Seven years ago, Christian Wiman, a well-known poet and the editor of Poetry magazine, wrote a now-famous essay about having faith in the face of death. My Bright Abyss, composed in the difficult years since and completed in the wake of a bone marrow transplant, is a moving meditation on what a viable contemporary faith—responsive not only to modern thought and science but also to religious tradition—might look like.
Joyful, sorrowful, and beautifully written, My Bright Abyss is destined to become a spiritual classic, useful not only to believers but to anyone whose experience of life and art seems at times to overbrim its boundaries. How do we answer this "burn of being"? Wiman asks. What might it mean for our lives—and for our deaths—if we acknowledge the "insistent, persistent ghost" that some of us call God?
One of Publishers Weekly's Best Religion Books of 2013
Wiman offers urgent thoughts on faith and doubt from the foxhole of mortality. Not that many years ago, the poet (Every Riven Thing) and editor of Poetry magazine was diagnosed with a rare cancer. This book of essays springboards from a much talked about 2007 essay that laid out his condition, his dark night of the soul, and his reawakening faith. Like Jacob, Wiman wrestles with that which he will not release until he is blessed and in fact he was, his cancer apparently in remission. Readers are blessed with the fruit of Wiman's pain, doubt, and poetic rumination. His exquisite essays have the intimate but choppy feel at times of journal entries, drawn from the deep and refined by a wordsmith, but nonetheless fragments shored against his ruin. A rare bird who flies between religious and secular literary worlds, Wiman may well be the successor to Gerard Manley Hopkins. If you love poetry, the poet will have you in his preface, at "that burn of being that drives us out of ourselves." This would make a beautiful gift for someone who is serious and seriously ill.