Praise for David Woo’s first book, The Eclipses
David Woo’s first book of poems is eloquent, poignant, superbly wrought. Like the major poet Henri Cole, Woo has achieved a fresh, highly individual imaginative language in the American modes of Wallace Stevens and Hart Crane. The title poem and the beautiful transposition of Hofmannsthal in “Ballad of Infinite Forgetfulness” have an aura of permanence about them.
Part James Merrill (naming the elegance of things), part John Ashbery (portraying the drift of consciousness), David Woo, in his first book The Eclipses, is elegiac and spidery and full of the desolations of solitude. When we see a mother’s death room, we cannot look away because we also hear the “fearful music” of love … Intelligent first poems.
Rhythmic verve, a fluency of image and reference, a confident probing into peculiar corners of the physical world—these are some of the qualities marking David Woo’s luminous debut collection, all anchored by a purity of feeling in plain language. Splicing exhilaration and unease, the poet keeps one eye on the pointillist pixellations of the world, while the other gravely takes in the evidence of human sorrow. Without denials, he pieces together the “Heraclitean fragments” of the factual, always alert to “the instant flapped/and flung weightless to its own loss.” Tutored by heart and head, his “singularities” vibrate with universal implications, turning, as the good poem must, “the ineffable into words.”
The Eclipses is a book of woe, mourning, and transcendence seldom seen in such luminous detail. David Woo is an artful remembrancer, and his approach to family and his literary ancestors has created perpetual art forms. Such allegiance provides eloquent heartwork.
—Michael S. Harper
Among the most achieved first books I’ve ever seen, absolutely standing in its own ripened voice and heart, a perfect, rare marriage of language perception and feeling.
A brimming gorgeousness that can tip without warning into something scoured and simple.
The grace with which David Woo’s poems transform knowledge, as in insight and learning, into form and feeling and then back again into transformed knowledge is just astonishing. All the classical virtues—clarity, restraint, motion in serenity, gravitas—along with a just and faultless intimacy with the English language, conspire in The Eclipses to create moment after moment of piercing tenderness.
Graceful … A potent combination of deep compassion and cleareyed scrutiny. The honesty here is remarkable.
—The New York Times Book Review
Gorgeous diction and scintillant detail. Lovely. Oracular.
—Vince Gotera, The North American Review
Woo catalogs ways of mourning through excruciating and tender particulars of memory, leaving us with memorable lines and dense poems of great candor and emotional weight. His first collection reassures us because it explicates, like so many great works before, how humans are trapped between the lure of mystery and the effects of loss, “like a figure in facing mirrors.”
Advance praise for David Woo’s second book, Divine Fire
I expect David Woo to be one of the two or three poets of his generation, as Anne Carson, Henri Cole, and Rosanna Warren are to theirs, and as Ashbery, Merrill, and Ammons were earlier. Divine Fire is even more wise, eloquent, and light-bringing than was his first book, The Eclipses. David Woo now writes the poems of our climate, in the tradition of Wallace Stevens, Hart Crane, and Elizabeth Bishop.
A list of places where work by David Woo has appeared:
American Religious Poems, The Asian American Literary Review, Bellevue Literary Review, BOA Editions, Epoch, The Georgia Review, Literary Imagination, The Kenyon Review, Margie, Michigan Quarterly Review, New England Review, The New Republic, The New Yorker, The Open Boat: Poems from Asian America, Parnassus, Poems for America, Poetry Northwest, Raritan, The Southwest Review, The Threepenny Review, TriQuarterly, Witness, and Zyzzyva.