Every Riven Thing

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A vibrant new collection from one of America's most talented young poets

Every Riven Thing is Christian Wiman’s first collection in seven years, and rarely has a book of poetry so borne the stamp of necessity. Whether in stark, haiku-like descriptions of a cancer ward, surrealistic depictions of a social order coming apart, or fluent, defiant outpourings of praise, Wiman pushes his language and forms until they break open, revealing startling new truths within. The poems are ...

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Every Riven Thing: Poems

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Overview

A vibrant new collection from one of America's most talented young poets

Every Riven Thing is Christian Wiman’s first collection in seven years, and rarely has a book of poetry so borne the stamp of necessity. Whether in stark, haiku-like descriptions of a cancer ward, surrealistic depictions of a social order coming apart, or fluent, defiant outpourings of praise, Wiman pushes his language and forms until they break open, revealing startling new truths within. The poems are joyful and sorrowful at the same time, abrasive and beautiful, densely physical and credibly mystical. They attest to the human hunger to feel existence, even at its most harrowing, and the power of art to make our most intense experiences not only apprehensible but transfiguring.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Grave and thoughtful, careful in its acoustic effects, and at times breathtaking in its achievement, this third set of verse from Poetry editor Wiman is by far his best. Though his forms vary, his goals and attitudes stay clear: he wants to see the ugly and the difficult without turning away, to describe them tersely and accurately, and to see the handiwork of God. Early poems handle his own chronic, serious illness, and its grueling treatments: "Needle of knowledge, needle of nothingness,/ gringing through my spine to sip at the marrow of me." Much of the rest of the volume reacts to the illness and death of the poet's father: "Not altogether gone," the elderly man looks "half-childlike... before he's seized again with a sharp impersonal turbulence/ like angry laundry." Surrounded by such failures of body and mind, Wiman (Hard Night) doubts that he can say anything fitting, or even pious, about his God, "that to say the name God/ is a great betrayal"--and yet, he tells us, he must try and try: the religious sentiments sit uneasily with the stark scenes of fact, of bodily decay and environmental destruction, but the poet insists on the reality of them all. (Nov.)
Library Journal
A sense of mortality hangs over Wiman's third collection (after The Long Home); some of these poems speak of illness and loss. Ultimately, though, this is an optimistic book that asks and then answers some of the great questions: why are we here? What is life about? How can we live wisely and praise this extraordinary earth that gives us a home? Poems such as "One Time" and "Gone for the Day, She Is the Day" explore the nature of love, especially after a serious diagnosis, while the state of ecology in an age of rapid destruction is tackled in "Country in Search of a Symbol." Wiman writes more formally than many modern poets, often incorporating rhyme. On the whole, this works well, though occasionally a rhyme seems either too easy or too forced. One of Wiman's strengths is his musical ability, shown especially in the title poem, which exhibits a kind of haunting quality. The poems as a whole pulse with color and texture, as in this celebration of changing light: "slurring such last extravagant streaks of light/ over the endless city." Despite the seriousness of the poems, humor is often included and indeed necessary, given the subject matter: witness "tumbleweeds maddening/ past in the cage of themselves." VERDICT A collection that sings with the beauty of life and at the same time acknowledges its fragility: "To believe is to believe you have been torn/ from the abyss, yet stand waveringly on its rim."—Doris Lynch, Monroe Cty. P.L., IN
Dana Jennings
…a stark and moving meditation on the nature of grief, mortality and living a life of the spirit.
—The New York Times
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374150365
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 11/9/2010
  • Pages: 112
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Christian Wiman, born and raised in West Texas. He is the editor of Poetry and the author of two previous collections of poems, Hard Night (2005) and The Long Home (2007), and one collection of prose. He lives in Chicago.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2012

    Highly recommended

    In his book of prose, AMBITION AND SURVIVAL, Christian Wiman quotes
    Edna St. Vincent Mallay: "Nobody speaks to me. People fall in love with me, and annoy me and distress me and flatter me and excite me-
    and all that sort of thing. But no one speaks to me. I sometimes think that no one can."

    I doubt that Mallay would say that could she have read EVERY RIVEN THING. Wiman hears the silence in Mallay which she longed for someone to hear. He hears the silence in us all. His poems seem made out of it. They help--though you sit for a long time after each reading--listening to the silence in yourself.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 10, 2012

    "Beautiful" is the only word true and appropriate enou

    "Beautiful" is the only word true and appropriate enough to describe Every Riven Thing. It is Wiman's death march, his autobiography, and his refusal to be shaken.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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