Overview


David Wojahn deftly mixes personal history and recollections with a wide range of character studies and monologues, but the center of this book is a sequence of thirty-five poems, mainly sonnets, in which rock and roll music is a strange, kaleidoscopic mirror of recent American history.  Combining rhapsodic homage, grim humor, human folly, and tragedy, these poems are like nothing else in contemporary poetry.
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Mystery Train

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Overview


David Wojahn deftly mixes personal history and recollections with a wide range of character studies and monologues, but the center of this book is a sequence of thirty-five poems, mainly sonnets, in which rock and roll music is a strange, kaleidoscopic mirror of recent American history.  Combining rhapsodic homage, grim humor, human folly, and tragedy, these poems are like nothing else in contemporary poetry.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In the opening poem of this highly accomplished and daring collection, the speaker is called upon by a deaf friend to record a mystifying Buddhist ceremony: `` Write this down , he scrawls, something must be made of this. '' Indeed, in the poems that follow, Wojahn ( Icehouse Lights ) attempts to ``resurrect'' both his personal and the readers' collective past and infuse these with meaning. At the center of the book is a commanding sequence of 35 poems that interweave historical incidents with real and imagined episodes in the lives of legendary rock 'n' roll figures to recreate the zeitgeist of the last four decades of popular American culture. But what we're finally left with, Wojahn suggests, is ``page after page / of undecipherable description'' and a ``fading'' past: ``And you try to remember what it is that you believed in . . . / You wait. You watch until it's gone.'' As in his earlier works, Wojahn proves himself a master of the narrative poem, extending his range here with expertly fashioned dramatic monologues and quirky, rhythmic sonnets. (June)
Library Journal
In the title sequence of this collection, Wojahn writes about events and people in American popular culture such as Lou Reed, John Berryman, and the Vietnam War, working them into near-rhyme sonnets that show the absurdity and poignancy of our culture. He interweaves these elements around the figure of Elvis: absurd egomaniac in life, absurd bloated icon in death. It's brilliant. The other poems draw one into small worlds observed tenderly. Wojahn uses craftsmanship and formal structures to enhance emotional impact, but nothing is overdone. Highly recommended.-- Steven Hupp, Chicago
From the Publisher
“[A] highly accomplished and daring collection. . . . Wojahn proves himself a master of the narrative poem, extending his range here with expertly fashioned dramatic monologues and quirky, rhythmic sonnets.”
—Publishers Weekly
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822979326
  • Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press
  • Publication date: 5/29/1990
  • Series: Pitt Poetry Series
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 112
  • File size: 454 KB

Meet the Author


David 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. He is the author of Spirit Cabinet, The Falling Hour, Late Empire, Mystery Train, Glassworks, Icehouse Lights, and Interrogation Palace, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Wojahn 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.
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Table of Contents



Contents

I

No Gesture: Ceremony


Shroud


Futures


Double Exposures


A Fifteenth Anniversary: John Berryman


The Recent Work


Students



II.
Mystery Train

1.
Homage: Light from the Hall


2.
Buddy Holly Watching Rebel Without a Cause, Lubbock, Texas, 1956


3.
W.C.W. Watching Presley's Second Appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” Mercy Hospital, Newark, 1956


4.
Matins: James Brown and His Famous Flames Tour the South, 1958


5.
Custom Job: Hank Williams, Jr., and the Death Car, 1958


6.
Jerry Lee Lewis's Secret Marriage to Thirteen-Year-Old First Cousin Revealed During British Isles Tour, 1959. His Manager Speaks


7.
Tattoo, Corazon: Ritchie Valens, 1959


8.
Fab Four Tour Deutschland: Hamburg, 1959


9.
Woody Guthrie Visited by Bob Dylan: Brooklyn State Hospital, New York, 1961


10.
The Trashmen Shaking Hands with Hubert Humphrey at the Opening of Apache Plaza Shopping Center, Suburban Minneapolis, August 1962


11.
“Mystery Train”: Janis Joplin Leaves Port Arthur for Points West, 1964


12.
“American Bandstand” Dance Contest, Semi-Finals, 1966


13.
Delmore Schwartz at the First Performance of the Velvet Underground, New York, 1966


14.
C Train Home: Lou Reed After the Wake of Delmore Schwartz, July 1966


15.
The Assassination of Robert Goulet as Performed by Elvis Presley: Memphis, 1968


16.
History Being Made: Melcher Production Studios, Los Angeles, 1968


17.
Necromancy: The Last Days of Brian Jones, 1968


18.
Photographer at Altamont: The Morning After, 1969


19.
Fragging: Armed Forces Radio, Credence on the Mekong, 1969


20.
John Berryman Listening to Robert Johnson's “King of the Delta Blues,” January 1972


21.
Turbulence: “Exile on Main Street” Tour, 1972


22.
Nixon Names Elvis Honorary Federal Narcotics Agent at Oval Office Ceremony, 1973


23.
“It's Only Rock and Roll But I Like It”: The Fall of Saigon, 1975


24.
Malcolm McLaren Signs the Sex Pistols, London, 1976


25.
Elvis Moving a Small Cloud: The Desert Near Las Vegas, 1976


26.
Francis Ford Coppola and Anthropologist Interpreter Teaching Gartewienna Tribesmen to Sing “Light My Fire,” Philippine Jungle, 1978


27.
Air Guitar: Happy Hour at the Blacklight Lounge, Tucson, Arizona, 1979


28.
Backstage Passes: Bob Marley's Final American Tour, 1980


29.
Sandbox, Manchu Nails: Brian Wilson in His Living Room, 1984


30.
At Graceland With a Six Year Old, 1985


31.
Bo Diddley at Rick's Café Americain: Long Beach Island, New Jersey, 1985


32.
Roy Orbison: Comeback Tour, Tipitania's, New Orleans, 1986


33.
Colorizing: Turner Broadcasting Enterprises, Computer Graphics Division, Burbank, California, 1987


34.
The Assassination of John Lennon as Depicted by the Madame Tussaud Wax Museum, Niagara Falls, Ontario, 1987


35.
Pharaoh's Palace (Memphis, 1988)



III

Posthumous Life


Azimuth


Armageddon: Private Gabriel Calvin Wojahn, 1900-18


Garry Owen


For Charles Bovary


Signs and Wonders


Diary Pages: Amsterdam


In Hiding


The Resurrection of the Dead: Port Glasgow, 1950



Notes

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