Author of AGAINST A DARKENING SKY, THE EMPTY ROOM, OUR DAILY BREAD, and others. Find out more at www.LaurenBDavis.com. I read as if my sanity depended upon it.. . . oh, wait, it does! Snort.
This is an utterly astonishing book -- complex, thoughtful, elegaic, Wiman's book of essays are a profound meditation on faith and poetry and the search for meaning. Wiman, the editor of POETRY magazine wrote the book during a period when he was undergoing treatment for incurable cancer (he is in remission, although not cured).
There are few books I've underlined as much as this one. His essays are complicated and never offer simple answers, either to questions of faith or art. He often recedes into the shadows of poetry -- his own and that of others -- to find the language of clarity he seeks to explore the concepts of an afterlife. He says, "You must let go of all conception of what eternity is, which means letting go of you you are, in order to feel the truth of eternity and its meaning in your life--and in your death." and "What do you do, what do you say, what in the world are you going to believe in when you are dying? It is not enough to act as if when the wave is closing over you, and that little whiff of the ineffable you get from meditation or mysticism is toxic to the dying man, who needs the rock of one real truth." Indeed.
Wiman is able to articulate concepts about time and God and Christ without proselytizing and in such a way as to be useful to anyone asking the Big Questions; one needn't be Christian.
I am deeply affected by this book -- both comforted and provoked -- and I know I'll refer to it often. I'll end with one of Wiman's final thoughts:
"So much of faith has so little to do with belief, and so much to do with acceptance. Acceptance of all the gifts that God, even in the midst of death, grants us. Acceptance of the fact that we are, as Paul Tillich says, accepted. Acceptance of grace."