David Wojahn and Suzanne Vega: A Festival of Words and Music are the 2011 Poetry Arts Series speakers.
Wojahn was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1953, and educated at the University of Minnesota and the University of Arizona. His first collection, Icehouse Lights, was chosen by Richard Hugo as a winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets prize, and published in 1982. His second collection, Glassworks, was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in 1987. Pittsburgh is also the publisher of four of his subsequent books, Mystery Train (1990), Late Empire (1994), The Falling Hour (1997) and Spirit Cabinet (2002). His most recent collection, Interrogation Palace: New and Selected Poems 1982-2004, was published by Pittsburgh in 2006. He is also the author of a collection of essays on contemporary poetry, Strange Good Fortune (University of Arkansas Press, 2001), and editor (with Jack Myers) of A Profile of 20th Century American Poetry (Southern Illinois University Press, 1991), and two posthumous collections of Lynda Hull’s poetry, The Only World (HarperCollins, 1995) and Collected Poems (Graywolf, 2006). He is presently Professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University, and is also a member of the program faculty of the MFA in Writing Program of Vermont College of the Fine Arts. His newest collection, World Tree, was published by Pittsburgh in the winter of 2011.
Suzanne Vega is an American songwriter and singer known for her eclectic folk-inspired music. Two of Vega’s songs (both from her second album Solitude Standing, 1987) reached the top 10 of various international chart listings: “Luka” and “Tom’s Diner”. The latter was originally an a cappella version on Vega’s album, which was then remade in 1990 as a dance track produced by the British dance production team DNA.
Suzanne Vega’s song “Tom’s Diner” was used as the reference track in an early trial of the MP3 compression system, thus earning her the distinction of being named “The Mother of the MP3”. Because it is an a cappella vocal with relatively little reverberation, it was used as the model for Karlheinz Brandenburg’s sound compression algorithm. Brandenburg heard “Tom’s Diner” on a radio playing the song and was excited and at first convinced it would be “nearly impossible to compress this warm a cappella voice.”
Most recently, Vega co-wrote (with Duncan Sheik) a play C_arson McCullers Talks About Love_, about the life of the writer Carson McCullers. In the play, which premiered in 2011, Vega alternates between monologue and songs.
Literary Arts Series