Blazing high style is how The New York Times describes the prose of Christian Wiman, the young editor transforming Poetry, the country's oldest literary magazine. Ambition and Survival is a collection of stirring personal essays and critical prose on a wide range of subjects: reading Milton in Guatemala, recalling violent episodes of his youth, and traveling in Africa with his eccentric father, as well as a series of penetrating essays on writers as diverse as Thomas Hardy and Janet Lewis. The book concludes with a portrait of Wiman's diagsis of a rare form of incurable and lethal cancer, and how mortality reignited his religious passions. When I was twenty years old I set out to be a poet. That sounds like I was a sort of frigate raising anchor, and in a way I guess I was, though susceptible to the lightest of winds. . . . When I read Samuel Johnson's comment that any young man could compensate for his poor education by reading five hours a day for five years, that's exactly what I tried to do, practically setting a timer every afteron to let me kw when the little egg of my brain was boiled. It's a small miracle that I didn't take to wearing a cape. Christian Wiman is the editor of Poetry magazine. His poems and essays appear regularly in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, and The New York Times Book Review.
Christian Wiman was born and raised in west Texas. His poetry and criticism appears widely in magazines, including The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, and Slate. His first book won the Nicholas Roerich Prize, and he has won the Ruth Lilly and Wallace Stegner Fellowships. He lives in Chicago, where he is the editor of Poetry magazine.