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Named as a 2020 Book of the Year by The Times Literary Supplement
Survival Is a Style, Christian Wiman’s first collection of new poems in six years, may be his best book yet.
His many readers will recognize the musical and formal variety, the voice that can be tender and funny, credibly mystical and savagely skeptical. But there are many new notes in this collection as well, including a moving elegy to the poet’s father, sharp observations and distillations of modern American life, and rangy poems that merge and juxtapose different modes of speech and thought. The cumulative effect is extraordinary.
Reading Survival Is a Style, one has the sense one is encountering work that will become a permanent part of American literature.
A moving meditation on memory, oblivion, and eternity by one of our most celebrated poets
What is it we want when we can’t stop wanting? And how do we make that hunger productive and vital rather than corrosive and destructive? These are the questions that animate Christian Wiman as he explores the relationships between art and faith, death and fame, heaven and oblivion. Above all, He Held Radical Light is a love letter to poetry, filled with moving, surprising, and sometimes funny encounters with the poets Wiman has known. Seamus Heaney opens a suddenly intimate conversation about faith; Mary Oliver puts half of a dead pigeon in her pocket; A. R. Ammons stands up in front of an audience and refuses to read. He Held Radical Light is as urgent and intense as it is lively and entertaining—a sharp sequel to Wiman’s earlier memoir, My Bright Abyss.
In den all mein Sehnen nicht gehen will
Wieder komme ich an den Rand all meines Wissens
Und nichts glaubend glaube ich dies.
So beginnt Christian Wimans wilde, wunderschöne, mutige und poetische Pilgerreise nach einer Krebsdiagnose zurück zum Glauben an einen Gott, den er - oder der ihn - aufgegeben zu haben schien.
"Ein Zeugnis für die menschliche Fähigkeit, Gnade zu erleben, selbst in Zeiten größten Leids, und für den Entschluss, vollständiger zu leben und zu lieben, auch wenn der Tod herannaht."
New York Times, Kathleen Norris
"Vielleicht braucht jede Generation einen Autor, der vom ausgetretenen Weg abweicht und dadurch den Zugang zum Glauben erneuert,
wie es Christian Wiman tut."
Wall Street Journal, David Yezzi
A visionary selection from one of America’s foremost poets
One of the most distinctive voices in contemporary American poetry, Christian Wiman has forged a singular style that fuses a vivid and propulsive music with clear-eyed realism, wry humor, and visionary lament. In his “daring and urgent” (The New York Times Book Review) memoir, My Bright Abyss, he asks, “What is poetry’s role when the world is burning?” Hammer Is the Prayer: Selected Poems might be read as an answer to that question.
From the taut forms of his first book to the darker, more jagged fluencies of his second, into the bold and pathbreaking poems of his last two collections, Hammer Is the Prayer bears the reckless, restless interrogations and the slashing lyric intensity that distinguish Wiman’s verse. But it also reveals the dramatic and narrative abilities for which he has been widely praised—the junkyard man in “Five Houses Down” with his “wonder-cluttered porch” and “the eyesore opulence / of his five partial cars,” or the tragicomic character in “Being Serious” who suffers “the world’s idiocy / like a saint its pains.”
Hammer Is the Prayer brings together three decades of Wiman’s acclaimed poetry. Selected by the author, these poems reveal the singular music and metaphysical urgency that have attracted so many readers to his work and firmly assert his place as one of the most essential poets of our time.
One of The New York Times' 10 Favorite Poetry Books of 2014
National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist
A searing new collection from one of our country's most important poets
but there were
veined with grace
—from "Memory's Mercies"
Once in the West, Christian Wiman's fourth collection, is as intense and intimate as poetry gets—from the "suffering of primal silence" that it plumbs to the "rockshriek of joy" that it achieves and enables. Readers of Wiman's earlier books will recognize the sharp characterizations and humor—"From her I learned the earthworm's exemplary open-mindedness, / its engine of discriminate shit"—as well as his particular brand of reverent rage: "Lord if I implore you please just please leave me alone / is that a prayer that's every instant answered?" But there is something new here, too: moving love poems to his wife, tender glimpses of his children, and, amid the onslaughts of illness and fear and failures, "a trace / of peace."
A vibrant new collection from one of America's most talented young poets
Every Riven Thing is Christian Wiman's first collection in seven years, and rarely has a book of poetry so borne the stamp of necessity. Whether in stark, haiku-like descriptions of a cancer ward, surrealistic depictions of a social order coming apart, or fluent, defiant outpourings of praise, Wiman pushes his language and forms until they break open, revealing startling new truths within. The poems are joyful and sorrowful at the same time, abrasive and beautiful, densely physical and credibly mystical. They attest to the human hunger to feel existence, even at its most harrowing, and the power of art to make our most intense experiences not only apprehensible but transfiguring.
"That calling, at once religious, ethical, and aesthetic, is one that only a genuine poet can hear—and very few poets can explain it as compellingly as Mr. Wiman does. That gift is what makes Ambition and Survival, not just one of the best books of poetry criticism in a generation, but a spiritual memoir of the first order."
—New York Sun
"This weighty first prose collection should inspire wide attention, partly because of Wiman's current job, partly because of his astute insights and partly because he mixes poetry criticism with sometimes shocking memoir ... The collection's greatest strength comes in general ruminations on the writing, reading and judging poetry." —Publishers Weekly
"[Wiman is] a terrific personal essayist, as this new collection illustrates, with the command and instincts of the popular memoirist ... This is a brave and bracing book." —Booklist
“Blazing high style” is how The New York Times describes the prose of Christian Wiman, the young editor transforming Poetry, the country’s oldest literary magazine.
Ambition and Survival is a collection of stirring personal essays and critical prose on a wide range of subjects: reading Milton in Guatemala, recalling violent episodes of his youth, and traveling in Africa with his eccentric father, as well as a series of penetrating essays on writers as diverse as Thomas Hardy and Janet Lewis. The book concludes with a portrait of Wiman’s diagnosis of a rare form of incurable and lethal cancer, and how mortality reignited his religious passions.
When I was twenty years old I set out to be a poet. That sounds like I was a sort of frigate raising anchor, and in a way I guess I was, though susceptible to the lightest of winds. . . . When I read Samuel Johnson’s comment that any young man could compensate for his poor education by reading five hours a day for five years, that’s exactly what I tried to do, practically setting a timer every afternoon to let me know when the little egg of my brain was boiled. It’s a small miracle that I didn’t take to wearing a cape.
Christian Wiman is the editor of Poetry magazine. His poems and essays appear regularly in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, and The New York Times Book Review.
Seven years ago, Christian Wiman, a well-known poet and the editor of Poetry magazine, wrote a now-famous essay about having faith in the face of death. My Bright Abyss, composed in the difficult years since and completed in the wake of a bone marrow transplant, is a moving meditation on what a viable contemporary faith—responsive not only to modern thought and science but also to religious tradition—might look like.
Joyful, sorrowful, and beautifully written, My Bright Abyss is destined to become a spiritual classic, useful not only to believers but to anyone whose experience of life and art seems at times to overbrim its boundaries. How do we answer this "burn of being"? Wiman asks. What might it mean for our lives—and for our deaths—if we acknowledge the "insistent, persistent ghost" that some of us call God?
One of Publishers Weekly's Best Religion Books of 2013