Saturday, November 22, 2014

Christian Wiman’s “Once in the West”

I’ve read a lot of poetry over my lifetime, and likely more in the last 10 years than the rest combined. Rarely have I been as taken with a collection as I have with Christian Wiman’s Once in the West: Poems.

The poems originate in Wiman’s childhood and coming of age in Texas. They extend beyond that, into the reader’s mind and own experience, a collection of sharp, piercing stones with cutting edges that leave blood on the floor – the blood of life and of a life lived.

Some may mind the occasional profanity. I didn’t, and it surprised me that I didn’t.

I’ll have more to say later, but here is one example of a poem from the collection.

A soul

from the body’s

needs a body
of loss

is that, then,
what we were

in that back-

seat, sweat-
soaked, skin-

habited heaven
of days

when rapture
was pure

and sinning



Photograph by Silviu Firulete via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.


Maureen said...

Wiman is an incredible poet. I read and re-read his work.

diana said...

this gorgeous sample settles it - i'm ordering some today. thank you, glynn.

Jerry said...

Couple his book My Bright Abyss with Once In The West and he is becomes a comrade to this poet wannabe. I like the blood image. If poetry doesn's lacerate in some way it can't reach the soul.

Kathleen Overby said...

Isn't it fascinating that both Wiman and Gregory Orr had similar catastrophic trauma in childhood? Their words have a mystic authority...