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My Best of Image

As the decade winds down, we asked a few friends to choose five favorite pieces from past issues of Image. We'll feature six entries over six days. (You’ll notice that most of our early content isn’t archived online, though many early pieces are part of our 2009 anthology Bearing the Mystery. Also, some back issues are available for purchase.)

Jeffrey Overstreet, Novelist and Film Critic

An expanded version of this list is at lookingcloser.org. 

  1. Loud Lake” (Issue 29) by Image’s own executive editor Mary Kenagy Mitchell is a story of childhood, summertime, and Christian ministry. Mitchell achieves a sort of minor miracle: an example of fiction about evangelical Christians that never becomes preachy or propagandistic but instead encourages readers to revisit questions of faith that are meaningfully discomforting. 
  2. In an essay from Issue 34, “The Painter of LiteTM,” Image’s founding editor Gregory Wolfe finds in the paintings of Thomas Kinkade a troubling premonition: He warns that an increasing reliance on comfort and nostalgia in American Christianity creates a danger that could lead the church down a dangerous path toward supporting a toxic nationalism, white supremacy, and other correlations with Nazism. That was 2002. And now here we are. 
  3. In his essay “No Better Place to End” (Issue 85), poet and physician Brian Volck turns his attention to the world of science and restores in himself and his readers a sense of the sacred: “The sciences and faith speak different languages and shouldn’t be expected to say identical things in identical words. They’re musical lines in a polyphonic score where pungent dissonances enliven overarching harmony. In describing, in their own ways, the nature of things, they remind us how all we take for granted is, in fact, utterly contingent.”
  4. In “Acts of Attention: On Poetry and Spirituality” (Issue 101), poet Robert Cording reflects on our increasing inclinations toward (or addiction to) narcissism: “To encounter ourselves everywhere we go is, of course, to lose all sense of wonder. Perhaps wonder begins with paying attention to our experience of being alive. .... I think we come to know the world not by detaching ourselves from our felt experience, but by inhabiting our bodily experience as richly and wakefully as we can.”
  5. So many quotable insights from Image interviews fill my commonplace books that I hardly know where to start, so I’ll cheat a little by listing Image interviews in general as my fifth pick:
    • Scott Derrickson, who would go on to direct Sinister and Doctor Strange, interviews his friend and mentor Wim Wenders, director of Paris, Texas and Wings of Desire in Issue 35.
    • I learned from friends and mentors in my own interviews for Image: For Image Issue 60I spoke with my favorite rock star, Sam Phillips, whose music and insights have been a formative influence in my life. And then I interviewed a former high school classmate—photographer Fritz Liedtke—for Issue 78.
Jeffrey Overstreet
Jeffrey Overstreet

Karen An-hwei Lee, Poet

  1. The Depths of August” by Eric Pankey (Issue 101). With a brightening sense of awakening and wonder, this lovely meditation explores what it means for us to be torn from our shadows, blinded by grace in the face of new light, then lifted from the inchoate darkness of “an inaccessible room” to “a sky divided by lightning.”
  2. Disenchanted Mother of Clarity” by L.S. Klatt (Issue 101). Beyond the gray matter and “brain fog” of the cerebral realm, “there is / a spotlight waiting within the heart…” where a wound may hold a potential for healing from hurt, instilling a sense of hope even for “a paper heart made raw by the spotlight.”
  3. Psalm for Doctor Normal” by Heather Lanier (Issue 100). Punctuated by an anguished torque of trials, this song considers the mysteries of the creator who made us and makes a love-offering, if not an ultimate sacrifice: “Now lay my daughter’s body / on the altar, and my body too / because I made her.”
  4. Cutting Hair” by Suzanne Underwood Rhodes (Issue 100). In exquisite detail, this poem depicts an intimate ritual as a symbol of shedding our flesh in due time, wherein we glimpse eternity in “the gold of afterlife.”
  5. Take These Words” by Luci Shaw (Issue 100). “Astonished and grateful,” the eloquent lines of Shaw’s poem resonate lucidly in our hearts: “To be a poet you must write / more than you know, hoping it to be true / that the words will have a life beyond the moment, / taking the shape of their making, like rain / filling a bowl—drops gathering into a fullness / that is wholly fresh and drinkable.”
Karen An-hwei Lee reads from her book, <i>Phyla of Joy</i>.
Karen An-hwei Lee reads from her book, Phyla of Joy.

Nick Ripatrazone, Culture Editor

  1. Dom Helder Camara at the Nuclear Test Site” by Denise Levertov (Issue 4). When Levertov writes “we dance in the unity that brought us here, / instinct pulls us into the ancient / rotation, symbol of continuance,” she captures the spirit of the old Brazilian archbishop’s witness—-that “faithful pilgrim.”
  2. Writing as Sacrament” by Ron Hansen (Issue 5). Hansen’s line “there comes a time when we find the need and the confidence to face the great Issues of God and faith and right conduct more directly” was exactly what I needed to hear as a young writer—-and this entire essay still sustains me.
  3. The Language of Faith” by Ann Patchett (Issue 26). An inspiring and pointed memoir of faith: “The church does not define my relationship with God, but it taught me how to believe.”
  4. Interview with George Saunders (Issue 88). “Once a person has a glimpse of mystery,” George Saunders says in this wonderful interview, “he’s always going to be seeking that.”
  5. Bishop (of air)” by Allison Seay (Issue 96). Seay’s poem is focused on a precise moment—-a blessing—-but embraces the varied paradoxes of belief: “the day I understood longitude and latitude / by way of the cross on my forehead,” her essence “in the middle where the oil / was thick, overlapping air and God who is both // through and across like a line of gold.”
Nick Ripatrazone
Nick Ripatrazone

Shane McCrae, Poetry Editor

  1. A Conversation with Rowan Williams,” by John F. Deane (Issue 80). I’m always excited to read what Rowan Williams has to say about poetry, particularly his own.
  2. Ægis,” by Christine Gosnay (Issue 100). Christine Gosnay is one of my favorite poets writing, and “Ægis” is one of my favorite Christine Gosnay poems.
  3. Caedmon’s Hymn: The First English Poet,” by Edward Hirsch (Issue 96). Edward Hirsch’s essay is a perfect introduction to “Caedmon’s Hymn.”
  4. Orpiment,” by Melissa Range (Issue 73). Melissa Range’s poem, it seems to me, perfectly captures resistance to the love that will not be resisted.
  5. Who’s Afraid of Geoffrey Hill,” by Gregory Wolfe (Issue 66). The more we think about Geoffrey Hill, the better.
Shane McCrae
Shane McCrae

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