The Long Becoming

With Christian Wiman.

grayscale photo of a tree

When they asked the poet how he became one, he said, I’ve been wondering.

The assembly waited for more. There were follow-up questions, a discussion about certain ineffable qualities: a sense of life brought to bear in language. A sense that the density of life’s layers may be represented with a clarity of expression. The importance of having a capacity to suffer; to know and express grief without making a shrine to wonder.

Then the poet asked, what do you believe? If you don’t believe in poetry, you can’t write it. He tried to explain what happens when suddenly everything learned will no longer do; how over time, an original wound may become the site of roots for a larger life.

But how? They pressed, and he repeated, I wonder.


Notes while reading Christian Wiman’s Ambition and Survival: Becoming a Poet (2004, Copper Canyon Press).

Author: Stacey C. Johnson

I keep watch and listen, mostly in dark places.

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