A few more words for Christian Wiman. As if my words for Joy, (an edited collection of poems), and He Held Radical Light, (a memoir), and Survival is a Style, (a personal collection of poems), have not been enough to convince you that he’s a writer worth savoring. Seeking more I went back to his 2014 collection, Once in the West, which, as the title suggests, is full of poems touching on his early life in West Texas.
The landscape is there, as in the poem ‘Interior’
Flat light and the white aisles of cotton,
sky like an idea of blue.
There’s no space like this,
wide, fraught with God
The long “days/ veined with grace” skipping rocks, as in ‘Memory’s Mercies’:
at some spirit-lit
skimming the real
clung to it
when it plunged
bright as a firefly
The thrill of the hunt, as in ‘Prey’:
until the shadows coalesce
into something I can kill.
But everything else as well. The God-hauntedness of place and life. The difficult, wonderful relationships of family. The sheer frolic of creating words and celebrating sounds. The challenge of life-threatening disease.
It culminates in the long poem that takes up the last third of the book, ‘More Like the Stars’:
crawls all over me Lord
and I cry out
if you call
this riot of needs and genes
If you need a little wonder in your world, I think I have the poet for you.