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Every Riven Thing: Poems

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  735 ratings  ·  102 reviews
A vibrant new collection from one of America's most talented young poets

Every Riven Thing is Christian Wiman’s first collection in seven years, and rarely has a book of poetry so borne the stamp of necessity. Whether in stark, haiku-like descriptions of a cancer ward, surrealistic depictions of a social order coming apart, or fluent, defiant outpourings of praise, Wiman pu
Hardcover, 112 pages
Published November 9th 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Average rating 4.31  · 
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 ·  735 ratings  ·  102 reviews

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Jesse Broussard
Apr 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: world-class, poetry

Cautions first: some language. Basically, here's a litmus test: if you can spend ten minutes in a store decorated by Thomas Kinkade without wanting to put a chair or small person through a wall, you may not like this book. If you can have a sober, intelligent conversation with a man about his imminent death and remain unaffected by it, you will be unimpressed. If you use the English language to convey points the way the federal government uses money to fix the public school system (just use
Annalise Nakoneczny
Sep 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
I read the majority of these out loud to myself, and every word sounded good coming out of my mouth. 10/10 would recommend.
Aug 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I got Every Riven Thing: Poems along with three other slim poetry volumes from Farrar, Strauss from a newspaper colleague of mine who had no intention of reviewing them. I read two others first, and didn’t like them much at all, so I put this aside and it’s only an accident I ever picked it up again, especially with such a foreboding cover. But it is great poetry. I loved it. Beautiful words, beautiful syntax, and also solemn and serious, even though the rhyme and rhythm make it playful at times ...more
Jun 01, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Earlier on, I was prepared to rate this higher. Some of the earlier poems just blew me away. But then I hit a patch of WTF poems that left me clueless ("Do You Remember the Rude Nudists"?). In particular, I had issues with "The Reservoir," which I read several times. It seems like it's meant to be a significant poem in the collection, but I just couldn't crack it. Part of this frustrated reading is on me, since I've just finished a stretch where I've had to read a lot of poetry for a poetry jour ...more
Soren Johnson
Aug 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
It is easy to sense - aside from roughly contemporaneous publishing dates - that this work is a concurrent meditation with Wiman's memoir "My Bright Abyss," albeit from the purely poetic. There are numerous poems explicitly dealing with Wiman's bout with cancer and his feelings toward death in general. A poignant tension arises between terrestrial suffering and the hope - or terror - transcendent involvement accords to life. For Wiman, eternity is at times a "dirty word," and at others, the only ...more
Jenni Simmons
Nov 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, to-reread
"Lord, suffer me to sing / these wounds by which I am made / and marred, savor this creature / whose aloneness you ease and are."

I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
Feb 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Christian Wiman is one of my favorite poets. Every riven thing he does is magic.
Pragyan Pradhan
"When there is nothing left to curse
you can curse nothing
but when there is nothing left to love
the heart eats inward and inward its own need
for release..."

"O my life my war in a jar
I shake you and shake you
and may the best ant win"
Dec 04, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Some questions for Christian Wiman, editor of Poetry magazine and author of the poetry book, Every Riven Thing (among others!)
(From Gapers Block:

GB: The definition of “riven” is “to wrench open,” “tear apart or to pieces,” or “to split with force.” Obviously, the book’s title, Every Riven Thing, could describe your diagnosis of an incurable cancer tearing apart your life, but after reading the poems, I also feel that the diagnosis might have split open y
Sep 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is a really interesting collection because I loved it at times, thought it was average at others, and then totally amazing for the last four or five poems. Many of these poems contain lines which are extraordinarily beautiful but add up to wholes which are abstract and frequently difficult to get a handle on. But when Wiman is on, he pens some exquisite lines, like these, at the book's end:

To love is to feel your death
given to you like a sentence,
to meet the judge's eyes
as if there were a j
Jan 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
“To believe is to believe you have been torn/from the abyss, yet stand waveringly on its rim..."

I had the pleasure of hearing Christian Wiman speak last year. In my notes from his lecture, I scribbled, parenthetically, "He has the cadences of a Texas preacher."

Wiman is Texan, and his first name is a clear reference to his personal belief system, but he breaks the stereotypes that may accompany him. He is wise and sophisticated and funny and deep. And these are raw, heartbreaking poems: about pe
Aug 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: we-own, poetry
A stunner. Wiman's poetry reads almost like a masculine version of Emily Dickinson's, studded with rage and devastation and fierce will. His faith and his depth of seeing are complicated and bracing. And the world and Christianity both, it seems to me, are in dire need of so mature and apprehending a voice.
Caroline Guidry
Aug 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Moving, beautiful, intellectual, tearful, lovely, powerful.
Feb 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, own
The three words I would pick to describe this collection: elegant, devastating, revelatory.
This is definitely one of those collections I would have never appreciated had I read it on my own. Studying this for class, though, helped me understand the poems more and gave me a greater appreciation for Wiman's work. This is one of the better modern poetry collections I've read this year.
Apr 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Great poems about cancer, nature, God. Tough subjects to explore, tackle, slay, adore.
tonia peckover
Oct 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
I wish these poems were easier. I wish it wasn't so obvious that Wiman is wrestling with God for his life (literally). I wish he didn't have to be so stripped down and his bones and his blood weren't showing. But I'm so grateful he wrote them.
Jun 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, favorites
Damn. He good.

The title poem is a syntactic marvel, and he's a madman with sonic effects ("He wrung/ from time a time to vanish/ back into the sheer/ shells and the strict mesquites, the heat-cracked/ creekbed and the needless weeds"). But technical virtuosity (as a long string of 80s metal guitarists will tell you) only gets you so far, and this collection has the emotional heft to balance his exercises in form.

Wiman's collection is riddled with images of people on the edge, people hanging on
Joel Zartman
There are several things to say about this book:

One is that there is a value in reading modern poetry when it is good: it helps us with living in modern times. In what way? In finding meaning in modern waiting rooms, clinical procedures, traffic and such. You can go through all these activities without any reflection, you can go through them with your own reflections, and you can go through them enriched not only by your own reflections but those of people who have searched for meaning in things
LeeAnn Derdeyn
Jul 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I have recently read the galley of Christian Wiman's Every Riven Thing that comes out from FSG in November and it is beautiful. Lyrical, with many of the same topoi that Wiman has done so well previously in both his poetry & prose -- austere glimpses of his West Texas upbringing; sophisticated commentary on his cosmopolitan & urbane lifestyle: a new love and late first marriage, a high profile job; the inevitable intrusions of the painful realities of an ailing parent, an incurable disease, a fu ...more
Nov 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I can already see and feel these poems sifting their way into daily life. Wiman's voice does a TARDIS on me no matter what page I open to — in the span of a few words, I am elsewhere, smelling smells and hearing sounds and feeling something I was not feeling three seconds before.

It's not that I want to be in a forever relationship with every one of these poems. Every now and again his kickers, to use a blunt-instrument term, irritate the crap out of me. I think it's because I find myself so tra
Dec 03, 2010 rated it liked it
This one is a hard one, because it's so far outside the range of my preferred poetry interests: it is, fairly explicitly, a contemporary collection of Christian poetry, and it also rhymes a lot, or at least uses a lot of formal constraints. I personally don't care much for spiritual crises or rhyme, so I feel like I'm maybe the worst possible audience for this.

Which is not to minimize Wiman's obvious accomplishments: the rhythms here are tight and keep the poems lively. One of the books sections
Jan 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I don't normally tumble into poetry books like I do novels. A book of poetry is something I read haltingly, picking up and then putting down, jotting down my favorites for safe keeping along the way. Sometimes I find something I love and I stop reading for a while, so I can savor that one perfect image or line, and let that discovery color my day.

This one was different. It sucked me in as if it had a plot and had me a little breathless, turning the pages and letting the whole thing crash over me
Jan 05, 2014 rated it liked it
There are some amazing poems in here, a few snorers where I was thinking I had seen the same sentiment expressed better in prose, and a few where I had no clue what he was talking about. The poem about WalMart was worth the read and hit the consumer culture right where it hurts, in the pharmaceutical section that is.
Apr 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Five stars given
For an education in inspiration
Calling forth latent desires
Turning them into notes on a phone
Or an app purchased just for writing
Shitty first drafts

Antonymous expression
Of fatal frustration
Like a book I read recently
On Mortality
Not less fatalistic
Just less clenching of eyes and heart
And more open to doubt
Oct 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first section was so good that I ploughed through the second and third. This was a mistake, for the remainder of the book is different in subject, form, and tone. I'll try it again sometime, more slowly. But I'll reread the first section again tomorrow, which is more than worth the price of the book.

Update: Just reread the first section, better than the first time.
Nov 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
the Title poem is my favorite. I love everything and ponder Wiman.. always rich
Mar 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I don't like to "review" poetry books.
Jul 25, 2013 rated it liked it
Some of the poems were unbelievable. Several I couldn't get into. Reading the book out loud helps to get the full experience. Really liked "Small prayer in a hard wind."
Dec 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I wrote a review of this book for TriQuarterly. Here's the link:
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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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“And I Said To My Soul, Be Loud

Madden me back to an afternoon
I carry in me
not like a wound
but like a will against a wound

Give me again enough man
to be the child
choosing my own annihilations

To make of this severed limb
a wand to conjure
a weapon to shatter
dark matter of the dirt daubers' nests
galaxies of glass

Whacking glints
bash-dancing on the cellar's fire
I am the sound the sun would make
if the sun could make a sound

and the gasp of rot
stabbed from the compost's lumpen living death
is me

O my life my war in a jar
I shake you and shake you
and may the best ant win

For I am come a whirlwind of wasted things
and I will ride this tantrum back to God

until my fixed self, my fluorescent self
my grief–nibbling, unbewildered, wall–to–wall self
withers in me like a salted slug”
“For I am come a whirlwind of wasted things
and I will ride this tantrum back to God”
More quotes…