Poetry Friday: “Love’s Last” by Christian Wiman

The spring equinox was on Monday. I am slowly seeing a flush of new life around me, like plum tree blossoms and nettles, while winter’s dank decay is still lamentably present. Christian Wiman’s haunting and tender poem “Love’s Last” from his collection Once in the West (originally published in Image issue 81) echoes loudly for me right now during this transition of seasons. Within his austere couplets, Wiman ponders the passage of time and recalls memories from his youth. The poem begins, “Love’s last urgency is earth / and grief is all gravity.” As a poet who battled an almost fatal illness, Wiman reminds us of the spiritual guidance we can receive from our own lives, from our past selves. The daring and curious child he once was, slashing at bee’s nests, shows Wiman how “mystery mastering fear” can illuminate the perpetual questions we carry. We are all able to start anew yet we are never that far from death and, in the in-between, may we all unearth a bit of hope and redemption.
—Jessica Gigot


“Love’s Last” By Christian Wiman

Love’s last urgency is earth
and grief is all gravity

and the long fall always
back to earliest hours

that exist nowhere
but in one’s brain.

From the hard-packed
pile of old-mown grass,

from boredom, from pain,
a boy’s random slash

unlocks a dark ardor
of angry bees

that link the trees
and block his way home.

I like to hold him holding me,
mystery mastering fear,

so young, standing unstung
under what survives of sky.

I learned too late how to live.
Child, teach me how to die.

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Christian Wiman’s newest book of poems is Once in the West, published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. He teaches at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music.

On the Front Lines

classroom-by-chirstopher-sessums-on-flickrBy Paul Anderson

Seven months ago, I was teaching writing to high school seniors at a Christian school on the southwest side of Chicago, thirty minutes from my suburban hometown but essentially in another universe. I was three months away from finishing my MFA through Seattle Pacific University, and I wasn’t sure that I was going to make it—make it to the end of the MFA without succumbing to a mental collapse, or to the end of the teaching year without biting off a chunk of my tongue. There was no established curriculum for the class, so I created many of my lessons the night before, after I finished grading the students’ assignments from the same day.

While this won’t kill you, any education professional will tell you that it’s a recipe for disaster.

One night, between MFA and teaching work, I pulled out a copy of Image and flipped to Chris Hoke’s essay “Hearts Like Radios,” a piece that had jolted my numbed spiritual and creative nerves a few months earlier. [Read more…]

Death and the Absurdity of Heaven

image02I remember, as an undergraduate, reading Spinoza for the first time. I came across the sentence, “The free man thinks of nothing less than death.” Spinoza meant, of course, that a free man never thinks about death.

But I managed to read the sentence in the opposite way. I took the phrase “nothing less” in the way you might say, “I want nothing less than the best cheesecake in the state.” I thought Spinoza was saying that the free man demanded the very best to think about. Death, obviously, tops that list.

I took it for granted that everyone thinks about death almost all of the time. On becoming a Catholic in my adulthood, I was excited by the prospect of joining the morbid parade of suffering souls trudging stolidly toward the grave, fingering our rosaries and muttering under our breath about the veil of tears.

[Read more…]

Epic Tales: an Interview with Amit Majmudar, part 2

Claude_Lorrain_024Guest post by Sarah Arthur

Continued from yesterday. 

SA:  In your essay “Me and the Monotheists,” you say that even though you are a Hindu, many Christians seem to warmly welcome your poetry (e.g., I’ve included your poem “Incarnation” in the anthology Light Upon Light). You say this is primarily about “aesthetic resonance”—particularly with imagery—but you also point to the English language itself as being encoded with biblical influence.

And yet not every contemporary English-speaking poet writes this way. Can you elaborate?

[Read more…]

Wiman and Words

At “Good Letters,” words are what we work with.

Of course, this is true of all blogs, all writing. Yet consciousness of the craft of writing is key to our posts. No matter what our declared subject, our undeclared subject—our subtext—is always what are my words doing here? What can words do—anywhere?

Words Made Flesh: it’s on our “Good Letters” logo.

That short phrase reverberates with many meanings. The Christian connotation, yes: the Incarnation. But that’s a singular Word. Singular, unique. Whereas we spin out many words. To make them flesh, we try to immerse them in our personal experience. Or we immerse ourselves in our experience and seek for words there. [Read more…]