Christian Wiman, Once in the West, Sungone Noon, We Lived

CT ct-prj-christian-wiman06.jpg

Currently, I am reading a book of poems written by contemporary poet Christian Wiman. He has titled the collection, Once in the West. This is my first real experience with contemporary poetry, and I am glad I have entrusted myself to Wiman. The book of poems, with the exception of the introductory poem entitle “Prayer,” is separated into three parts: “Sungone Noon,” “My Stop is Grand,” and “More Like the Stars.” I have just finished the first part, and I wish to quote one poem from this group of poems:

We Lived

We lived in the long intolerable called God.

We seemed happy.

I don’t mean content I mean heroin happy

donkey dentures,

I mean drycleaned deacons expunging suffering

from Calcutta with the cut of their jaws

I mean the always alto and surely anusless angels

divvying up the deviled eggs and jello salad in the after-rapture

I mean

to be mean.

Dear Lord forgive the love I have

for you and your fervent servants.

I have so long sojourned Lord

among the mild ironies and tolerable gods

that what comes first to mind

when I’m of a mind to witness

is muriatic acid

eating through the veins

of one whose pains were so great

she wanted only out, Lord, out.

She too worshipped you

She too popped her little pill of soul.

Lord if I implore you please just please leave me alone

is that a prayer that’s every instant answered?

I remember one Wednesday witness told of a time

his smack-freaked friends lashed him

to the back of a Brahman bull that bucked and shook

until the great bleeding wings the man’s collarbones

exploded out of his skin.

Long pause.

“It was then,” the man said, “right then…”

Yes. And how long before that man-


began his ruinous and (one would guess) Holy Spirit-less affair?

At what point did this poem abandon

even the pretense of prayer?

Imagine a man alive in the long intolerable time

made of nothing but rut and rot,

a wormward gaze

even to his days’ sudden heavens.

There is the suffering existence answers:

it carves from cheeks and choices the faces

we in fact are,

and there is the suffering of primal silence,

which seeps and drifts like a long fog

that when it lifts

leaves nothing

but the same poor sod.

Dear God –

Gilead, Part I, Prayer and Writing

I will be making a record of influential excerpts from Marilynne Robinson’s novel, Gilead. This book is itself a long letter from a father (John Ames) to his son. John Ames is a pastor, a son of a pastor, and a grandson of a pastor.

Part 1, Prayer and Writing:

For me writing has always felt like praying, even when I wasn’t writing prayers, as I was often enough. You feel that you are with someone. I feel I am with you now, whatever that can mean, considering that you’re only a little fellow now and when you’re a man you might find these letters of no interest. Or they might never reach you, for any number of reasons. Well, but how deeply I regret any sadness you have suffered and how grateful I am in anticipation of any good you have enjoyed. That is to say, I pray for you. And there’s an intimacy in it. That’s the truth.

(p. 19)

Irving Penn

In preparation for my Senior Thesis Project, I have begun to study the work of great photographers. I began this exploration by looking into the photographs of Irving Penn, a 20th Century photographer, mainly famous for working for Vogue Magazine.

I just finished looking through a book of Penn’s photographs: Beyond Beauty, a collection of Penn’s photographs amassed and organized by Merry A. Forresta. I will of course study his photographs in more detail within the next year-year and a half. But for now, I wanted to select several photographs that stood out to me explain why.

  • Veiled Face (Evelyn Tripp), New York, 1949


[I enjoy this photograph for a few reasons. First, the light source is behind the subject (Evelyn Tripp), relative to the camera. In my opinion, the copy of the picture in the book I purchased (Beyond Beauty), the light source has a greater effect on the subject of the photograph. It is nonetheless captured in this version of the photograph. The invasion of that light gives the photograph an ethereal character, and increases the contrast. Another reason I noted this photo lies in Tripp’s left eye looking toward the onlooker as only her profile is captured. This adds mystery to the composition of the photograph.]

  • Cecil Beaton, London, 1950


[A friend of mine who takes photographs said that portraiture can tell a story like no other form of photography because the human face naturally tells its story (this is not verbatim). I might agree. This is what drew me to this picture of Cecil Beaton (another photographer). Beaton’s countenance and wears invited me to imagine the story behind this man’s life.]

  • Cretan Landscape, 1964


[This photograph communicates to me, above anything else, motion. Capturing motion in a photograph can be difficult, considering that it is in the nature of a photo to be still. Nevertheless, Irving Penn does it so well. Yes, it’s blurry – but that is part of the intrigue. Like literature, music, and other forms of art, what draws me to it is its ability to take me somewhere. this photo does that for me.]

  • Single Oriental Poppy, New York, 1968


[I love this photograph for mainly two reasons. First, this shows Penn’s eye for texture. Texture might be what I seek most in a photograph. Second, Penn creates an increasingly beautiful photograph with a dead poppy – something that might be considered ugly or broken.]

  • Mouth (for L’Oreal), New York, 1986


[This photo, along with previous photo and the following photo, shows Penn’s talent for finding and displaying different textures. Here you see the smooth skin, as well as the short soft hairs of the model’s face. Then you see the painted texture on the lips. The contrast not only displays itself via texture, but also via color. The viewer sees the white-painted face in contrast to the eight or so differing lip cosmetics.]

  • Issey Miyake Fashion: White and Black, New York, 1990


[Lastly, this photo from 1990 combines three of my previous favorite pictures. Like the picture of Evelyn Tripp with the veil, this picture contains a woman with one eye showing. Second, this picture details an interesting texture, as the poppy and the mouth photos – the dress looks both stiff and free-flowing. Third, this motionless photo capture motion magnificently, as in the picture of the Cretan landscape.]

The History of Philosophy

Since I am currently reading The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius, I have been thinking about my experience with primary philosophical texts. I would like to record here what I have read, and what most interests me to read soon. I am recording entire texts. I will not consider something like Nicomachean Ethics, since I have only read books 8 and 9. I will include books that some might argue are not “in the realm of Philosophy.” I am claiming, then, that they do belong in the realm of Philosophy.

Books of Philosophy I have read:

  • Classical/Ancient
    • Apology by Plato
    • Crito by Plato
    • Euthyphro by Plato
    • Lysis by Plato
    • Less  by Plato
    • Parmenides by Plato
    • Phaedo by Plato
    • Republic by Plato
    • Theaetetus by Plato
    • Poetics by Aristotle
  • Late Classical/Early Medieval
    • Confessions by Augustine
    • The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius (currently reading)
  • Modern
    • Training in Christianity by Søren Kierkegaard

I am currently reading The Consolation of Philosophy. In the coming semester I will read and translate On the Nature of Things by Lucretius, as well as acquainting myself with the major modern philosophers (most likely Descartes, Spinoza, Locke, Leibniz, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant). Yet, these are the books of Philosophy I am most interested in (I am choosing one book of Philosophy for each of the four eras I have identified – there are other works I want to read):

  • Classical/Ancient
    • Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle
  • Late Classical/Early Medieval
    • City of God by Augustine
  • Medieval
    • Summa Theologiae by Thomas Aquinas
  • Modern
    • The Sickness Unto Death by Søren Kierkegaard


Since it is now Christmas break for me, I have been able to watch a movie or two with my free time. This is encouraged me to compile a list of my favorite movies. These are some of my favorite films that I have watched:

Honorable Mention: The Revenant (Alejandro Inarritu, 2015)

29 #Strafford APTS

The second song from Bon Iver’s third album, 22, A Million, that I am posting about is ’29 #Strafford APTS. This song includes a sort of ‘breaking up’ of vocals effect throughout the song, especially in the third and final chorus.

Sharing smoke
In the stair up off the hot car lot
Sun shine hard on the video spot
Hm, mm, mm, mm
Sure as any living dream
It’s not all then what it seems
And the whole thing’s hauled away

A womb
An empty robe
You’re rolling up
You’re holding it
You’re fabric now


Hallucinating Claire
Nor the snow shoe light or the autumns

Threw the meaning out the door
(Now could you be a friend)
There ain’t no meaning anymore
(Come and kiss me here again)

A womb
An empty robe
You’re rolling up
You’re holding out
You’re bent prize


Motor up and yeah, you’re own, ooh
And yeah you’re on your own

(Marijuana has you talkin’…)

Fold the map and mend the gap
And I tow the word companion
And I make my self escape

Oh, the multitude of other
It comes always off the page

I hold the note
You wrote and know
You’ve buried all your alimony butterflies

Sub find
Some night

[see Genius]

This is how the lyrics appear in the album’s booklet:


One thing that I noticed when returning to this song and it’s lyrics was how this album has a major thematic shift. On the one hand, Bon Iver’s previous albums, especially his second album (see the track-listing), focused on places. On the other hand, this album seems to focus on people, on the other – see the third and final verse (“Oh, the multitude of other”).

As You Like It


William Blake, Jacques and the Wounded Stag

As You Like It is one of Shakespeare’s more sophisticated, “calm,” and conversational plays. It is sort of a perplexing play to read.

I will pick out a passage from this play that impressed upon me. It is a speech by the melancholy traveller, Jacques.

All the world’s a stage

And all the men and women merely players:

They have their exits and their entrances

And one man in his time plays many parts,

His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,

Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms;

Then the whining schoolboy with his satchel

And shining morning face, creeping like snail

Unwillingly to school; and then the lover,

Sighing like a furnace, with a woeful ballad

Made to his mistress’ eyebrow; then a soldier,

Full of strange oaths and bearded like a pard,

Jealous in honour, sudden, and quick in quarrel,

Seeking the bubble ‘reputation’

Even in the cannon’s mouth; and then the justice,

In fair round belly with good capon lined,

With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,

Full of wise saws and modern instances –

And so he plays his part; the sixth age shifts

Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,

With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,

His youthful hose well saved – a world too wide

For his shrunk shank – and his big manly voice,

Turning again toward childish treble, pipes

And whistles in his sound; last scene of all

That ends this strange eventful history

Is second childishness and mere oblivion,

Sans* teach, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

(William Shakespeare, As You Like It, 2.7.139-166)


  • Act I
    • Scene 1: Older Brother, Younger Brother
    • Scene 2: Wrestling
    • Scene 3: A Banishment and a Plan
  • Act II
    • Scene 1: The Banished Duke and the Dying Stag
    • Scene 2: To Find the Missing
    • Scene 3: A Rumour of Burning the House
    • Scene 4: Rosalind et. al. in Arden
    • Scene 5: Songs
    • Scene 6: Orlando and Adam in Arden
    • Scene 7: The Kindness of the Banished
  • Act III
    • Scene 1: To Look for Orlando
    • Scene 2: A Tree Poet
    • Scene 3: Love Poems
    • Scene 4: Honesty or Beauty
    • Scene 5: Still Disguised
    • Scene 6: Silvius and Pheobe
  • Act IV
    • Scene 1: A Practice Marriage
    • Scene 2: A Hunted Deer
    • Scene 3: The Bloody Napkin
  • Act V
    • Scene 1: Who Will Marry Audrey?
    • Scene 2: Ganymede’s Promise
    • Scene 3: The Pages’ Song
    • Scene 4: The Wedlock Hymn
  • Epilogue: As It Pleases You