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Good Letters

The writers and artists in our pages are interesting folks with interesting reading lives. So we asked the contributors in Image’s current issue: what have you read, seen, or listened to lately that you would recommend to our readers? They did not disappoint. 

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I have several stacks of books lying around in different rooms. That’s the way it is for me. Each stack represents different things I am working on, some of which I forget about until I bump into the relevant stack. Here are the contents of the stack sitting nearest to me right now: 1. The Fly Trap by Fredrik Sjöberg. Kooky ramblings of a Swedish entomologist. My wife reads chapters to me sometimes before we go to bed. Amusing and well written. 2. The Golden Bough by James George Frazer. A classic, of course, both frustrating and profound, completely out of date and somehow still timeless. I am obsessed, I should mention, with the primitive roots of worship practices. 3. Motown: Music, Sex, and Power by Gerald Posner. The title says it all. I’m trying to write something about Motown as the fusion of the sacred and the sinful in music, or something like that. 4. Beauty edited by Dave Beech. Reading this for my ongoing debate about beauty with Greg Wolfe. What is beauty, anyway? Who in the heck knows? I don’t. Maybe Greg does. 5. The Blaue Reiter Almanac. I am writing a book on The Fate of the Animals, a painting by Franz Marc. Can painting still be a spiritual act? You bet. 6. Revelation by Joseph L. Mangina (Brazos Theological Commentary). Whatsoever person claims to be comfortable mucking about in the Book of Revelation, well, that person is a liar. Mangina is a patient reader and manages to make certain crazy passages seem slightly less crazy.

—Morgan Meis, author of “The Empty Bed: Tracey Emin and the Persistent Self


Inspired by the homeless person who confronted him from across the train tracks, Ins Choi has crafted a one man show in which he morphs from preacher’s son (which he is), given to God at birth by his mother in a Korean, Hannah and Samuel story (which he was), to hoarse-voiced, shaggy-haired, ukulele-playing, dub-poet, prophet, and yes, preacher. Can I get a witness? It’s called Subway Stations of the Cross, and is raw, surprising and funny (find the book version here). Ins performs the show only a few times a year, being otherwise occupied these days as the creator and one of the writers of Kim’s Convenience, his theatre play that has since become a weekly TV program in Canada.

—John Terpstra, author of “Imagineer of Variety


Have you ever thought about writing persona poems as a form of spiritual practice? If you read Jericho Brown’s, Christian Wiman’s, and Carolyn Forché’s interviews in Ilya Kaminsky’s and Katherine Towler’s marvelous anthology of interviews and poems, A God in the House: Poets Talk About Faith, you might discover the connection. For Jericho Brown, persona poems connect him “to something larger than myself.” To honestly call one’s self a Christian, writes Christian Wiman, requires that one be “loving, selfless, that we put other people’s needs before our own.” Drawing on her own lived experiences and her studies of Martin Buber, Carolyn Forché tries to live and write in a way the fulfills “one’s infinite and inexhaustible obligation to the other.” What a way to think about the practice of writing  persona poems, of quieting one’s own voice to let the voice of the other speak through you, whether that other is another person or a flower or a dog. This anthology is rich with these and other insights offered by serious and accomplished poets on the subjects of faith, belief, religion, spirituality, and poetry.

—Richard Chess, author of “are you my god” and “After Hearing That a Friend Visiting Israel for the First Time Asked Her Private Tour Guide, ‘Where Is the Garden of Eden?’


If you haven’t heard Solange’s song “Cranes in the Sky,” go to YouTube right now. Her delicate voice lists a litany of attempts to shrug off depression, and minimal production allows high-hat and harp breathing room behind her. Solange disabled the comments section after an avalanche of racist invective attached to the video, but watching it, you have to ask who exactly could be threatened by this admission of black female fragility. Solange and the women in the video display their individual beauties in a series of somber tableaux. Lying on a concrete floor together, limbs intertwined, or standing in a four-person embrace, holding each other’s heads and shoulders up, they seem nakedly emotional, vulnerable, but also connected on a level that only sisters usually achieve. There’s a lot of talk about intersectional identity these days, but it’s easier to talk than to really listen. Solange lets us do that—it’s an essential spiritual exercise for our current moment.

—Susan L. Miller, author of “Manual for the Would-Be Saint” and “The Wolf of Gubbio.” These poems are collected in her new book, Communion of Saints: Poems.

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