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The Redemption of Hester Prynne

By Gregory Wolfe Essay

BECAUSE IT HAS BEEN A STAPLE of the high school classroom, it is nearly impossible to approach The Scarlet Letter with the sort of wonder and respect it deserves. Somber and at times melodramatic, The Scarlet Letter is an altogether quieter book than, say, Moby Dick, which can make it feel tame by comparison. But…

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A Conversation with Karin Coonrod

By John Skillen Interview

Our current issue features a profile of innovative theater director Karin Coonrod, whose projects range from Shakespeare and medieval mystery plays to adaptations of Flannery O’Connor. Her latest play, now running in New York, is an adaptation of the classic Isak Dinesen short story “Babette’s Feast” (famous for the 1987 film version), the story of…

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Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise:
The Beautiful Unordinary

By Lorna Goodison Essay

AS A CHILD growing up on the island of Jamaica, it seemed to me that people, especially women, were always singing hymns as they went about their business. Women bending low over washtubs, or standing knee deep in swift-running rivers, would produce scrub rhythms from the friction of soaped cloth rubbed hard between fists, and…

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Amazing Grace: Singer and Song

By Alicia Ostriker Essay

There is another world, but it is within this one.                                         —Paul Éluard I LIKE TO SING. Singing, like poetry, enables us to enter experiences other than our own. I sing lively Elizabethan songs by Thomas Campion, melancholy ones by John Dowland, gems from Shakespeare’s plays, “Greensleeves,” and the medieval “Cherry Tree Carol” in which…

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Laudes Creaturarum:
A Polyphony

By Kimberly Johnson Essay

IN ASSISI, THE SKY vaults clouded and serene against the foothills. *   Pietro, known as Francesco, devoted brother of his order, put quill to thirteenth-century parchment and began to praise. His inspiration was Psalm 148, whose Hebrew exhortations spur the sun and moon, the stars and highest heavens, tempests and mountains and wingèd birds…

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O Come, O Come, Emmanuel:
Dark Good News

By Linda Gregerson Essay

I LOVED THEM ALL, the hymns we sang in our red brick Methodist church on Christmas Eve. There was always snow, it never failed us, and the streetlamps cast lovely pools of light and shadow on the shoveled walks. We called it midnight service, though it actually began an hour earlier; we would have eaten…

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Caedmon’s Hymn:
The First English Poet

By Edward Hirsch Essay

ENGLISH POETRY BEGAN with a vision. It started with the holy trance of a seventh-century figure called Caedmon, an illiterate herdsman, who now stands at the top of the English literary tradition as the initial Anglo-Saxon or Old English poet of record, the first to compose Christian poetry in his own language. The story goes…

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Takbeerat al-Eid:
The Speakers of Tripoli

By Zeina Hashem Beck Essay

WHENEVER I THINK of takbeerat al-Eid, I remember the curtains of my childhood bedroom—how Mom surprised me one afternoon, saying she had bought me new pink (pink!) curtains. I loved their color and sheer fabric. I could see the glass balcony door behind them, and behind that, the green wooden shutters. When the shutters were…

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Be Thou My Vision:
Witness to the Revelation

By Scott Cairns Essay

I WAS RAISED IN A FAMILY for whom our Baptist church was very much an extension of our home. While that church was—as I might now parse such matters—a particularly cranky Baptist church, it offered nonetheless a loving community to those within it. More importantly, that community offered me a first taste of what I…

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