For the Scribe
“From his startling first book Icehouse Lights, to the great integrity, virtuosity, and emotional power of For the Scribe, the poetry of David Wojahn has met the highest standards of achievement. Poems insightful, inclusive, and deeply felt, of celebration and of love—poems of morally urgent testimony to the most pressing social, political, and cultural issues of our time, and the art of poetry itself—For the Scribe contains poetry’s every truth.’”
"With infinite jest, with acute pitiless sadness, calm roaring, and immense insight, David Wojahn, in this epic fresco, tells us our story. As in Homer, as in Jim Sheridan's Brothers." - Tomaz Salamun
"For David Wojahn, the personal is historical. He is our master of the long view, constantly reminding us that humanity's past, even our prehistoric past, isn't over or even past. His poems increasingly have grown to be complex webs of allusion in which high culture and low culture have equal weight. He lauds and condemns, and shields no one, not even himself, from his frank appraisals of character." - Mark Jarman
"A spirit cabinet, for the Shakers, was sort of a stage through which the other world might speak. David Wojahn's ferocious poems are 'spirit cabinets' in which appear the raging ghosts of public and private history. Wojahn samples everything from Gilgamesh to The Eagles, building a dense and bracingly idiosyncratic linguistic fabric. His searing, harrowed book portrays a nearly-ruined world lit by a glimmer of tenderness, and by the corrective perspectives of irony and self awareness. His hard won compassion illumines, even if it is an elegist's compassion, in which love and lament are inseperable." - Mark Doty
The Falling Hour
“In Wojahn’s fifth collection of verse – the first since the death of his wife, the poet Lynda Hull – loss and language see, both more at odds and more inseparable than ever. Here, grieving is countered with long lines, loquaciousness, and the polyphonic buzz of culture; the holes in the poet’s life are filled with smart, terrifying poems. Wojahn seems caught up in a maelstrom of his making, and the result is a stirring, anguished book, revealing of the poet’s grief and emblematic of its cost” – The New Yorker
“What distinguishes Wojahn from other poets who troll the headlines for big ironies is that he is technically interesting and accomplished. In this collection, his diverse influences – his own Minnesota, rock and roll, pentameter, the New York World’s Fair, Troy and Ovid – merge admirably.” – Publishers Weekly
"Wojahn impresses with his finely honed ability to interlayer the present day with prosaic details with the shadowy horrors and honors of the past." - Booklist
"A quiet, brave and impassioned rage pulsates in the heart of Late Empire, lifting this imagined history to a state of enduring grace and ruth. Here's a poet who celebrates a needful music in an intriguing landscape, with all the hard questions shining through... This is the stuff poetry and lives are made of... a twentieth-century empire in the psyche offered to us out of love and awe." - Yusef Komunyakaa
"[A] highly accomplished and daring collection... Wojahn proves himself a master of the narrative poem, extending his range here with expertly fashioned dramatic monologues and quirky, rhythmic sonnets."
- Publishers Weekly
“The centerpiece of David Wojahn’s third book, Mystery Train, is a rowdy, enjoyable, but often dark concert of sonnets and sonnet-approximations whose subject is mainly rock and roll. In the thirty-five poems comprising the sequence “Mystery Train” he proves himself to be a new formalist in the best sense (unlike many who go by that label) by doggedly reworking and reapplying older formal notions to new arrangements, in much the same way that blues is replayed and recast by rock. One of the most significant projects throughout Mystery Train is Wojahn’s struggle to amend the conventional form, voice and gesture in his search for the relevant, pliable and memorable.
Whether in his fine medley of sonnets or in his longer, meditative poems, Wojahn is haunted by the forms and formulas of catastrophe. His poems record the decadent noises of the past four decades, making a kind of music out of popular culture and taking care to preserve even the sounds of destruction so we will never forget the consequences of silence.” – David Baker, “Heresy and the Ideal: On Contemporary
"David Wojahn has a talent which has become distressingly rare: an ability to write about himself and about others with equal conviction and clarity. His quest to understand his own experience does not blind him to the lives of others, and his appreciation of the dignity and separateness of other lives makes his work memorable and moving.
There is more variety of form and voice in this book than a short notice can well indicate. I wish there were room to do more than mention such cunningly concieved poems as "A Game of Croquet" which makes a turn of the century romance out of a Eakins painting, or "The Truth" a startingly powerful answer to the well-known poem of the same name by Randall Jarrell. But such poems will hardly need advocacy to find an audience."
- Robert B. Shaw, Poetry
"Like the poet he loves, James Wright, he will not exclude from his art that which by nature is unartistic. The crude and the gross parts of the self belong too, and the poem created is their home as well, even if they had to be segregated from the aesthetic self during the poem's construction. It is to Wojahn's credit that he is too sophisticated to write the easy, painless poem. He pays the neccessarily complicated price for his words.
Where Wojahn's life is his own, that's where he finds his poems. At the risk of putting undue pressure on him (but I'm fatalistic about writing -- nothing will stop Wojahn for long), he is already entering the company of Wright, Levine and Stafford. It's an icehouse Wojahn has created, a cold place where he can turn on his warm lights of welcome." - Richard Hugo, from the foreward to Icehouse Lights