David Wojahn wrote one of my favorite poetry collections of the last 2o years- Mystery Train, which contains a sequence of sonnets based on rock ‘n roll history. So many major rock ‘n roll players are covered in that book, everyone from Jerry Lee Lewis, to the Beatles, to Bob Dylan, to the Sex Pistols. I’m currently reading Wojahn’s latest full-length collection, World Tree, and preparing to write a review for the literary journal PANK.
I’m about halfway through his newest collection, and I’m already surprised by the turns it takes, by Wojhan’s ability to craft longer narrative poems that mix the political with the personal and his ability to create compressed lyric poems. Mystery Train was brilliant in itself and had such a cool basis, but World Tree feels like a richer book, with greater depth and scope. In World Tree, Wojahn references everyone from John Keats to Bob Dylan, using some of their own words and phrases in his poems. But several of the poems also reference humanity and our prehistoric past, tying ancient events to more contemporary events, like when his mother voted for Nixon.
There are some music poems, too, but they compose only a short section of World Tree. And though Wojhan does reference some well-known musicians, including the Ramones, Joe Strummer, and Dylan again, he takes the time to pay tribute to some lesser known musicians, including blues player Charlie Feathers and Jimmie Rodgers, who he calls “the hillbilly Keats of my father’s 78’s,” meaning both artists died young and poor. The music poems do tie into the book as a whole because Wojahn uses them to develop the theme that the dead are always speaking to us, that our past has a direct influence on our present and future.
I’m eager to finish the rest of the collection, and when the review is published, I’ll post a link here.