Writing Life and Death

May 15, 2012

Christian Wiman is a poet and editor of Poetry Magazine. In his latest book of poems, Every Riven Thing, he explores life, death, love and faith. He and Jim Fleming wander the same territory wonderful interview.

You can hear more readings from the book, and Wiman's UNCUT conversation with Jim here.  



My husband and I both had each had 2 bouts with cancer. On my last cancer--uterine) about 3 yr. ago, I wrote my way through the ordeal. Then last year my husband got pancreatic cancer. It went so fast--6 weeks and he was gone. During this short time, I wrote my way through it again and through this last year of grief. But I was so devastated, all I could get out were the 17 syllables of a haiku. As I would sit waiting in the hospital, waiting for the doctor, waiting for the treatment, waiting for the injections---I could only think that far. I wrote some of them on my phone, on shopping lists, on cards stuck in waiting room magazines. I would send them out to friends each night after I gave Jack his last nightly med and sat at the computer. After he was gone, I still couldn't get much more out than the daily haiku but by this time, they were a mental release for me as I cooked a meal, cried, walked. I recorded the words on the phone sometimes. My fingers counted syllables. One year ago today, and I finally could write a lengthy poem. The poems written this last year have become fewer and fewer as my grief was written out.