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Christian Wiman, Every Riven Thing, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $24.00 (cloth)
The opening couplet of Christian Wiman’s Every Riven Thing captures the scope of the whole volume: “Mystical hysterical amalgam of earth and wind / and mind.” Earthliness lies alongside the spiritual life of the mind. God is a constant presence in these poems; the volume’s title is drawn from a poem of the same name, part of Wiman’s assertion that “God goes belonging to every riven thing he’s made.” Through grammatical manipulation, Wiman revives and recreates this phrase a number of times. In addition to his contemplation of the mystical, the poet often returns to grief: “Incurable and unbelieving / in any truth but the truth of grieving.” This aphoristic couplet contains the anxiety and joy that elsewhere spill over as the poet catalogues worldliness. Wiman posits that “heaven” lies in such small pleasures as “beans and weenies from paper plates, / black-fingered tinkerings on the back stoop / as the sun set.” Again, in his description of the waitress at the Longhorn Diner—“Unmarried, childless, homely, ‘slow,’ / she knew coffee cut with chamomile / kept the grocer Paul’s ulcer cool”—the poet celebrates the particular, though he also fears “the hell of having everything.” This catalogue of “everything”—“Consider icicle skyscrapers, / parthenogenetic subdivisions, / factory farms”—grows through the volume. Throughout, Wiman’s poems weigh the stepping-stone possibilities of language, its “Slipknot, whatknot, / knot from which no man escapes.” Most importantly, these poems are a reminder to the poet and to his readers: “And I Said to My Soul, Be Loud.”
Kate Middleton’s first poetry collection, Fire Season, won the 2009 Western Australian Premier’s Award for Poetry. She is currently completing an MFA in poetry at the University of Michigan.
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