Zero at the Bone: Fifty Entries Against Despair

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Christian Wiman braids poetry, memoir, and criticism to create an inspired, career-defining work.

Few contemporary writers ask the questions about faith, morality, and God that Christian Wiman does, and even fewer--perhaps none--do so with his urgency and eloquence. Wiman, the author of My Bright Abyss and an award-winning poet, lays the motion of his mind on the page in this genre-defying work, an indivisible blend of poetry, criticism, theology, and searing memoir. As Marilynne Robinson wrote, "[Wiman's] poetry and his scholarship have a purifying urgency that is rare in this world . . . It enables him to say new things in timeless language, so that the reader's surprise and assent are one and the same."

Zero at the Bone begins with Wiman's preoccupation with despair, and through fifty brief pieces, framed by two more, he unravels its seductive appeal. The book is studded with the poetry and prose of writers who inhabit Wiman's thoughts, and the voices of Wallace Stevens, Lucille Clifton, Emily Dickinson, and more join his own. At its heart and Wiman's, however, are his family--his young children (who ask their own invaluable questions, like "Why are you a poet? I mean why?"), his wife, and those he grew up with in West Texas. Wiman is the rare thinker who takes up the mantle of our greatest mystics and does so with an honest, profound, and contemporary sensibility. Zero at the Bone is a revelation.

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