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This review is taken from PN Review 171, Volume 33 Number 1, September - October 2006.

HOME FICTIONS CHRISTIAN WIMAN, Hard Night (Copper Canyon Press) $14.00
ROSANNA WARREN , Departure (W.W. Norton) $13.95

 To depart means you have to have been somewhere and it is this sense of connection that Christian Wiman resolutely, even heroically, denies in Hard Night’sexistential elegies:
 

                                    How suddenly
 it can happen, a room lose
 solidity, the furniture permeable,
 walls gone granular
 as the light and nothing
 intact enough to withstand
 touch.
 

 As the room’s dissolve suggests, Wiman’s poems address the liminal state of bewilderment that we feel as the tenuousness of life, its insolidity, is revealed to us, especially at its end. Not surprisingly he has a death-watch series of poems (called ‘Night’s Thousand Shadows’), he hints at suicides, and there are at least two poems that refer to a night spent nakedly in the wilderness, a form of passive suicide presumably. His long poem ‘The Ice Storm’ refracts the old age of a marriage through the prism of a single afternoon as the housebound husband and wife separately hold at bay their differing senses of dislocation. He: ‘He looks up as if he’s heard a sound – / what was it called/that late-medieval game out of which gold evolved?’ She: ‘head bowed,/her face in pieces/on the table, she seems,/as she gathers and releases/a little storm of gleams/from her hands, to wield the sun she’s in.’ At the end, she thinks back to their courtship while he thinks about… nothing: ‘Let it go./Let the dead recede/into their names,/effect lie quiet with its cause./In the end,/what difference ...


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