Thursday, October 18, 2012

Christian Wiman

Lately I have been drawn to writing poems that deal with faith . . . and doubt. So, it was with deep pleasure and compassion that I listened to this Bill Moyers' interview with Christian Wiman, poet and editor of Poetry Magazine. Mr. Wiman speaks profoundly about faith, doubt, pain, death, and poetry, and I cannot recommend this interview enough. Take a listen.


  1. I started listening, but he immediately said, "It is a mistake for poets to give up on faith."
    Well lots of poets never had religious faith or other faith, and many have given up. He is judging them as making a mistake. Honest, though he may be, he is doing the classic thing of saying, "This worked for me, it should work for everyone else." Such is the religious mind set.

    I couldn't listen further -- of course, I am a nonbeliever [though I use to be a fervent one.].

  2. Sabio, thanks at least for trying to listen. I can understand how this might have rubbed you the wrong way. I won't ask to to give it another try, but I will say that keying in on this one statement does not give a complete picture of what Christian is trying to communicate. Obviously his faith is very important to him, both in his life and his writing, but he also is very open about his struggles with doubt. I think his words are more meaningful for those who have this mixture of doubt and faith, and because of the difficulty of the daily struggle between the two give up on faith. Someone with a certain, staunch, (religious?!?!) unbelief does not know the struggle he speaks of, just as someone with unshakable faith would also not really know what he is talking about. Anyway, thanks again for trying out the interview, and for your honesty in expressing your dislike. I'm sorry it was a poor fit for you.

  3. @ Nico:
    Yeah, it was a hour too.
    I use to have a mixture of doubt and faith and then got clearer on what I had faith on. "Faith" by itself must have an object.
    To have awe, wonder, pleasure, sacrifice, surrender and openness -- all this is possible with out religion, thoughts of a divine, thoughts of god or oneness or any such thing. But the temptation to package and simplify is overwhelmingly human, I agree.
    Staunch unbelief can be very useful -- if one is clear about exactly a belief is suppose to imply. Speaking in vague terms will never further communication in this realm.

    1. Well, his segment was only a half hour, but again I understand your reluctance.

      The problem I have with staunch unbelief is the same problem I have with staunch belief--both seem far too certain about things that, to my feeble understanding and limited experience, can only be relatively certain. And both sides of fundamentalists are far too willing to dismiss the other as less intelligent, self-deceived, inherently evil, etc. because they cannot bring themselves to see things the way the other sees things. Real conversation (that is, conversation that is more than just argument and dogmatic assertion) is impossible with fundamentalists of any stripe, whether the fundamentalism reveals itself in religious belief or atheism. I should add, I welcome your presence here because I feel an authentic desire for conversation in you, not a desire to argue.

      Anyway, I've been ill the past few days so I may not be making any sense at all. If so, disregard and I'll try to get back in the swing of things later on!