I was a bad poet in 1998, but rather than hoist up that particular piñata, which I have whacked all to hell in my own head (no goodies therein!), let me concentrate on the differences.
I spent a decade discovering the whole notion of a formal imagination, learning to recognize it in what I read and trying to figure out what it meant that my nerves and my words were in some weird and potentially saving sync with each other. Then I spent another decade certain that the only authentic energy in art was the energy of absence, that even an aubade was made of pain. “Light writes white,” as the saying goes.
Then I got a tidal wave of real pain that tested all of my ideas pretty severely—and found them wanting. It wasn’t as if I had to relearn how to write poems. It was as if I had to finally deploy the whole arsenal, which includes abundance, extravagance, and inexplicable joy.
But are the poems actually better? I feel freed from having to worry about that. I take that freedom to be an act of authentic grace in my life, for which I am immensely grateful.
–Christian Wiman interviewed by Anthony Domestico in Commonweal Magazine