cover image Late Empire

Late Empire

David Wojahn / Author University of Pittsburgh Press $25 (77p)

Wojahn (Mystery Train) delights in generating poems from the flotsam of contemporary culture. This new offering reaches beyond his earlier work and enters more harrowing arenas of experience, exploring the collective and individual human condition via a catalogue of miseries, mishaps and bottled-up memories. These long, complex and elegant poems wear the bruises of psychic struggle. In ``My Father's Pornography,'' for example, Wojahn recasts a pornography addict as the Haitian dictator Jean ``Baby Doc'' Duvalier, brilliantly linking two disparate cases of exploitation. Merging personal life with political themes is an approach that he favors. Still, ``Wartime Photos of My Father,'' a sequence of eight sonnets employing the technique, should probably have been left in the rough-draft file of Wojahn's computer; the subject matter doesn't bristle with the same discomforting verve as the rest of the book. Overall, though, Late Empire marks a significant maturation, and is one of the more ambitious recent collections. (Sept.)