>Readings: David Wojahn

>I had the pleasure this afternoon of attending a reading by David Wojahn at Washington and Lee University. It was announced only last week that Wojahn was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for his Interrogation Palace, which he kindly signed for me today. The reading was not as well-attended as I had expected, but the room wasn’t empty either—all the people there I recognized were either W&L English Department faculty or spouses of faculty.

Wojahn is known for tightly structured, if not formalistic, poems, with powerful images. One that he read (not in the collection, but from a separate souvenir broadside that was issued for the reading) is “August 1953”—here’s an excerpt:

“A nurse gathers up the afterbirth. My mother
had been screaming but now could sleep.
by this time I am gone—also gathered up
& wheeled out. Above my jaundiced face the nurses hover.”

I’m guessing there aren’t a lot of poems out there about afterbirth. I’m looking forward to diving into the collection.

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  1. >Cliff, I’m sure you’re quite right about the scarcity of afterbirth poems, but there is the one by Ted Hughes (called, in fact, “The Afterbirth”), with this vivid line (among others):

    “I eased/The heavy, fallen Eden into a bowl/Of ovenproof glass.”

  2. >Hmm. Enough for an anthology? I wasn’t aware of the Hughes poem but I suppose Wojahn was. I don’t see an echo of the Hughes line in Wojahn’s poem, though–that would have been interesting.

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