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.
When I subjected my body to limits beyond what felt reasonable, I discovered that faith is embodied, that its strength can be expressed in the movement of muscle.
After three decades, I was going to summon the courage to return to camps and to witness this story that I had lived, and to see how it had changed, and to let it ignite my memories so that I could say something important and helpful.
A Lumbee friend described her mother’s relationship to family, from the vantage of her matrilineal world, as being like a door. The very word starts opening them. From door we are all too quick to rush to gatekeeper; our western and colonial habits of mind favor such things as the defense of property, watchmen along…
What does it mean to be labeled a “religious poet” in the twenty-first century? The term’s undoubtedly fraught, but “fraught” is perhaps the best word to describe the current relationship between religion and pretty much everything. Small wonder, though, if one accepts the argument of scholars such as Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Talal Asad, and Brent…
Joanna Penn Cooper
For the humanists of the Renaissance, literature mattered because it was concrete and experiential—it grounded ideas in people’s lives. Their name for this kind of writing was bonae litterae, a phrase we’ve borrowed as the title for our blog. Every week gifted writers offer personal essays that make fresh connections between the world of faith and the world of art. We also publish interviews with artists who inspire and challenge us.