The English depart­ment’s Vis­iting Writers Program brought Christian Wiman to campus Sept. 12 and 13 | Courtesy Christian Wiman

He grew up in a house without books.

He rose above the emptiness of the miles of trailers and junk yards that dis­tin­guished his West Texan upbringing to become a well-known author, poet, and pro­fessor.

Christian Wiman, past editor of “Poetry” mag­azine, read from poetry and prose exploring the con­nec­tions between art and faith on Sept. 12 and 13 at Phillips Audi­torium, in con­nection with Hillsdale’s Vis­iting Writers program.

Wiman’s career has included the pub­li­cation of several well-regarded books and the oppor­tunity to teach at many dis­tin­guished insti­tu­tions, including his current position at the Yale Divinity School and the Yale Institute of Sacred Music.

“Mys­teries can become integral parts of your faith that don’t have to be solved,” Wiman said of his writing and his faith, which have been influ­enced by dif­ficult times in his life.

Wiman was told on his 39th birthday that he had a rare, mys­te­rious, and incurable form of blood cancer. That Sunday was when Wiman made the decision to revisit his faith, after nearly two decades of straying from his Southern Baptist upbringing.

“A part of his appeal to me, a Christian, is that his work engages with the ele­mental issues of faith and doubt that should concern any thinking indi­vidual,” said John Somerville, pro­fessor of English and head of the Vis­iting Writers Program, which has hosted well-known writers, including B.H. Fairchild, who grew up in the same town as Wiman. “Mr. Wiman offers our stu­dents the chance to hear and read serious poetry written by an indi­vidual of our own gen­er­ation, not by someone out of the past and as an object of study.”

The driving purpose for his poetry, Wiman explained in his reading Monday night, comes from a desire to find the ways that faith can appear in new forms in art. Both nights shared the same message behind his poetry — to transform the mundane into some­thing of reli­gious impor­tance.

“He deals with many issues that our stu­dents have encoun­tered in their own lives, though he does so with an intel­li­gence and beauty that is far beyond our ordinary capac­ities,” Somerville said.

The most remarkable part of his mindset is that even as he acknowl­edged his own mor­tality, he found a way to see more beau­tiful moments in life than he had noticed before. All of his expe­ri­ences, from growing up in the under­e­d­u­cated com­mu­nities of West Texas to raising two daughters while bat­tling cancer, have pro­vided immea­surable inspi­ration for his faith and his poetry.

“I thought the best part was that he used his own poetry in it,” senior English major Sarah Reinsel said. “He would give back­story about the poetry that he created.”

The wisdom Wiman has gained from his own struggles has led him to give stu­dents this advice: “Have a com­munity of people. You must have a com­munity. If you’re a writer or a believer, you must have a com­munity.”

Even this advice, Wiman explained, came from dis­cov­eries found in poetry.

“God goes riven into every single being,” Wiman’s voice res­onated through the audi­torium. “God goes belonging to every riven thing.”