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About this poet

Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, on August 22, 1953, David Wojahn was educated at the University of Minnesota and the University of Arizona.

His collections of poetry include Icehouse Lights, chosen by Richard Hugo as a winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets prize in 1982; Glassworks (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1987); Mystery Train (1990); Late Empire (1994); The Falling Hour (1997) and Spirit Cabinet (2002). Interrogation Palace: New and Selected Poems 1982-2004 (2006), was a named finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and was the winner of the O.B. Hardison Award from the Folger Shakespeare Library. Wojahn's most recent collection World Tree (2011) was the recipient of the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets.

Of Wojahn's winning book, Linda Gregerson said, "David Wojahn's World Tree is a book of consummate vision and artistry. Exquisitely cadenced, politically astute, large of heart, and keen of mind, these are poems of extraordinary moral penetration. They are also a joy to read: David Wojahn is working at the height of his powers."

Wojahn is also the author of a collection of essays on contemporary poetry, Strange Good Fortune (University of Arkansas Press, 2001), editor (with Jack Myers) of A Profile of 20th Century American Poetry (Southern Illinois University Press, 1991), and editor of two posthumous collections of Lynda Hull's poetry, The Only World (HarperCollins, 1995) and Collected Poems (Graywolf, 2006).

His awards include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Virginia, Illinois, and Indiana Councils for the Arts, and an Amy Lowell Traveling Poetry Scholarship.

He is presently professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University, and is also a member of the program faculty of the MFA in Writing Program of Vermont College of the Fine Arts.

Web Prayer for Milosz

David Wojahn, 1953
From euphoria at the blossom's destruction

                   *

in time-lapse, save us. We quicken & hiss like serpents,

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our tongues flick us forward. We are studies of peritonitis

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at the U.S. Forensic Death Farm in Tennessee. From the stunned

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half-smiles of the decomposed, we rise. A dwarf inflates

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to a giant, bloated like a Macy's float. The corpse

                   *

is arranged in Holding Area 232a: the effects

                   *

of assault rifle fire have been digitally photographed

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for the muse to download for this page, an aggregate of signs

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that I have fashioned with her aid. Tell me

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to what end, o master. Without you words are pure convention.

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Show me where the soul clings on, the Ineffable Name.

                   *

The language of the old belief, has it perished?

                   *

Keystroke, rictus, click, contusion: the apparitions gather like breath.

From World Tree by David Wojahn. Copyright © 2012 by David Wojahn. Published by University of Pittsburgh Press. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

From World Tree by David Wojahn. Copyright © 2012 by David Wojahn. Published by University of Pittsburgh Press. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

David Wojahn

David Wojahn

Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, on August 22, 1953, David Wojahn was educated at the University of Minnesota and the University of Arizona.

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A nurse gathers up the afterbirth. My mother
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had been howling but now could sleep.
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By this time I am gone—also gathered up
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& wheeled out. Above my jaundiced face the nurses hover.
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Outside, a scab commands a city bus. The picketers battle cops
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& ten thousand Soviet conscripts
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