Yale Lecturer and West Texas Poet Connects Art and Personal Beliefs


“I didn’t know what I wanted to be; I was just furious to be something,” remarked author, poet, and teacher Christian Wiman to a group of students, faculty, and staff in Hardin-Simmons University’s Logsdon Chapel. Wiman was the featured speaker at the annual Lawrence Clayton Poets and Writers Speaker Series, April 14,2014, at HSU.

In an informal question and answer session, Wiman harkened back to his challenging past as a striving writer from Snyder, Texas, as one of the driving forces behind his poetry. Wiman recalled his financially difficult first year of college when he had to sell his car to pay for the second semester.

Wiman has gone on to receive the Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the 1998 Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize as well as becoming the editor of the prestigious literary magazine Poetry, a position he held from 2003-2013. Wiman currently lectures at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music on topics of religion and literature.

Kristen Mulvihill, a communications major from Cobhill, Texas, said that Wiman’s unique motivation for writing applied to her own experience as editor of the 2014 Corral, HSU’s arts and literary magazine.

“Just write for God,” said Mulvihill as she described how Wiman’s presentation had influenced her perspective regarding writing. “People can be a fickle audience,” she said.

In a poetry reading and book signing, Wiman enthralled those in attendance with powerful poetic punches, drawing inspiration from noted poets such as T.S. Eliot and Osip Mandelstam. Connecting his personal beliefs with his poetry, Wiman verbally painted a picture of how the intricacies of light in physics mimic his own understanding of God. Wiman challenged the audience to examine truth with a perspective of beauty and brokenness.

“For a long moment then, I wished and wished and wished the moment would not end. And just like that, it vanished,” said Wiman quoting from his poem Postolka about a chance encounter with a falcon on a balcony in Prague, Czech Republic. Wiman points out the meaning and truth behind the poem, that every moment in life will eventually end.

“He is clearly one of the best, if not the best, poets, writers out there,” said Dr. Robert Fink, W.D. and Hollis R. Bond Professor of English and director of creative writing at HSU.

The Lawrence Clayton Poets and Writers Speaker Series, presented by The McIntyre-West Endowment of the HSU Academic Foundation, is named for Dr. Lawrence Clayton, former chair of the English Department and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. In 1977, Fink, with the blessing of Clayton, began the program that would bring nationally-recognized poets and fiction writers to HSU to provide creative writing students and the Abilene community access to publishing artists. Clayton’s name was added to the series after his death.

About Christian Wiman

He is the author of three collections of poetry: Every Riven Thing (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010), Hard Night (Copper Canyon, 2005), and The Long Home (Copper Canyon, 2007).

Once in the West, his newest book of poetry, will be released September, 2014, from Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

Wiman has translated the poems of Osip Mendelstam (Stolen Air, Ecco, 2012) and has two books of essays: My Bright Abyss: Meditations of a Modern Believer (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2013), in its eighth printing and now available in paperback; and Ambition and Survival: Becoming a Poet (Copper Canyon, 2005).

His poems and personal essays appear widely in such magazines as The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, The New York Times Book Review, and The New Yorker.



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