Poet Christian Wiman’s ‘Every Riven Thing’

BY Mike Melia  November 18, 2010 at 2:54 PM EDT

Christian WimanChristian Wiman’s new collection of poetry, Every Riven Thing, is filled with powerfully profound poems, many of which are deeply personal. He had taken a break from writing poetry for a few years, but a recent diagnosis of a rare cancer helped propel Wiman’s pen back to the page.

Wiman has written two previous books of poetry and has served as editor of Poetry magazine since 2003. (For the record, the Poetry Foundation, which publishes Poetry, also provides the support for the NewsHour’s Poetry Series.)

“I had gone for years without writing before I got sick, so it seems like the illness jarred me into writing. That’s true and not true, because I had several other dramatic things that happened in my life at that time, including falling in love with the woman that is now my wife,” he told me during a telephone interview earlier Thursday.

“If you can give shape to despair — that’s one thing poetry is so good at — if you can give shape to despair, it can give you a way to manage that despair even if it doesn’t ameliorate it,” Wiman said.
 

Listen to an interview with Christian Wiman:

Listen to Christian Wiman read “‘Every Riven Thing”:


 

Although the poems in Every Riven Thing present an honest telling of the struggles that life can present, for Wiman the truth of a poem is not based on autobiographical fact; rather, it resides within the verse itself.


“Readers might be surprised to learn how far from the actual truth some of them actually are,” Wiman said. “I think your fidelity is to the poem itself, and to the music that the poem makes. At the same time, that music is attached to the world in some fundamental way, and I’m always a little confused as to where exactly that line is between personal experience and the experience of the poem.”

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Every Riven Thing

God goes, belonging to every riven thing he’s made
sing his being simply by being
the thing it is:
stone and tree and sky,
man who sees and sings and wonders why

God goes. Belonging, to every riven thing he’s made,
means a storm of peace.
Think of the atoms inside the stone.
Think of the man who sits alone
trying to will himself into the stillness where

God goes belonging. To every riven thing he’s made
there is given one shade
shaped exactly to the thing itself:
under the tree a darker tree;
under the man the only man to see

God goes belonging to every riven thing. He’s made
the things that bring him near,
made the mind that makes him go.
A part of what man knows,
apart from what man knows,

God goes belonging to every riven thing he’s made.