The Landscape Of Loss

Andrew Sullivan —  Jan 25 2015 @ 6:21pm

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In an interview worth reading in full, the poet Christian Wiman explores how being raised in West Texas has shaped his thinking:

Loss is conspicuous in “Keynote”: “I had a dream of Elks, / antlerless but arousable all the same, // before whom I proclaimed the Void / and its paradoxical intoxicating joy.” The “infinities of fields” also bring a “satisfaction of a landscape / adequate to loss.” Did West Texas instigate this obsession of a recursive Void?

Addicted to loss? Maybe once, long ago. Then I got a good, deep miasmic draught of the real thing and have been nauseated ever since. But the connection between that landscape and loss is, for me, quite real. I wrote a novel once (it died in a drawer) in which a character says that the landscape of West Texas is a terrible landscape for depression, which is a “moist” emotion (she’s a psychiatrist). The desert just crushes that, makes it seem somehow impossible. Grief, though, has its place in such emptiness, that endless sense of something missing—God, for instance. You wonder why there’s so many right-wing wing-nuts grieving God in the deserts of the world (righteous wrath is simply the fumes of unacknowledged grief). I’ve solved the quandary, I tell you.

Subscribers can read our Deep Dish essay on Wiman here, and listen to a podcast with him here.

(Image from Edward Musiak)