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March 2002
128 pages  

6 x 9
9780822957768
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Spirit Cabinet
Wojahn, David
Spirit Cabinet is an ambitious work, seamlessly mixing autobiography with subjects ranging from pop music to ancient Egypt, from Stalin’s reading habits to Shackleton’s ill-fated Antarctic expedition. Formally inventive, elegiac and redemptive, aesthetically and emotionally risky, this is Wojahn’s most ingenious and compelling collection.
David Wojahn is the author of Spirit Cabinet, The Falling Hour, Late Empire, Mystery Train, Glassworks, Icehouse Lights, Interrogation Palace, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and World Tree, winner of the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize and the Poet's Prize. He is the recipient of four Pushcart Prizes, the William Carlos Williams Book Award, the Carole Weinstein Poetry Prize, the George Kent Memorial Prize, and the O. B. Hardison Jr. Poetry Prize, among other honors. He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Wojahn is professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University and also teaches in the MFA in Writing Program of the Vermont College of Fine Arts.
“A spirit cabinet, for the Shakers, was a sort of 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 a 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 inseparable.”—Mark Doty

“After September 11th, one of the first living poets I thought of was David Wojahn: someone who could follow our tragedy to its grave depths, with dignity and unsparingness, and egolessness, and who would stay with it -- and us -- as long as need be. For life. His poetry is, as Norman Dubie has said, the poetry of conscience; and here, at the birth of our new century, we are grateful.”—Jean Valentine

“In his stunning new collection, Spirit Cabinet, David Wojahn has summoned the sacred spirits who still populate his life—artists, writers, family members and intimates—in order to show us the inevitable yet often uneasy mingling of the living and the dead. This remarkable poetry is capacious in its embrace of both the world and its wounded, offering us simple histories of suffering as well as pure chronicles of grace. With an Old Testament wrath and a New Testament forgiveness, Wojahn charts the inscriptions and erasures of both voices and cultures, weaving his own magic carpet to guide us above the confusion and toward any clarity, any wisdom which still might be left to us. With his autobiographical tour de force, "Crayola," Wojahn spins the wild, kaleidoscopic roulette wheel of his own life, melding—among others—the voices of antiquity and prophecy with the erotic balloons of comic books. Though he travels the purgatorial haze of our own time, David Wojahn’s journey is never less than visionary and true.”—David St. John

“ ...weighty yet fluid sixth volume ... Fans of Heather McHugh or Paul Muldoon who haven’t discovered Wojahn will find this book the best place to start.”—Publishers Weekly, 3/18/2002

“”Powerful, transcendent, insightful free verse ... miraculous.”—Wisconsin Bookwatch, May 2002

“Throughout, Wojahn’s handling is masterful, well-practiced. . . .Whether he’s engaged in fusion or confusion, Wojahn remains the most delicate minister of the uneasy marriages that spread us into one another and into our world, along lines of intimate contact, memory and the broadcast intrusions of the world beyond. Long an expert bluees conjurer, Wojahn is growing into something of a DJ, cutting records into one another until a new song arises. He is always grasping the first gift of Hermes, the song that arises from the punished flesh of everything that suffers around him, from the notes of which he strings his painful, beautiful lyre.”—Jake Adam York, Shenandoah, Winter 2002

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Spirit Cabinet is an ambitious work, seamlessly mixing autobiography with subjects ranging from pop music to ancient Egypt, from Stalin’s reading habits to Shackleton’s ill-fated Antarctic expedition. Formally inventive, elegiac and redemptive, aesthetically and emotionally risky, this is Wojahn’s most ingenious and compelling collection.
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