Going West With Wiman

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’:

to smile

at some spirit-lit 


skimming the real 

so belongingly 

no longing

                  clung to it 

when it plunged 

bright as a firefly 

into nowhere

     The thrill of the hunt, as in ‘Prey’:

be still 

be still 

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’:

But antlike


crawls all over me Lord 

and I cry out 

if you call               

  this vise 


            a cry 

this riot of needs and genes 

an I

     If you need a little wonder in your world, I think I have the poet for you.

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