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Out of Silence, A Poem: Christian Wiman Reads “Every Riven Thing”

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Project 365 #141: 210510 ¡Hay Niebla!Photo by Pete/Flickr, cc by 2.0

Christian Wiman went almost three years, he says, without writing a poem. For most of us, this may seem inconsequential. For the editor of Poetry magazine and a man who has lived a poet’s life, this is a dramatic act — a shift in perspective brought on by an incurable cancer, hospitalization and surgeries and a bone marrow transplant.

Then, as a series of “dramatic things” happened to him, he broke his years of silence on the page with this poem revolving around “a kind of an Old Testament word meaning broken, sundered, torn apart.” The word? Riven.

In the audio at the top of this article, Christian Wiman explains a bit more about the poem and its shape. And, more importantly, he recites this powerful poem for all of us to hear and to share with others:

God goes, belonging to every riven thing he’s made 
sing his being simply by being 
the thing it is: 
stone and tree and sky, 
man who sees and sings and wonders why

God goes. Belonging, to every riven thing he’s made, 
means a storm of peace. 
Think of the atoms inside the stone. 
Think of the man who sits alone 
trying to will himself into a stillness where

God goes belonging. To every riven thing he’s made 
there is given one shade 
shaped exactly to the thing itself: 
under the tree a darker tree; 
under the man the only man to see

God goes belonging to every riven thing. He’s made 
the things that bring him near, 
made the mind that makes him go. 
A part of what man knows, 
apart from what man knows,

God goes belonging to every riven thing he’s made.

To hear more of Christian Wiman and his perspectives on poetry, writing, love, and death, listen to the On Being show “Remembering God.” It’s a powerful hour of radio.

"Every Riven Thing is from the book "Every Riven Thing" by Christian Wiman. Copyright © 2010 by Christian Wiman. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.

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