The SPU MFA: It's Official
About ten days ago, we sent out a message to y'all that our host institution, Seattle Pacific University, has officially approved a new, low-residency Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing. Image will be playing a central role in the program. For those of you who want to know more about the program: be patient. We are now putting together web pages, brochure copy, etc., etc. You'll be the first to know when that sort of thing is ready. In the meantime: please spread the word. Ours will be the only university-sponsored MFA that incorporates the Christian faith into the curriculum - a first in Christian higher education. If you know someone who might be interested in applying for the program - scheduled to begin with the first residency in August, 2005 - have them send an e-mail with their contact info to us: [email protected].
Artist of the Month: Kate Campbell
The daughter of a Baptist preacher, Kate Campbell grew up in Sledge, Mississippi, listening to the harmonies of the choir and the stories in her father's sermons. Her music blends a variety of styles-Gospel, soul, R&B, as well as Celtic music-with a particular gift for storytelling. Campbell was shaped by the civil rights movement, which she observed as a very young girl in the sixties. Her music's power comes from the way she unites tradition with individualism. She has tremendous personal skill as a narrative songwriter, but she's also willing to claim her roots. Her music draws equally on what belongs to a community and what belongs to her personally: on the traditions of the Baptist church in Mississippi-which she knows intimately-and on her private artistry as a storyteller. By witnessing the civil rights movement as a child, Campbell learned that the artist needs to maintain some critical distance from the community, must stand apart from it enough to see it clearly. But the artist must also love the community, or else she has no business singing about it. It's evident in every note of Kate's music that she loves her roots. Her albums include Songs from the Levee, Moonpie Dreams, Visions of Plenty (which each received Folk Album of the Year nominations from the Nashville Music Awards), Rosaryville, Wandering Strange, Monuments, and Twang on a Wire. She recently signed with Compadre Records, which will release two new Kate Campbell albums in August 2004. Produced by Will Kimbrough, these albums will include guest appearances by Nanci Griffith, Rodney Crowell, Jeff Black, Kim Richey, and Jonell Mosser. Compadre will also re-release Kate's debut album Songs From The Levee. Kate tours widely and still plays house parties.
To go to our AoM page on Kate, click here.
For more-including tour dates and album purchasing-visit www.katecampbell.com.
Double Life: Poems by Daniel Tobin
Daniel Tobin excels at peeling back surface layers of the world to reveal unknown depths. What makes this collection memorable is the way it startles us into an awareness of the "double lives" we lead. Tobin achieves this by weaving together of the physical and metaphysical realms. His style and form echo Plato, the Bible, Dante, Shakespeare, Keats, and the natural world as much as TV talk shows, the news, physics, movies, and fast-food restaurants. Tobin fuses these diverse literary and cultural categories to replicate a double life, lending an enticing mysticism to the ordinary (the "grease and splendor" of "Keats's Coffee Shoppe") and an earthbound weightiness to the spiritual. From haunting meditations on the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch (first published in Image) to an astonishing polyphonic sequence based on the life of Father Bartolomé de Las Casas, his verses transport us to worlds both like and unlike our own. Through metaphor, he unsettles settled relationships between faith and everyday life, calling into question the nature of appearances as he seeks to understand human identity. In his "Homage to Bartolomé de Las Casas," Tobin delves beneath the surfeit surface of ideology to unearth a weighty darkness, and to show the cost exacted on humanity by racism. In "Moorings," his words resonate with us as we are recalled to an awareness of primordial humanity: "As if the flimsy rigging / of who you are could catch a breeze / that blew back to beginnings, and you'd know / what you were before you were." He adapts religious and Scriptural allusions in pleasingly unusual ways: "I no longer envy such certainty, that I prefer / the stony ground, the mustard seed of faith / hollowed by doubt, that it's only the observance / of words I keep now to stay the soul" ("The Locksmith"). Daniel Tobin illuminates our search for a way to encompass the world, turning Christian motifs toward new meanings.
For more information on Daniel Tobin's Double Life, click here.
Mark Heard: Hammers & Nails
Mark Heard gave his last concert in 1992, at Cornerstone Music Festival. During his final performance, Heard had a minor heart attack. He finished the set, went to the hospital, and was released to return to California for surgery. That afternoon he had another heart attack from which he never recovered. He was forty years old. Passionate, perceptive, and stubbornly true to his moral vision, Heard came to the Christian music scene of the 1970s and provided a blast of fresh air. Avoiding the pitfalls of easy piety and sentimentalism that usually characterize the Contemporary Christian Music scene's subculture, Heard has inspired a generation of songwriters. In his lifetime, Heard produced and/or played with musicians such as Peter Buck of R.E.M., John Austin, Sam Phillips, and Phil Keaggy; such luminaries as T Bone Burnett and Bruce Cockburn have praised his artistry. In a vein similar to the prophet Amos, Heard's lyrics critique society, empty religious practices, and always present an authentic portrait of life in all its complexity. Heard is survived by a wife and daughter, and sixteen albums brimming with insightful lyrics and music. To coincide with the release of Matthew Dickerson's biography of Heard, Paste Records has recently released, Hammers and Nails (2003). The album, a collection of 11 new songs, and 6 bonus tracks, is packed with Heard's trademark prophetic words, and further solidifies his position as "Poet to the Poets." Among the many songs included are the standout tracks, Season of Words and Shaking, both written in 1989. These songs, like many of the album's tracks, existed only as simple demos recorded in Heard's home studio. Hammers & Nails is available through Paste Records. Listening to the album is an unforgettable experience, one that contains both wonder at Heard's gifts and an ache of sorrow for an artist who passed too soon.
Visit Mark Heard online: http://home.no.net/heard/
Reminder - Trinity Arts Conference: Innocence and Experience
Whether you are ruing the lack of a fall Image conference this year (yup, we're taking a well-earned sabbatical!), or you are just looking for an entrancing event to attend, listen up! For the eighth year, the good folk running the Trinity Arts Conference, under the co-sponsorship of Image, will bring together artists of all ilks to ponder the theme of Innocence and Experience. Among the questions to be asked: what does it mean for the redeemed to make art in a complex, conflict-bound world? As Christ linked the holy with the mundane and corrupt, how do we, the creation, embody that paradox in our own work? Speakers include poet Scott Cairns, superb singer/songwriter Kate Campbell, composer J.A.C. Redford, and our own Suzanne and Greg Wolfe. Attendees can also look forward to the quirky Lip n' Slide, an open mike session in which participants may present whatever they want of their own work-poetry, slides of artwork, prose-as long as they keep it under five minutes. In the glowing words of our editor, "The themes are carefully chosen and provide food for thought, long after the event is concluded.. This one's a keeper."
The Trinity Arts Conference will be held June 17-20 on the University of Dallas campus in Irving, Texas. To register or learn more about the conference, go to the Trinity Arts Conference website.
Grace is Where I Live by John Leax
Two good pieces of news arrive with one book: first, Jack Leax's wonderful volume, Grace Is Where I Live, has been reprinted in a new and expanded edition; second, the publisher, WordFarm, is a new venture that makes an auspicious debut with this title. First published ten years ago, Grace is a compendium of meditative essays and poems, all centering on the theme of the book's subtitle: "The Landscape of Faith and Writing." Here you will find everything from an extended reflection on the life and witness of Thomas Merton to a brief meditation on the banana slug-a fascinating creature Leax has searched for in vain. Whether he is writing in poetry or prose, Leax has a way of recalling us to this central fact: all the best things in life take time and silence and cultivation to appreciate. Indeed, Leax, like one of his heroes, Wendell Berry, believes that we should regain a deeper understanding of the roots of the word "culture": a phenomenon that is related both to faith ("cult") and the land. The new edition of Grace is also available as an audio CD and an enhanced Ebook, with sound files, photos, and a lot more. If WordFarm can live up to the quality of its first title, they'll become an important new addition to the community of literary publishers.
Learn more about WordFarm and Grace here.