuscript, and adds some of the best of hundreds of poems—both paper and digital—uncollected at the time of the poet’s death.
The Tarnation of Faust showcases his enduring themes as a poet: a passionate engagement with music, literature, philosophy and religion; a sardonic affection for kitsch and pop culture; his lifelong struggle with anxiety and depression; the complicated celebration of his sexuality; and his endless capacity for friendship.
The Tarnation of Faust: that puckish vernacular twist on Berlioz’s ominous title is characteristic of David Case’s sensibility. A tragicomic sensibility, one might say, to allude to that forerunner of the postmodern. Case knows his tragicomedy as well as his Berlioz, and his Woolf and his Proust, and several languages, but all that knowledge comes to us by way of a mind equally fond of pop culture and linguistic legerdemain. Shakespeare told us nothing about Valentine, Mercutio’s brother, but if we imagine that he shared Mercutio’s irony and wit while substituting for the latter’s moodiness a deep sweetness and unflinching delicacy, he would have resembled David Case. It is a sad delight to read through these poems, whose author, if he had not been stopped in his prime, would have given us much more to rejuvenate our feelings.
—Stephen Yenser, Author of The Fire in All Things and Blue Guide