For most of us, expressing the ineffable is difficult because language is limiting. We can express profound depths of being but sometimes, words are inadequate, empty, and evoke frustration. For James Matthew Wilson, there are no limits to language and the words he chooses to depict a variety of religious and metaphysical experiences are most certainly not empty, and instead, they evoke contemplation. In his new collection of poetry, The Hanging God, Wilson explores the good, the beautiful, and the true but also the odd. In the midst of this ordered universe, Wilson's elaborate, complex, and graceful imagination offers us glimpses of human ugliness and peculiarities.
Poetry is an art form that is close to music because it doesn't give us that absolute answer that we are seeking to the myriad of existential questions that animate our lives. In fact, poetry does not necessarily pose any questions and if it does, they are purely incidental. Wilson's poems are not a series of logical equations (as much as they formally follow rhyme and meter) or philosophical inquiries (even though his poetry tends to invite them). And yet, the voice of the poet behind the stage seeks meaning in this strange world we live in, and what is more philosophical than that?
Most of the poems in this collection deal with, in one way or the other, being a witness—witness to ugliness, beauty, evil, good. At first glance (both from the title and the themes found in many of the poems), it would seem that they are all Christian or to be more precise, Catholic. And because of this that they are only made for a Catholic reader. But this is not the case.