David Wojahn

David Wojahn
Born 1953
Occupation Poet and Professor of Creative Writing
Nationality United States of America
Period 1970s-present
Genres Poetry

David Wojahn (b. 1953 St. Paul, Minnesota) is a contemporary American poet who teaches poetry in the Department of English at Virginia Commonwealth University, and in the low residency MFA in Writing program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. He has been the director of Virginia Commonwealth University's Creative Writing Program.



He was educated at the University of Minnesota, and the University of Arizona.

Wojahn taught for many years at Indiana University. He has also taught at University of Alabama, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, University of Chicago, University of Houston, and University of New Orleans. In 2003, he joined Virginia Commonwealth University. He also teaches at Vermont College of Fine Arts.


Most of Wojahn's poetry is metrical although he also works in free verse, usually addressing political and social issues in American life. He often takes as his subjects moments of significance in popular culture, such as the assassination of John Lennon, the professional decline of Jim Morrison or the drowning of Brian Jones. He has said that he hopes his poetry is considered "activist."

The noted poet Richard Hugo selected Wojahn's first book, Icehouse Lights, as a winner of the prestigious Yale Series of Younger Poets prize. "David Wojahn's poems concern themselves with emotive basics: leaving home, watching those we love age and die, the inescapable drone of our mortality," Hugo wrote. "Yet as poems, they are far from usual. They help us welcome inside, again and again, the most personal of feelings."[1]

Wojahn has gone on to publish seven more books of poetry, all with the University of Pittsburgh Press. Wojahn has also edited a volume of poetry by his late wife, Lynda Hull, entitled The Only World (HarperPerennial, 1995), as well as her more recent Collected Poems (Graywolf, 2006).


  • Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference
  • writing residencies from the Yaddo, and McDowell colonies.
  • 1987-1988 Amy Lowell Poetry Travelling Scholarship
  • Icehouse Lights, was chosen by Richard Hugo as a winner of the 1982 Yale Series of Younger Poets prize, winner of the Poetry Society of America’s William Carlos Williams Book Award.
  • Glassworks, awarded the Society of Midland Authors’ Award for best volume of poetry
  • Interrogation Palace: New and Selected Poems 1982-2004, was one of three named finalists for the Pulitzer Prize, and winner of the O. B. Hardison, Jr. Poetry Prize from the Folger Shakespeare Library[2]
  • In April 2007, Wojahn was one of two finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for Interrogation Palace.[3][4]
  • 2003 List of Guggenheim Fellowships awarded in 2003
  • National Endowment for the Arts, Fellowship
  • Illinois Arts Council award
  • the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Fellowship
  • William Carlos Williams Award
  • Celia B. Wagner Award from the Poetry Society of America
  • Vermont College’s Crowley/Weingarten Award for Excellence in Teaching
  • George Kent Prize from Poetry magazine
  • three Pushcart Prizes.[5][6]
  • 2008 he was named VCU’s Outstanding Faculty Award Winner[7][8]
  • 2008 Carole Weinstein Poetry Prize.


Poetry Books

  • World Tree. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press. 2011. ISBN 9780822961420. 
  • Interrogation Palace: New and Selected Poems 1982-2004. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press. 2006. ISBN 9780822959175. 
  • Spirit Cabinet. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press. 2002. ISBN 9780822957768. 
  • The Falling Hour. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press. 1997. ISBN 9780822939955. 
  • Late Empire. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press. 1994. ISBN 9780822937937. 
  • Mystery Train. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press. 1990. ISBN 9780822936374. 
  • Glassworks. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press. 1987. ISBN 9780822935537. 
  • Icehouse Lights. New Haven: Yale University Press. 1982. ISBN 9780300028164. 


  • Strange Good Fortune (Arkansas, 2001)[9]
  • "The Language of My Former Heart" : The Memory-Narrative In Recent American Poetry (Published in Green Mountains Review 1988)


  • Lynda Hull (1995). David Wojahn. ed. The Only World. HarperPerennial. ISBN 9780060951122. 
  • Profile of Twentieth Century American Poetry, with Jack Myers (Southern Illinois University, 1991)

Critical reception

Wojahn's Interrogation Palace has received a number of accolades, and has been received favorably by critics and fellow contemporary American poets.

Peter Campion, writing in Poetry magazine, called the new work "Superb. Powerful, panoramic. In Interrogation Palace Wojahn picked the perfect title: these are poems of both largesse and terror. . . . He writes with as much formal and emotional strength as any poet alive."[10]

"Wojahn’s poems . . . integrate confessional and academic modes with honesty and skill," wrote Fred Muratori in Library Journal.[11]

National Book Award-winner Jean Valentine wrote:

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.[12]


  1. ^ Book description at Amazon.com Accessed on June 19, 2007.
  2. ^ University of Pittsburgh Press Accessed on June 19, 2007.
  3. ^ Virginia Commonwealth University press release Accessed on June 17, 2007.
  4. ^ Union Institute & University press release Accessed on June 17, 2007
  5. ^ Blackbird Accessed June 17, 2007.
  6. ^ http://books.google.com/books?id=ADC2AAAACAAJ&dq=David+Wojahn
  7. ^ http://www.news.vcu.edu/vcu_view/pages.aspx?nid=2612
  8. ^ "12 college teachers honored in Virginia". The Richmond Times Dispatch. January 27, 2009. http://www.timesdispatch.com/rtd/news/local/education/article/FACU27_20090126-220309/189419/. 
  9. ^ University of Arkansas Press. Accessed June 17, 2007.
  10. ^ Poetry, January 2007 Click on "Reviews." Accessed on June 19, 2007.
  11. ^ Library Journal, February 1, 2006 Click on "Reviews." Accessed on June 19, 2007.
  12. ^ University of Pittsburgh Press Click on "Reviews." Accessed on June 19, 2007.

External links

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