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Dynamic Constructions of Persistence and Faith: An Interview with Essayist Sonja Livingston

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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.

Thought Patterns: Reflections on The Crying Book

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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.

Meat

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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.

It Is Your Duty to Answer Us: An Interview with the Author of The Ungrateful Refugee

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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.

The Good Egg: A Lesson in Cherokee

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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 a “Religious” Poet?

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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…

Returning to Form

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    We’re all familiar with how traditional Western art forms were blown to bits in the early to mid-twentieth century. And we know the locus classicus for this in literature: T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, written in the wake of the First World War’s perceived destruction of civilization. Recall The Waste Land‘s characteristic phrases:…

The Expansive Unknowing: An Interview with Darcey Steinke

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“For me the only way I can have a relationship with divinity is through the unknown, through mystery. If your idea of divinity is leaning into the mystery, you’re more likely to find grace in a variety of places. In my fiction I have tried to make traditionally ugly places beautiful and filled with grace—garbage dumps, malls. I’ve always had that impulse to try to see things not the way the world sees them, but to see the spark of movement and divinity in what is considered to be darkness, ugliness. That makes the most spiritual sense to me.”

A Subversive History: An Interview with Music Historian Ted Gioia

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Ted Gioia is an accomplished music historian whose crisp writing and expansive studies have made his eleven books essentials. His new book, Music: A Subversive History, is a worthy conclusion to a 25-year project, charged by his core belief that “music is a force of transformation and empowerment, a catalyst in human life.” That belief…

The Unexpected Rigors of Sister Helen Prejean’s River of Fire

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When my mother was still alive, one of the stories she used to tell was about the role of Catholics in the desegregation of my Mississippi Delta hometown during the 1960s. One white priest, a “Father Love,” she said, had come to town to be in residence at St. Francis, the “black Catholic church,” and…

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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.

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