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Once in the West: Poems
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Published:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2014
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Description

One of The New York Times' 10 Favorite Poetry Books of 2014
National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist
A searing new collection from one of our country's most important poets

Memories mercies
mostly aren't

but there were
I swear
days
veined with grace
—from "Memory's Mercies"
Once in the West, Christian Wiman's fourth collection, is as intense and intimate as poetry gets—from the "suffering of primal silence" that it plumbs to the "rockshriek of joy" that it achieves and enables. Readers of Wiman's earlier books will recognize the sharp characterizations and humor—"From her I learned the earthworm's exemplary open-mindedness, / its engine of discriminate shit"—as well as his particular brand of reverent rage: "Lord if I implore you please just please leave me alone / is that a prayer that's every instant answered?" But there is something new here, too: moving love poems to his wife, tender glimpses of his children, and, amid the onslaughts of illness and fear and failures, "a trace / of peace."

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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
09/09/2014
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780374713546
ASIN:
B00LKRSAQI
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APA Citation (style guide)

Christian Wiman. (2014). Once in the West: Poems. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Christian Wiman. 2014. Once in the West: Poems. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Christian Wiman, Once in the West: Poems. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Christian Wiman. Once in the West: Poems. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2022. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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      • value: spiritual
      • value: Lyric poetry
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      • value: poems by cancer survivors
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      • role: Author
      • fileAs: Wiman, Christian
      • bioText: Christian Wiman is the author, editor, or translator of more than a dozen books of poetry and prose, including two memoirs, My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer and He Held Radical Light: The Art of Faith, the Faith of Art; Every Riven Thing, winner of the Ambassador Book Award; Once in the West, a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist; and Survival Is a Style—all published by FSG. He teaches religion and literature at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music and at Yale Divinity School.
      • name: Christian Wiman
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Once in the West
fullDescription

One of The New York Times' 10 Favorite Poetry Books of 2014
National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist
A searing new collection from one of our country's most important poets

Memories mercies
mostly aren't

but there were
I swear
days
veined with grace
—from "Memory's Mercies"
Once in the West, Christian Wiman's fourth collection, is as intense and intimate as poetry gets—from the "suffering of primal silence" that it plumbs to the "rockshriek of joy" that it achieves and enables. Readers of Wiman's earlier books will recognize the sharp characterizations and humor—"From her I learned the earthworm's exemplary open-mindedness, / its engine of discriminate shit"—as well as his particular brand of reverent rage: "Lord if I implore you please just please leave me alone / is that a prayer that's every instant answered?" But there is something new here, too: moving love poems to his wife, tender glimpses of his children, and, amid the onslaughts of illness and fear and failures, "a trace / of peace."

reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: David Orr, The New York Times
      • content:

        "By turns elegiac, brooding and funny, Once in the West is one of the very few American poetry books to deal seriously (and successfully) with the religious impulse."

      • premium: False
      • source: Dwight Garner, The New York Times
      • content: "Once in the West is Mr. Wiman's fourth book of poems, and his best. While reading it, I was reminded of something John Updike said about the theologian Karl Barth. 'Really, Barth's mind, so invariably earnest, always penetrates to some depth tonic for me,' Updike wrote. 'He makes me feel that rare thing, with authors, called love--one loves a man for thinking and writing so well.' Mr. Wiman is only rarely earnest in his new book, but at times his writing made me feel something similar."
      • premium: False
      • source: Tess Taylor, National Public Radio
      • content: "As Wiman puts it, there are church-curdled hymns, gear grinding tenors and here and there, that rapt, famished look that leaps from person to person, year-to-year like a holy flu. . . Amid lonely and painful landscapes, he's mixed terse speech and lyric leaps to record unpredictable dialogues between body and soul. To be sure, there's a lot of ugly sadness in these poems - cheerless men or, as he says, cancer on a slow boil in the bones of a woman who sleeps five feet from the widescreen. But there's also a raw bareback grabbing at joy. Even in the grittiest spots, Wiman has got a knack for sounding metaphysical. Like the percolator described in one poem, these verses hold and withhold. They speak to the need - as Wiman puts it - to befriend one's own loneliness, to make of the ache of inwardness something - music, maybe. And they speak to the improbable places we're unaccountably called to love. For what does the chigger-bit and muddy-buttocked body of a former lover teach us...
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        August 18, 2014
        The first half or so of this harsh and sometimes masterful fourth outing from poet, memoirist, and editor Wiman (Every Riven Thing) might represent the best verse he has yet penned. Wiman’s short lines and sometimes dense rhymes look back at his West Texas youth, at “that back-// seat, sweat-/ soaked, skin-// habited Heaven,” at the “cactus song” of a high-spirited grandma, at “my hard horizonless country/ whose one road releases me like heat as I walk on.” A former editor of Poetry magazine, Wiman’s wide reading there perhaps helped him develop his serious, careful, and widely admired technique. He now teaches at Yale Divinity School; as the volume progresses the poems’ themes gravitate toward questions of Christian faith. “I tried to cry out in the old way/ of thanksgiving, ritual lamentation, rockshriek of joy./ There was no answer. Had there ever been?” His search for religious answers twines itself tautly with reflections on his own illness, homages to poets of the past, and exemplary self-scrutiny. If these poems of anger and devotion find few immediate admirers, they are nonetheless part of a serious poet’s lifelong thought about life and death, about body and soul, about memory and family, about this world and what is beyond.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        Starred review from September 1, 2014

        Though the spare, intensely focused lyrics of Wiman's fourth collection (after Stolen Air) often spring from the pain "latent/ in the very grain/ of being," they achieve a spiritual clarity and acceptance all too rare in American poetry. Memories of a West Texas childhood ("my hard horizonless country")--like the life-threatening cancer explored in Wiman's earlier outing (2010's Every Riven Thing)--serve to impel pointed, acutely felt ruminations on the centrality of faith and love in "the random/ kingdom/ of things." In the tradition of George Herbert and Gerard Manley Hopkins, Wiman strives to devise language (paingleaned, milkfeel, stabdazzling) that precisely expresses the inexpressible nature of his complex subjects. Channeled through liquid, gracefully rhymed forms, the poems gleam with unforgettable revelations ("one wants in the end just once to befriend one's own loneliness") and bracing theological insights (the soul is "extrapolated/ from the body's need"). VERDICT Wiman fuses craft and emotion with a diligence, urgency, and exactitude few others can match, creating essential and nourishing poems for these emaciating times.--Fred Muratori, Cornell Univ. Lib., Ithaca, NY

        Copyright 2014 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        Starred review from September 15, 2014
        Wiman (Every Riven Thing, 2010) wrestles with faith and doubt, illness and hope, his words searing and annealing, weighted and slingshot. In his fourth collection, following his religious memoir, My Bright Abyss (2013), he stacks short emphatic lines in spinal-cord configurations forged with molten emotion. So fiery is his writing, Wiman's words meld together in hot coins of vision: painlearned, timestorm, shinedying, lightswirled, starblazing. Wiman writes of his boyhood in the grit of rural Texas, portraying the young and the old with full-hearted perception and sympathy, ferocious love and sharp wit. He remembers a boyhood friend's death, brings us into a rest home, captures the rough eloquence of silent men and the wry inventiveness of country talk. His bouts with cancer yield urgently questioning lines: this burn of unbeing, / this mad metastasis of Now? These galvanizing poems are chopped, jabbed, clapped, and stomped, as percussive as a slapped and shaken tambourine. Anger and longing, mourning and gratitude stoke their potent song, while images crack open to reveal epic spiritual mysteries. The word abrading is a touchstone; the driving force of these life-loving poems is concentrated here: I make my scathing / way. (Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2014, American Library Association.)

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shortDescription

One of The New York Times' 10 Favorite Poetry Books of 2014
National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist
A searing new collection from one of our country's most important poets

Memories mercies
mostly aren't

but there were
I swear
days
veined with grace
—from "Memory's Mercies"
Once in the West, Christian Wiman's fourth collection, is as intense and intimate as poetry gets—from the "suffering of primal silence" that it plumbs to the "rockshriek of joy" that it achieves and enables. Readers of Wiman's earlier books will recognize the sharp characterizations and humor—"From her I learned the earthworm's exemplary open-mindedness, / its engine of discriminate shit"—as well as his particular brand of reverent rage: "Lord if I implore you please just please leave me alone / is that a prayer that's every instant answered?" But there is something new here, too:...

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publisher
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      • description: POETRY / Subjects & Themes / Religious
      • code: POE005010
      • description: POETRY / American / General