Interview with Christian Wiman
Andy Kuhn: For the past eight or ten years you have been living at a pitch of intensity—and writing out of it and writing about it, in poetry and prose—that few people could sustain even for a fraction of that time. During a period of increasing worldly success, you describe having had an almost Dante-like experience of realizing that you had lost your way, lost connection with whatever had given meaning to life and to writing poetry for you. Then, in relatively quick succession, you fell in love, learned that you had an incurable cancer, and were, for want of a better term, born again into the Christian religion. In essays you have reflected eloquently and movingly on these personal transformations. Could you say a little about how they have changed your experience of poetry—the place it has in your life, the meanings available to you through engagement with it?
Christian Wiman: Honestly, my relationship with poetry is as fraught and conflicted as ever. I want it to leave me alone, I want to be possessed by it. I want to be known as a poet, I want to be anonymous. If I look back at the poems in my first two books, it seems clear that very little has changed in terms of intensity and even subject matter: even then I was obsessed with transcendence, obsessed with God. I would say that now I don’t rely on poetry for all of the meaning in my life, which of course it can’t provide. That has eased the mental strain somewhat and opened me up to different tones and subjects. But poetry remains the dark matter of my life.