Christian Wiman, editor
Yale University Press, 232 pages
Joy? One might blanch at the thought of poems on a subject that seems frivolous in the face of such suffering in the world. That’s understandable. The author himself is no stranger to personal suffering. That story is told in his memoir “My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer.” Here he takes up a bold exposition of joy through a selection of 100 poems collected from an array of poets. Along the way he admits joy is “that tired word … used to peddle soap and salvation, the word requires some rehabilitation.” What a beautiful work Wiman has done in rehabilitating joy as the perfect response to world of pain. His opening essay is a sublime testimony to the deep transformative experience of joy as told in poetry. He then unexpectedly presents a way forward with joy as a guide so that readers will not live frivolously, but rather boldly and courageously. These poems range across time and the poets across a wide expanse of experience. Wiman demonstrates in this collection the truth of what the theologian Jürgen Moltmann claimed: Compassion is the other side of joy. Perhaps poetry can return to the center of life as an essential spiritual practice for the living of these days. One can find plenty of food for the soul in this marvelous book.