Inside: Amy Peterson on the literature of the Anthropocene. Amy Leach’s lyrical meditation on the pros and cons of materialism and immaterialism. Khaled Mattawa on groundwater pollution, Syria, and Japanese formal poetry. Extremely short stories by Diane Williams, master of that form, and much more.
The Glen Workshop
Registration is now OPEN for the 2020 Glen Workshop (July 26 – August 1) in Santa Fe, NM!
Unknowing might be a way to relate to God anew. You might call this mystery.
In our information age, we need spiritual exercises of ex-formation.
We watched from behind ballistic glass and mounted guns and steel doors with hinged openings large enough for a rifle barrel or for a bunch of contorted fingers to press through and wiggle return greetings, muted waves, as we rolled on and up the mountain. We engaged with no enemy combatants.
Suffering, I once believed, was a human privilege,
but in that moment I watched as God
died, as God witnessed.
Come up behind me. See through my eyes.
The boy inside me is watching, frowning.
But something else is watching him,
saying, sweetheart, saying, it is so hard.
What I lost in my exit from a fundamentalist faith movement, I found inside the closed chamber of my camera.
When will I have time to do
that which I desire,
that which I can’t make
myself do, ever?
I am underground,
on a path through small rooms
lit only by delicate chandeliers
of finger and knuckle bones
wired together, shedding a soft
light on the group of worshippers
who tiptoe through.
I used to ask myself why humans go through sacrifices and insist on creating things that no one asked for or cares about. But not anymore. I realize that, in my case at least, it is simply an instinctive drive to do, and that’s my way of being.
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New Year met me somewhat sad:
Old Year leaves me tired,
Stripped of favourite things I had
Baulked of much desired:
Yet farther on my road to-day
God willing, farther on my way.
There was the DC of my dreams. More specifically, there was the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. It opened before my ninth year; I was anxious, even impatient, to tour it and view photographs of the event that had captured my imagination ever since my mother had pressed a certain young girl’s diary into my hands.
“You once said that if you didn’t write, you’d wash your hands all day. This is true for me too, though it manifests itself in other ways: list-making, organizing, cleaning until I see disorder in every inch of my house. Writing becomes a compulsive behavior too, a way of finding clarity, of moving through the pain into something beautiful.”
On praying with the grandmothers of Florence: “I suspect that they have mostly accepted their religion as something like an arranged marriage to a nice-enough guy—a situation they didn’t choose but that nonetheless offers its comforts—rather than how I tend to conduct my relationship with God: like a tanking romance with a guy who can’t understand what I’m so worked up about, again.”
In Sonja Livingston’s latest essay collection, The Virgin of Prince Street: Expeditions into Devotion, faith feels more like a long, slow undertow than a lightning bolt. She spoke with Steven Wingate on how essays find their form, helping students find their material, and making her way back to church.
A poet, Christle is pleasingly roving and idiosyncratic as she assembles and parses, ponders and distills the science of tears, the length of a cry, Sylvia Plath, elephant emotions, Ovid, Kent State, Ross Gay, Silas Mitchell, and the Bas Jan Ader film, I’m Too Sad to Tell You (among other things) into miniature packets of white-space interrupted prose.