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Ambition and Survival: Becoming a Poet Paperback – September 11, 2007
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Top Customer Reviews
Are you someone who aspires to be a poet, or a poet who wants to grow in your craft? Then you might consider Christian Wiman's Ambition and Survival. It's not easy reading; in fact it can be downright discouraging in places. Don't get me wrong, Wiman is brilliant, his writing is elegant, and his use of humor is well-placed. His standards are stupendous, and oh yes, I must say, he's arrogant.
You could say he has cause. He's editor of Poetry Magazine, a publication that has grown mightily under his direction and with the help of a two million dollar grant. Many knowing people claim this magazine publishes the best poetry of our time.
Wiman seems to be saying that the greats have their time, but it passes and their work degenerates. Virtually none escapes his judgment, except perhaps Emily Dickinson. He's most fond of Thomas Hardy, which pleases me because Hardy didn't start writing poetry until he was sixty. His praise of Hardy is that he is clear, wise and balanced. On top of it, he's other-centered. Wiman lumps one of my favorites, William Carlos Williams, in with him, for the same reasons.
I've been hard on Wiman, in a way, but he has my utmost respect, partially because he himself has suffered and overcome a bizarre and difficult background. It's all explained in the book.
I give it my highest recommendation and urge you to take it slowly.
Allan Cox, author of "WHOA! Are They Glad You're In Their Lives?" to be published June 5, 2012
Indeed, he begins the book as follows: "When I was twenty years old I set out to be a poet. That sounds like I was a sort of frigate raising anchor, and in a way I guess I was, though susceptible to the lightest of winds. * * * I still believe that a life in poetry demands absolutely everything -- including, it has turned out for me, the belief that a life in poetry demands absolutely everything." That speaks to the "ambition" of the book's title. The "survival" aspect takes on new urgency and poignancy in the last essay, in which Wiman discloses that he had recently been diagnosed with a rare incurable blood cancer. (That was nine years ago, and thankfully Wiman is still with us, teaching literature and religion at Yale Divinity School.)
From 2003 to 2013 Wiman was editor of "Poetry" magazine. It can be safely assumed, then, that he is more knowledgeable about poetry than the average Joe. Most relevantly, he is much more knowledgeable about poetry than I am. Reading AMBITION AND SURVIVAL broadened and deepened my understanding of poetry and honed my "feel" for good poetry considerably.
Two recurring points or themes stood out for me. One has to do with faith and belief. A poet, to be good, must have "faith in the mind's ability to find meaning in a world that exists independently of itself, and a concomitant faith in language to serve as a means of doing so.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I have been reading this book slowly, over the last year, in part because there is so much of value on every page, in part
because I wasn't sure what I would do when I... Read more
Great book on Poetry and brings poetry and the artist psychology and the world around them into your being.Published 15 months ago by Kris McNew
Every anecdotal thought he has becomes more than memory by his tendency to plumb the depths of whatever he's talking about. His writing is beautiful. Read morePublished on March 12, 2014 by Charlalee
Ambition and Survival is the single most important book I have read in many years. In my own life as a poet and in my personal journey, I have simply taken Christian Wiman as... Read morePublished on October 31, 2013 by Pat Schneider