Order out of Chaos


Christian Wiman

Christian Wiman

Christian Wiman fascinates me, I am not going to lie: From his chiseled, handsome good looks, to his overwhelming good fortune, both in writing and in, well, actual fortune he is like some modern day Shakespeare.

I am lady gaga over this guy. I cannot actually get enough. Every time I read something he has written I wish I still had not read it so I could read it again for the first time. Just to feel that way again like I did when I read “The Limit,” all virginy and unprepared for this monster…

Even his violent tendencies and his poetic flares of hatred and disgust, even his crass and loathsome Bukowski like (misogynistic) moments I find touching and tender and I want to bandage his wounds with my hair. It is so disgusting; I know.

But I love him.

So anything he says I hang on, like some little drop of dew, quivering on a blade of grass.

In the chapter, “An idea of order” from “Ambition and Survival: Becoming a Poet,” he contends that “works […] exhibit[ing] the greatest degree of formal coherence, the greatest sense of closure, [is where] a reader may experience, and thereby more likely endure, the most intense anxiety and uncertainty” (95).

No one could convince me of that until Christian came along. Christian says it and I am like, “Yeah.”

“From now on,” I think,  “I’ll write nothing but form.”

I crave to make people anxious with formality. Who knew?

Of course the essay is quite serious. I found myself paying heaps of attention suddenly to the Auden essay on Tennyson that portends, according to Christian, that “poets who confuse art and life often make a mess of both” (98). But Christian is quick to point out that the line need not be so distinct.

In fact he goes onto say that “artists make art precisely because they feel some sort of absence or incoherence in their lives” (98) and this is where for me, the argument really starts making the most sense in terms of why poets might choose for the sake of themselves, for the sake of healing that which is broken, to encase themselves in something that will allow the healing to take place.

“Some poets survive as turtles survive, by pulling their extremities in” (97).

It’s so simple, but like he says in the beginning of the essay, “poets and critics almost automatically distrust any work that exhibits formal coherence, stylistic finish and closure” (94).

I myself have recently admitted that closure may be for amateurs, but in my defense I was speaking of love, not poetry. And certainly Christian makes a fine argument for why poetry (art) may be the exact and only place where a person can find order in chaos.

He makes a strong argument that art should not imitate life, but art should make life more explainable.

We live fractured, why must our work be that way?

Christian is asking that in this essay, and I cannot think of any argument against it. But of course, why would I argue with a man I love?


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  1. #1 by jess on February 5, 2010 - 8:42 pm

    hmm…i shall check him out.

    I have never been one for poetry, I think it has to do with my impartial ADD and my unwillingness to try to let it set in my brain.

    finding order in chaos…i like that. you have me sold.

    • #2 by La La on February 7, 2010 - 11:45 pm

      After you read some of his stuff, let me know what you think! pretty please

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