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Survival Is a Style: Poems

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  159 ratings  ·  36 reviews
Survival Is a Style, Christian Wiman's first collection of new poems in six years, may be his best book yet. His many readers will recognize the musical and formal variety, the voice that can be tender and funny, credibly mystical and savagely skeptical. But there are many new notes in this collection as well, including a moving elegy to the poet's father, sharp observatio ...more
Hardcover, 112 pages
Published February 4th 2020 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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David Jordan
Jan 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Christian Wiman has been a favorite poet of mine for a while now, and it was with enthusiasm that I began reading this newest collection. I have occasionally wondered when I will next encounter a book of poetry from a beloved poet that will fail to meet my expectations and disappoint me with its failure to provide the satisfactory experience of previous collections. No such concerns were warranted in this instance. Survival Is a Style may possibly be my favorite of Wiman's works thus far. On sev ...more
Billy Jepma
Feb 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020, poetry
“In league with the stones of the field
I am by being healed.”

Everyone who knows me knows that I love Christian Wiman. His poetry and his prose resonates with me on a level few other writers can, and when asked who my favorite writer is—even though I read mostly fiction—I don’t hesitate to name him.

With his newest volume of poetry, his first one in years, Wiman’s signature struggles and adulations of faith, sickness, grief, and joy are more pronounced and nuanced than I think
Feb 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
The first time I saw Christian Wiman, he was in the middle of a reading of one of his poems, entitled ”Native,“ spitting out syllables with a rhythmic drawl, drawing the dramatic significance out of every word. Prior to that night, I‘d never heard any poet read his own work with such complete control over the tone and cadence of his voice.

This collection is about memory, grief, and unbelief. ”I need a space for unbelief to breathe,“ the poet admits in ”Prologue.“ When he says ”unbelief,“ I wish
Wiman examines Christian faith in the shadow of cancer. This is the third of his books that I’ve read; I’m consistently impressed by how he makes room for doubt, bitterness and irony, yet a flame of faith remains. Really interesting phrasing and vocabulary here.
Seth Thomas
Apr 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Another glorious, haunting collection.
Tim Hoiland
Jul 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020, poetry
Christian Wiman has done it again. These poems teeter on the brink of (un)belief, leaving me pondering their layered meanings. Like this: “The love of God is not a thing one comprehends /
but that by which – and only by which – one is comprehended.”
Crystal Hurd
Feb 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wiman is just so, so good. One of the finest poets I've encountered. I couldn't wait to get this book in the mail today; I gobbled it up like chocolate. ❤ ...more
Stephen Lamb
Feb 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
From The Parable of Perfect Silence:

People ask if I believe in God and the verb is tedious to me. / Not wrong, not offensive, not intrusive, not embarrassing. / Tedious.
Aaron Cohen
Mar 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Some startlingly touching/moving/thought-provoking poems in here.
Mar 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2020, poetry
Here’s one of my favorite poems of this book

A light store in the Bowery
by Christian Wiman

Some love is like a light store
you slip inside only to escape
the rain. Something to see, it turns out:
the plasma lamps, mosque and lava,
the elegant icicles of the chandeliers,
shapes and shades so insistently singular
that rooms can’t help but happen around them,
lives can’t help but acquire choices and chances
inside. Some love is like an old owner
who when a child walks in with her parents
can only imagine shatt
Jan 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2021, poetry
Wiman is a master of poetry’s sonic qualities and of bringing together fragments of existence and disjointed beauty in ways that always feel right, like they were meant to be seen that way all along.
May 15, 2020 added it
Shelves: poetry
I believe this is the first book of poetry I've read basically from cover to cover. (Dag Mammarskjold's Markings isn't quite poetry, but it took me a while.)

So, yea, all 90 pages consumed. Yet, I don't really think we are to consume poetry, like we do a novel. It's more like a bite you savor. And I'm not sure how well I've learned to savor. Some day - here's one of those bucket list aspirations - I'd love to take a poetry class and actually learn something about it. For now, no ratings can be g
R.W. Moore
Feb 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
One thing (of many) that makes Christian Wiman such a beautiful and meaningful voice, and in that, such a good poet, is his dedication to honesty (though at times cryptic and subtle). Good poets accept what they see and what they feel without worrying about it's tidyness or exposure, and those of us who get to read it are moved by those things, whether darkly or not.

It is in that regard that I give this book it's deserving five stars and recognize it as one that I'll keep handy through the year
Emily Magnus
Oct 22, 2020 rated it it was ok
I really truly wanted to love this one more than I did. I’ve read other Christian Wiman stuff in the past and let me tell ya there are some diamonds in the rough in terms of content. But it felt like most poems left me going “huh” vs. “mhm” (disclaimer: this could be due to a lack of my expansive vocabulary- lots of large words in these poems). It was refreshing to read more about the questioning of belief. It felt like Wiman weaved words upon what it means to stray away, question and be human. ...more
Matt Sheffield
Aug 22, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, 2020
Poetry can be frustrating when it just doesn't seem to make sense. When you re-read it and put effort into it and all you can do is say (outloud), "What!?" A lot of Wiman's poems are like that for me. But not all. And the consolation is that his poems read aloud are like candy on your lips. I still plan on reading Wiman's other works though.

(Update): Billy Collins' poem, "Introduction To Poetry" says, "I say...walk inside the poem's room and feel the walls for a light switch...But all they want
Mar 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Wiman's poems and prose have been such a comfort to me over the years. He is someone who weaves doubt, faith, beauty, and skepticism into something coherent. As with all my poetry reviews, here are my favorite lines:

"I need a space for unbelief to breathe. / I need a form for failure, since it is what I have."

"I for whom God is not entirely gone am moved to wonder again / at the relation between chemistry and consciousness."

"Skeptic / His eyes were open but his heart was shut. / At the edge of e
Jun 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Another striking collection from Wiman. The poems here are more laden with doubt and distance from God than his earlier collections. And yet, the collection feels very much of a piece with his earlier work, much like a miner who has delved deeper into the crevasse of the darkened corners of the life of faith. The last line of the last poem of the book--a partial reference to Job 5--ends the book on a hopeful note. Wiman may not know what to think about God, but his sense of reverence and peace w ...more
Matt Ely
Aug 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I think this is good to read alongside My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer, showing much of the poetic reflection of the themes and questions Wiman dealt with in prose in that book. There is a lot he can say in verse that can't be expressed otherwise. He's particularly good with his line breaks setting up and undermining expected narrative progressions. ...more
Michael Forsyth
Feb 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is the second book of poetry christian wiman wrote for me I guess thanks bro

To be serious though, this is a tour de force. Wiman is flexing in such magnificent ways in this wild, hilarious, rage-filled, sing-song journey through his relationship to his family, his faith, himself. And somehow conveys in this half-sing-songy (in no bad way) meter.

Powerful, profound. Must read.
Feb 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing
“Church or sermon, prayer or poem:
the failure of religious feeling is a form.”

Oh, man. Wiman guts me every time. Always lyrically brilliant and intellectually challenging, Survival is a Style is gorgeous, crass, tender, and searing. Reading his poetry is humbling in the best way. Highly recommend.
Apr 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
More cerebral than his previous couple collections. I might change this review once I read it a few more times, but after my first time reading it, that's my main impression.

Very solid, deep, and unflinching in its exploration of love, grief, and grace.
Claire James Carroll
Jun 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is beautiful and offers solace in one hand and sharp introspective critique in the other. Wiman uses language and faith as ever-present tools to help readers traverse love, whimsy, grief, and monotony. Will come back to this again and again.
Mar 08, 2021 rated it really liked it
A collection best described as questioning faith, relationships, and one’s purpose and place. Among my favorite poems are “I Don’t Want to Be a Spice Store”(great mentor text); “Prologue,” and “Sumner River Rosie Dam.”
Hailey Leithauser
Jan 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Excellent, moving poems, longer ones mixed in with short, mostly to do with faith, at times frighteningly good, one of the best poets writing today.
Feb 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
continually saying exactly what i need to hear:
"The poem is lonely, it intends another, and goes out toward her"
Mar 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
The Parable of Perfect silence, Wiman’s long poem for his father, was one to remember.
Sam Strickland
I’ll need some more time to process this poetry. This is only an initial read, but there are some exquisite lines within this book.
Christopher McCaffery
Apr 04, 2020 rated it it was ok
I found these mostly tedious, sadly. There are a few poems I enjoyed and very clever lines throughout. Wiman is best when he's not talking about God or how mopey he is, I think. ...more
Luke Gorham
Jun 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, 2020
On a purely linguistic level, the greatest working poet. Not even a competition.
Jun 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Very insightful.
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Christian Wiman is an American poet and editor born in 1966 and raised in West Texas. He graduated from Washington and Lee University and has taught at Northwestern University, Stanford University, Lynchburg College in Virginia, and the Prague School of Economics. In 2003 he became editor of the oldest American magazine of verse, Poetry.

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“To speak a thing one can’t conceive.
To live in the instant before this instant is.
To feel infinities going dark for this one light along your thigh.

— Christian Wiman, from “After a Lecture with my Love,” Survival is a Style: Poems (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2020)”
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