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An impassioned consideration of the place of poetry—and the poet—in an ever-changing world

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David Wojahn examines the state of American verse as it enters the first decades of a new millennium, focusing on both the challenges and opportunities of an ancient art as it tries to adapt to the cultural, technological, and political transformations of our turbulent era. Each of these nine essays makes an impassioned and nuanced argument against the so-called marginalization of poetry in contemporary American culture. Among the work included is a penetrating essay on the role of politics in contemporary verse, a querulous examination of the rise of what Wojahn terms “the Google poem,” and a meditation on poetry and “self-doubt.” Among the figures he considers are American poets such as Hayden Carruth, John Berryman, Linda Bierds, and Tom Sleigh, as well as crucial modern international poets, among them Nazim Hikmet, Zbigniew Herbert, C.P. Cavafy, and Tomas Transtromer. These are personable, opinionated, and, above all, readable essays by a widely admired poet-critic.

David Wojahn is the author of eight collections of poetry, most recently Interrogation Palace: New and Selected Poems 1982–2004, which was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and World Tree, a winner of both the Academy of American Poets’ Lenore Marshall Prize, and the Poets’ Prize. He has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors, among them a Guggenheim Fellowship, two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Amy Lowell Traveling Poetry Scholarship. A previous book of his essays on verse, Strange Good Fortune, appeared in 2001.