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.
“From the Valley of Making delivers news that we could sorely use here in the age of digital distraction and the endless war on terror. Visceral, entertaining, massively resourceful, magnificently adult, deeply humane, full of astute insights about both craft and culture, these essays are the complete package. No writer of my generation has shown me more clearly than David Wojahn what is required to make my life as a poet. His writing about the art is essential.”
“There are great poets and great critics, but few truly great poet-critics. I count David Wojahn, who has been writing crucial poems and essays about poets and poetry for over three decades, among the latter. I can’t imagine anything he’s written or will write that I don’t want, and need, to read. Fearless, honest, witty, ferociously smart, pop-culturally savvy, and in possession of a prodigious, wide-ranging intellect, Wojahn can travel in any one piece among the likes of Quentin Tarantino, St. Teresa of Avila, and reality TV with a dazzling, perspicuous brio that leaves the reader newly alive to language, the world, and the self. From the Valley of Making reveals a practicing poet and passionate reader whose curiosity, ardor, discernment, and agility of thought have only increased through years of alert apprenticeship and mastery. The book is a cosmos, an education, and a deep, important, essential pleasure.”
—Lisa Russ Spaar