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Christian Wiman '88: On the National Book Critics’ Shortlist

With his newest, and fourth, book of poems, Christian Wiman, a 1988 graduate of Washington and Lee University, is a finalist for the 2014 poetry award from the National Book Critics Circle.

The Farrar, Straus & Giroux website describes “Once in the West” as “intense and intimate as poetry gets—from the ‘suffering of primal silence’ that it plumbs to the ‘rockshriek of joy’ that it achieves and enables. Readers of Wiman’s earlier books will recognize the sharp characterizations and humor—’From her I learned the earthworm’s exemplary open-mindedness, / its engine of discriminate shit’—as well as his particular brand of reverent rage: ‘Lord if I implore you please just please leave me alone / is that a prayer that’s every instant answered?’ But there is something new here, too: moving love poems to his wife, tender glimpses of his children, and, amid the onslaughts of illness and fear and failures, ‘a trace / of peace.’ “

Christian, the editor of Poetry magazine from 2003 to 2013, teaches religion and literature at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music and Yale Divinity School.

We’ve blogged about Christian several times before, covering both his Guggenheim fellowship and his memoir, “My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer,” chronicling his struggles with cancer.

The National Book Critics Circle will present the awards on March 12 at the New School, New York City, in a free ceremony that is open to the public.