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Every Riven Thing: Poems Hardcover – November 9, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From 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.) (c)
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From Booklist

To rive is to wrench apart, shatter, split, crack, or fracture. In Wiman’s poetic cosmos, to be riven is to be spun around, driven to the ground, and transformed. In his hammered-on-the-anvil third collection, Wiman, editor of Poetry magazine, brings fire and gravity to poems forged in a battle, as he signals in “After the Diagnosis,” with a daunting disease, and a renewed connection with God. Exquisitely aware that every thing on earth, no matter how hard used, channels the mysterious force that makes atoms dance and hearts beat, Wiman, in the spirit of Hopkins, infuses molten life into every word as he contemplates searing spareness, most emblematically, a lone, wind-ravaged, stubbornly standing tree. Wiman also writes of bittersweet abundance, with edgy wit in a visit to Wal-mart, and in bittersweet tributes to love, which range from a resounding portrait of a redeemer of “riven things” who lives in “eyesore opulence” to a delicate evocation of mayflies. Wiman’s credo: “For I am come a whirlwind of wasted things / and I will ride this tantrum back to God.” --Donna Seaman

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1St Edition edition (November 9, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374150362
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374150365
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.6 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,102,694 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

57 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Roger W. Wright on January 17, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Perhaps you've paged through a New Yorker or Atlantic and seen the poems of Christian Wiman. But chances are you've never seen him do a reading.

Last night, while a light snow whispered over the commercial bustle of Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago, Wiman shook the foundations of a small, non-descript storefront jammed with hometown supporters in a way that made you think that if Poetry were the movies, this guy would be George Clooney.

Wiman would likely cringe at the comparison. But as a globally recognized poet, he's no stranger to praise. Even more important though, like the glowing fire at the core of all Wiman's work; the comparison is true.

Here is a poet that forces you to forget the uncomfortable metal folding chair you are sitting on at this reading, abandon any thoughts that you'd rather be at home, and instead take you on a journey deeper into your own mind and the wider world as well. A journey marked by road signs that just say "Truth."

Before Wiman, my favorite poet was Charles Bukowski. Strike that. Before Wiman, the only poet I liked was Charles Bukowski. Because I always knew what he was saying. Lots of Wiman's work is like that too. You know exactly what he's saying. But when he says it, somehow you see whatever it is differently. You think differently. Perhaps deeper. Richer.

But then some of Wiman's poems travel further and you do not understand everything he is saying. So you stand at the crossroads of this journey with a choice. Do I stop? Because this is not about me. So maybe I should stop?

Or, do I press on? Do I dance into the mystery of stuff I don't know?

In the Q and A at the end of the reading, I asked Wiman, who is the editor of Poetry Magazine, if he understood every poem he published.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Doug Fir on February 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The poems in Every Riven Thing are spare and arresting. I usually read books of poetry over many days or weeks, but this book wouldn't let go of me. I read it in two sittings on the same day. Another book that's done that to me recently was Cormac McCarthy's The Road. And now that I think about it, the comparison is apt. Both books are searingly beautiful. Both are filled with language and ideas that have been through the crucible. And both are ultimately about love.

Wiman's ear is subtle and beautiful. The language is a joy to read aloud. Since first reading this book a year ago, I've returned to individual poems several times, and they hold up. They grow in the saying, in the hearing, just like the poems of she who wrote about slants of light and Heavenly Hurt.

I think J from NY, in another review here, is absolutely right about Wiman not getting the readership he deserves because of his position as the editor of Poetry. I was among several poets this past fall at a residency and, without letting them see the author's name or book title, I read them two of my favorite poems from the book. They were clearly moved by the poems and wanted a name. When I told them it was Wiman, I watched their reaction change, as if they were putting up their guard. The poetry world is strange that way, maybe because there are far more poems than magazines to publish them.

I've read everything Wiman has written. This book is the most compelling of all. It is equipment for living and for dying.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By J from NY VINE VOICE on November 6, 2011
Format: Paperback
"Every Riven Thing" by Christian Wiman is the kind of collection one WANTS to read after opening up the front cover of a poetry collection randomly. These theistic, burning little fragments and short poems are unmistakably the real thing. Not one word is wasted, not one sentiment vague, and not one expression of petty irony in the entirety of the collection.

It will be difficult, of course, for Wiman to get the recognition he deserves as a poet, currently holding office as the editor of "thee" poetry magazine in the United States (creatively titled "Poetry"). However many people he has rejected, argued with, whatever this guy deserves recognition for this collection. Next on my list will be his book Ambition and Survival: Becoming a Poet. Reminiscent of Rene Char's Leaves of Hypnos this is not to be missed by the poetry lover.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Edward M. Freeman on April 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Reviewers elsewhere of this third volume of collected poems by Christian Wiman, such as in the 'Christian Century' and 'CSM,' have focused on metaphors, honesty, forms, and thematic adventures. All of these devices figure prominently no doubt.

However, I wish to explore the element of time spreading its course over the poet's West Texas soul, which I identify as old as the wind and perilous as a gully-washer after a sudden deluge. These gully-washers carve out new terrain and expose layers of half-baked clay that await weeks or months in the oven of time before another rushing torrent sends them somewhere south until one day they, too, join the Gulf of Mexico and wash up on shores far and wide.

Somewhere in the middle of the book--about as good as any time or place to begin this review--prankster nudists remark: "We were always waiting too long to let ourselves be seen" ["Do You Remember the Rude Nudists?" 46-7]. The poem recollects clothing discarded, as if the air were ice and water a warm bed," before loving with sight if not also hand, and these rude nudists "creep quietly away."

Time is as frozen in the images of "goose-stepping" and "goose-pimpled" as anticipatory surprise, and yet as fluid as waves that part after surprise had been "appeased" once having seen and been seen naked. One cannot avoid the double edge in experience that makes time ever sharp and always dull: what ancient Greeks might have considered two faces in time -- "kairos" and "chronos."

Not to observe time shaping the poet's soul would render the first poem of the book, "Dust Devil," mere regrets over fancy or misspent youth.

"Mystical hysterical amalgams of earth and wind
and mind
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