First Things is pleased to announce our next event: renowned poet Christian Wiman will be giving a reading here at our editorial offices in Manhattan on October 29, at 6 p.m. Wiman is editor of Poetry magazine. His most recent collection, Every Riven Thing, is just out from Farrar Straus Giroux publishers. “Art is like Christianity in this way: At its greatest, it can give you access to the deepest suffering you imagine,” he wrote, “the suffering of which you must be conscious to fulfill your nature—and at the same time provide a peace that is equal to that suffering.” On the intersection of art and life Wiman wrote, “Poetry, for me, has always been bound up with (this) unease, fueled by contingency toward forms that will transcend it, as involved with silence as it is with sound.”
As a preview to Wiman’s reading, here is his poem “From a Window,” from the July/August 2008 issue of Atlantic magazine:
From a Window
Incurable and unbelieving
In any truth but the truth of grieving,
I saw a tree inside a tree
As if the leaves had livelier ghosts.
I pressed my face as close
To the pane as I could get
To watch that fitful, fluent spirit
That seemed a single being undefined
Or countless beings of one mind
Haul its strange cohesion
Beyond the limits of my vision
Over the house heavenwards.
Of course I knew those leaves were birds.
Of course that old tree stood
Exactly as it had and would
(But why should it seem fuller now?)
And though a man’s mind might endow
Even a tree with some excess
Of life to which a man seems witness,
That life is not the life of men.
And that is where the joy came in.