What a rare and inspiring privilege it was to be with poet and author Christian Wiman last week. I for one am still reeling–don’t know how it could have possibly been any richer. Thankfully, like his poetry in Every Riven Thing and his prose in My Bright Abyss, the talks he gave here in Charlottesville defy distillation. They require real attention–and while one might expect as much from an artist of his caliber and quality, still, the anticipation of poetic brilliance doesn’t make it any less arresting when you actually experience it.

Which is not to imply that a portion of the wisdom and substance wasn’t plain enough to be gleaned in the moment, or that certain phrases didn’t immediately lodge themselves in my brain (“banqueting on oblivion”, “anti-devotional devotions”, “sumptuous destitution”, “foreclosing on an inspiration”, to name just a few). But there is too much behind these words to do them any kind justice in a short blog post. So I’m not going to try; we contribute enough to the “pandemonium of blab” as it is! Instead, like the poems which he wove so seamlessly into his presentations, these talks beg to be revisited over and over again, worked through and absorbed and re-absorbed. I know I have already done so multiple times. As a warm-up, here’s a beautiful Christological paragraph from the “Varieties of Quiet” chapter in My Bright Abyss:

wiman1“Modern spiritual consciousness is predicated upon the fact that God is gone, and spiritual experience, for many of us, amounts mostly to an essential, deeply felt and necessary, but ultimately inchoate and transitory feeling of oneness or unity with existence. It is mystical and valuable, but distant. Christ, though, is a shard of glass in your gut. Christ is God crying ‘I am here’, and here not only in what exalts and completes and uplifts you, but here in what appalls, offends and degrades you, here in what activates and exacerbates all that you would call not-God. To walk through the fog of God toward the clarity of Christ is difficult because of how unlovely, how “ungodly” that clarity often turns out to be.” (p 121)

Secondly, the remarkable poem (of praise) that Chris recited at the beginning of his talk was “The City Limits” by A.R. Ammons:

When you consider the radiance, that it does not withhold
itself but pours its abundance without selection into every
nook and cranny not overhung or hidden; when you consider

that birds’ bones make no awful noise against the light but
lie low in the light as in a high testimony; when you consider
the radiance, that it will look into the guiltiest

swervings of the weaving heart and bear itself upon them,
not flinching into disguise or darkening; when you consider
the abundance of such resource as illuminates the glow-blue

bodies and gold-skeined wings of flies swarming the dumped
guts of a natural slaughter or the coil of shit and in no
way winces from its storms of generosity; when you consider

that air or vacuum, snow or shale, squid or wolf, rose or lichen,
each is accepted into as much light as it will take, then
the heart moves roomier, the man stands and looks about, the

leaf does not increase itself above the grass, and the dark
work of the deepest cells is of a tune with May bushes
and fear lit by the breadth of such calmly turns to praise.

A few of his own poems that Chris recites in the talks below include:

Finally, the recordings of the talks in question:

1. “And I Was Alive: Faith in a Faithless Time”

You may download this recording by clicking here.

2. Question and Answer

You may download this recording by clicking here.

P.S. Keep an eye out in the coming weeks for an exclusive interview with the man himself.

P.P.S. Why would God care about England?! Ha.