Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Every Riven Thing: Poems by Christian Wiman

Every Riven Thing is the third collection of poetry by Christian Wiman, and it offers a stark yet humble view of the world. I loved the words but the structure of the poems, their rigid form and the fact that they often rhyme, just didn't quite click with me. Although I am not very familiar with traditional poetic forms, it seems evident that is where Wiman drew his inspiration for format if not content. My favourite poems are the ones that seems to step outside the boundaries Wiman has seemed to have set and have a stronger sense of random chaos instead of strict outlines.

This is not a happy collection, the poems deal mostly with sickness and death, for example in "Not Altogether Gone" Wiman writes:
"When there is nothing left to curse
you can curse nothing
but when there is nothing left to love
the heart eats inward and inward its own need
for release..."
His portrait of the world is dismal and grave, and yet the poems are connected by their underlying faith and belief in God which at times seems at odds with the dreary images Wiman presents. Although whether or not such a God exists remains unclear, and even if God does exist, in "Hammer is the Prayer" Wiman writes that
"There is no consolation in the thought of God."
One of the main questions Every Riven Thing brought to my mind was, how is one to deal with the desolate world if God is not there? I found comfort in the idea of God being unknowable, such as in "Gone for the Day, She is the Day"
"Sometimes one has the sense
that to say the name
God is a great betrayal,
but whether one is betraying
God, language, or one's self
is harder to say."
This stanza provides a clear glimpse into Wiman's world, one filled with darkness and confusion, but ultimately also with faith. Whether or not it is an assessment the reader agrees with is a personal decision.  For me, Every Riven Thing lacked the literary power I had hoped for, and I often felt as if the traditional formats of the poems diminished their ability to strike into the heart of the reader- the poems felt clearly structured rather than an outburst of chaotic emotion. Every Riven Thing deals with religion and faith, as well as the dilemmas those themes present, but for such a tempestuous topic the collection was ultimately a little too well-mannered for me.

Number of Pages: 93 pages
Published: November 2010 
Source: Publisher
Buy it  


  1. Very cool to read a poetry review! I also feel form can be distancing for readers--when modern poets cast away form for free verse, it was like they were finally given permission to be completely free and unbound by expectation. Going back to form as a contemporary poet would drive me crazy!

  2. wow this guy was really dark...I feel for him I wish he could have been a happier person...You have a very nice review of him here...Keep up the great work...


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