(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Like much of his other work, Franz Wright’s thirteenth collection of poetry, God’s Silence, illuminates the interior life of an individual as concerned with his ontological significance as he is with cosmological beauty and brutality. The poetry is most often stark and ravenous, with a melancholy rhythm, though it also flashes sporadically with joyous praise and rapturous gratitude. Regardless of tone, the poems seem teleologically wrought from the material essence of the Earth, creating a poetry so seemingly sacred at times that it is barely utterable. Wright works in a predominantly jagged, staggering lineation, which creates for the reader a sense of the strain and severity of Wright’s efforts to explore suffering as a means to redemption in the fullest Catholic sense of the word.

Born in 1953, Wright was raised with neither formal religious training nor a formal religious affiliation. Although he attended Greek Orthodox services with his mother, who was Greek, he also studied and practiced Zen Buddhism as a teenager in Berkeley, California, under a Korean Zen master. At Oberlin College in Ohio, he became fascinated with the nineteenth century German Protestant theologians, whom he studied under the tutelage of Thomas Frank. Still, Wright remained unaffiliated with any church or its doctrines. Regardless, his spiritual development continued to mature over the following decades, particularly through his intellectual enthusiasm for early Christianity. All of this culminated on September 13, 1999, in an indescribable event, which led him to seek formal initiation into the Catholic Church.

Wright was baptized during the celebration of Pentecost in 2000, and his subsequent books of poetry, The Beforelife (2001) and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Walking to Martha’s Vineyard (2003), mark the changes to his private spirituality through his acceptance of Catholic eschatology, ritual, and life. God’s Silence continues that trajectory of self-discovery by offering a riveting arrangement of ninety-two poems concerning faith, suffering, forgiveness, and redemption.

The book’s title is a cliché often invoked to dispute the existence of God: If he exists, then why is he silent in times of war, for example? Likewise, why is he silent in...

(The entire section is 941 words.)