World Tree

David Wojahn, Univ. of Pittsburgh, $14.95 trade paper (144p) ISBN 978-0-8229-6142-0
Oscillating between epistles, nocturnes, homage, "web prayers," and ekphrastics, Wojahn demonstrates his formal mettle across a range of subjects as diverse as the poems they inhabit. Joe Strummer, Eadweard Muybridge, and Czeslaw Milosz (among others) all make appearances, as Wojahn charts a sweep of history that touches upon each "famished ghost" it can. In the "Apotheosis of Charlie Feathers," Wojahn writes of the father of rockabilly, "Reading neither music nor the alphabet, /he ascends. Cheated by fate, /Sun Records & Elvis Presley /...Charlie Feathers is tuning up." The book's third section, "Ochre"—composed of images of neolithic art and anonymous photographs, each of which is accompanied by a poem—exchanges a little of Wojahn's signature heat for poems that describe rather than render their images. Like a decathlete in his prime, what is staggering is the ease with which Wojahn can change rhythms and registers (elsewhere he creates an acrostic out of Scrabble tiles and employs the mixtape as a form). Yet for all his spinning plates, Wojahn's politics are never absent, as when he places the NRA president in Dante's seventh circle of hell, where "forever the seething blood would scorch & fill your lungs." (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/17/2011
Release date: 01/01/2011
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