Monday, April 30, 2007

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.


Pamela said...

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."

Clifford Garstang said...

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.