“For decades there has been a premium on language as subject,” says poet Christian Wiman. But recently poets are “trying to find some way of speaking of ‘ultimate things’ with some sort of credibility.”
Likely no culture has been so ignorant and contemptuous of place as is contemporary industrialized society. We may not even qualify as a culture, since that word generally connotes a form of social organization that connects people and places through time. By that criterion, industrialized society fails miserably.
It’s almost a job requirement for poets: accept the fact of being far removed from mainstream artistic culture. We poets are happy—ecstatic, really—to cultivate a few hundred thoughtful readers, and we have developed a thick skin toward the widely repeated remark that more people today write poetry than read it.
In a time when people are profoundly confused about fundamental identity issues and desperately trying to construct life as best they can, it is critical that pastors recover the poetic dimension of their ministries. What the congregation needs is not a strategist to help them form another plan for achieving a desired image of life, but a poet who looks beneath the desperation to recover the mystery of what it means to be made in God’s image.
I love living in a big city: the energy, the pace, the sirens. I love being able to walk or ride a bus to work, or catch a train to the airport. I love crowded sidewalks, tourists craning their necks to see skyscrapers, businesspeople with briefcases and iPods weaving their way through the maze of shoppers and lookers and dawdlers conferring over city maps.
This collection, winner of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for poetry, opens with “Theories of Time and Space,” a poem that alerts the reader to the territory under artistic surveillance. It begins with the lines: “You can get there from here, though / there’s no going home.