Monday, March 17, 2008

Christian Wiman at Wheaton

Christian Wiman, editor of Poetry, poet and essayist will visit Wheaton's campus next Tuesday, March 25.

After refreshments at 3:30, he will invite a spirited conversation on what poetry does, why we value it, what's good and bad about contemporary poetry, etc. He will then give a poetry reading at 7:30.

It is more than worth checking out his Ambition and Survival: Becoming a Poet. A few of the essays from that collection have appeared in print and online. Notes on Poetry and Religion includes this quotation, among many other provocative notions:

Language can create faith but can't sustain it. This is true of all human instruments, which can only gesture toward divinity, never apprehend it. This is why reading the Bible is so often a frustrating, even spiritually estranging, experience. Though you can feel sometimes (particularly in the Gospels) the spark that started the fire of faith in the world—and in your heart—the bulk of the book is cold ash. Thus we are by our own best creations confounded, that Creation, in which our part is integral but infinitesimal, and which we enact by imagination but cannot hold in imagination's products, may live in us. God is not the things whereby we imagine him.

And this one:

I think it is a grave mistake for a writer to rely on the language of a religion in which he himself does not believe. You can sense the staleness and futility of an art that seeks energy in gestures and language that are, in the artist's life, inert. It feels like a failure of imagination, a shortcut to a transcendence that he either doesn't really buy, or has not earned in his work. Of course, exactly what constitutes "belief " for a person is a difficult question. One man's anguished atheism may get him closer to God than another man's mild piety. There is more genuine religious feeling in Philip Larkin's godless despair and terror than there is anywhere in late Wordsworth.

The whole collection is well worth a read.

You can find many of Wiman's poems on line as well:

The River
Every Riven Thing and This Mind of Dying
This Inwardness, This Ice
Darkness Starts and Reading Herodotus

1 comment:

Dayna said...