christian wiman’s ambition and survival

4 12 2009

year in review 2009, best book:

Ambition and Survial: Becoming a Poet by Christian Wiman (editor of Poetry Magazine) is my pick for the book that really affected me this year.

I was given a copy of the essay The Limit by Christian Wiman in my workshop at Sarah Lawrence by my teacher, Joanne Beard (author of the award-winning, Boys Of My Youth), during workshop to read, and was so blown away by it, that i bought his whole book.

it’s a book of essays about “homelessness and unbelief and ends with an essay on rootedness and faith, begins with health being taken for granted, ends with it being taken away.” (from wiman’s preface)

i’ll give you 2 quotes that are profound to me, both taken from his essay The Limit.

to be a writer is to betray the facts. it’s one of the more ruthless things about being a writer, finally, in that to cast an experience into words is in some way to lose the reality of the experience itself, to sacrifice the fact of it to whatever imaginative pattern one’s wound requires.”

and if you are drawn in and want to go further;

“and yet i’ve come to believe, and in rare moments can almost feel, that like an illness some vestige of which the body keeps to protect itself, pain may be its own reprieve; that the violence that is latent within us may be, if never altogether dispelled or tamed, at least acknowledged, defined, and perhaps by dint of the love we feel for our lives, for the people in them and for our work, rendered into an energy that need not be inflicted on others or ourselves, an energy we may even be able to use; and that for those of us who have gone to war with our own minds there is yet hope for what Freud called ‘normal unhappiness,’ wherein we might remember the dead without being haunted by them, give to our lives a coherence that is not ‘closure,’ and learn to live with our memories, our families, and ourselves amid a truce that is not peace.”

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6 responses

4 12 2009
Blisschick

Wow…going right now to add that to my Amazon wish list. 🙂

4 12 2009
pip

“amid a truce that is not peace”.

Constant wrenching of the heart.

5 12 2009
insatiablehost

that is just beautiful…i often find the most profound things are the beauty in a horrible situation…sad but true!

5 12 2009
Martha McPhee

Thank you. I’d like to read. It’s the last bit that sends me over the edge, in its power: remembering the dead without being haunted by them…

5 12 2009
Darrelyn Saloom

Beautiful piece. So glad you sent this to me.

Also, I love Joanne Beard. Her short story collection is one of my favorites. Wrote a review on Amazon years ago when I first read it and bought copies for all of my friends.

I cannot wait to read Ambition and Survival.

13 01 2010
Do you love Christian Wiman’s words too? « La La's Spare Bedroom Blog

[…] 13, 2010 by La La So I finally read The Limit today by Christian Wiman and I almost […]

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