He Held Radical Light: The Art of Faith, the Faith of Art

Christian Wiman. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $23 (128p) ISBN 978-0-374-16846-9
Wiman (My Bright Abyss), a poet and professor of religion and literature at Yale, weaves together philosophy and lush prose in an elliptical memoir about his long flirtation with the belief that he could gain immortality by writing a perfect poem. He explains this drive for the ideal through delicately theological questions, including: is God the goal of all artistic hunger? And “what does one want when one cannot stop wanting?” By pulling together close readings of poems (including a striking dissection of Philip Larkin’s “Aubade”) and a vast reservoir of personal anecdotes, Wiman approaches (but never quite reaches) his answers. The stories largely come from his tenure as editor of Poetry magazine, where encountering poets in person deeply affected him. “It’s like being famous in your family,” Mark Strand told him about being considered a famous poet. He reconsiders Mary Oliver’s relationship to nature after she tells him that, out of respect, she carried a found dead bird in her pocket. Hearing Seamus Heaney read provided a singular experience of grace for Wiman: “I knew so much of his work not simply by heart, but by bone and nerve.” Readers who allow themselves to be swept along by Wiman’s beautiful style and oblique considerations will come away with fresh strategies for unpacking faith in the contemporary world. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/09/2018
Release date: 09/11/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
MP3 CD - 978-1-982538-04-0
Compact Disc - 978-1-982538-02-6
Compact Disc - 978-1-982538-03-3
Paperback - 128 pages - 978-1-250-24945-6
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