A Call to Doubt and Faith: Christian Wiman on Remembering God

The poet Christian Wiman is giving voice to the hunger for faith — and the challenges of faith — for people living now. After a Texas upbringing soaked in a history of violence and a charismatic Christian culture, he was agnostic until he became actively religious again in his late 30s. Then he was diagnosed with a rare form of incurable blood cancer. He’s bearing witness to something new happening in himself and in the world.

Continue reading

New York Times on ‘My Bright Abyss,’ by Christian Wiman

‘My Bright Abyss,’ by Christian Wiman reviewed at the NYT:

This is a daring and urgent book, written after the author learned he had a rare, incurable and unpredictable cancer. But it is not a conventional memoir of illness and treatment. Beyond informing us that he received his dire news in a “curt voice mail message,” Christian Wiman says very little about his experience of the medical world. He is after bigger game. More than any other contemporary book I know, “My Bright Abyss” reveals what it can mean to experience St. Benedict’s admonition to keep death daily before your eyes.

New York Times on ‘My Bright Abyss,’ by Christian Wiman

‘My Bright Abyss,’ by Christian Wiman reviewed at the NYT:

This is a daring and urgent book, written after the author learned he had a rare, incurable and unpredictable cancer. But it is not a conventional memoir of illness and treatment. Beyond informing us that he received his dire news in a “curt voice mail message,” Christian Wiman says very little about his experience of the medical world. He is after bigger game. More than any other contemporary book I know, “My Bright Abyss” reveals what it can mean to experience St. Benedict’s admonition to keep death daily before your eyes.

The Singer by Calvin Miller

 

For most who live,
hell is never knowing
who they are.
The Singer knew and
knowing was his torment.

Recalling the popularity of  The Singer: A Classic Retelling of Cosmic Conflict by Calvin Miller when I was younger, and having a vaguely positive recollection of reading and enjoying it as a teenager, when I saw it for a dollar at a library sale I snatched it up.  Seeing it as a quick and potentially inspirational read, I read it read it that same week

It is a rather unique book (the first of a trilogy), a sort of poetic narrative – some poetry, prose – that re-imagines the Gospel in the form of a classical myth or fairy tale of a troubadour compelled to sing the song that points man back to their creator.  His opponent is the World Hater who seeks to keep mankind enslaved and unaware of the song.

And even after all these years, it stands up very well. A little forced in places and certainly “artsy” in a sense but with beautiful and evocative language that re-imagines this timeless story in a way that knocks the dust off and allows us to see it fresh.

Continue reading

Mrs. Scrooge by Carol Ann Duffy

I realize it isn’t even Thanksgiving so perhaps I shouldn’t be reviewing Christmas books just yet.  But I thought I would offer a quick take on this slim volume now otherwise I would probably forget to write about it come Christmas.

Here is the publisher’s blurb for Mrs. Scrooge: A Christmas Poem by Carol Ann Duffy:

With her husband, Ebenezer, now “doornail dead,” the coldest Christmas Eve on record finds Mrs. Scrooge outside the supermarket, protesting consumerism and waste. “Spoilsport!” shout the passersby as they load up their shopping carts with Christmas goodies. Just as Ebenezer did, Mrs. Scrooge keeps to her frugal ways…but in the present economy, with loads of meaningless material goods bought on credit, maybe Mrs. Scrooge has the right idea.

That night, alone in her bed with Catchit the cat beside her, Mrs. Scrooge is visited by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come. As each in succession takes her by the hand and sweeps through the scenes of her life, Mrs. Scrooge learns not only what the “Christmas Spirit” really means, but the nature of the real gifts we give and receive.

The author is most famous for being the Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom and perhaps it speaks to my literacy that I had not previously heard of her.

I would guess that you will enjoy this poem if when you think turkey you think animal cruelty and when you think North Pole you think of global warming and melting polar ice caps. If you think the commercialism of the holidays are tied to the inherent greed of capitalism.

Continue reading

NYTBR on The Anthologist

I am not a big poetry person so I was a little worried about reading The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker.  The NYTBR review makes me want to read it however:

And let’s face it, stories involving poets tend to be hokey or, worse, excruciatingly literary. Maybe the spires of libraries rise darkly in the gloaming; maybe bookish amour unfolds amid bosomy fields laden with the fleeting fruits of summer. At best, the author follows the course Stephen King takes in “The Tommyknockers” and skims over his protagonist’s occupation in order to concentrate on the perilous effects of buried alien spacecraft.

Yet somehow Nicholson Baker has written a novel about poetry that’s actually about poetry — and that is also startlingly perceptive and ardent, both as a work of fiction and as a representation of the kind of thinking that poetry readers do.

I also like this quote about The New Yorker and poetry:

The New Yorker is a terrific magazine, but placing a poem there is like finding a hundred bucks in an old coat pocket: it’s great, but you can’t build your world around it. You build your world around what’s there for you on a daily basis, which for poets, famous or otherwise, means literary journals.

So The Anthologist is moved up a few notched on the towering TBR pile!