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Translating Acedia

By Brian VolckJanuary 12, 2010

Students of language learn delightful words for which no good English equivalent exists: sehnsucht (German), poshlost (Russian), or duende (Spanish); rich bottomlands of human experience—good and bad—left inexplicably fallow by Anglo-Saxons. Even when stolen wholesale into English, such words are like the Elgin marbles: mysterious though denuded of context, at once beautiful and broken. A…

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Buried Strangeness

By Brian VolckSeptember 4, 2009

It began during one of those amazingly passionate times in my life when the past and the present collide like great movements of water, merging, sweeping me off. —Joe Enzweiler, on the origins of his poem cycle, A Curb in Eden It’s a writer’s grace or good fortune to find a community of supportive fellow…

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So Terribly Fragile a Thing

By Brian VolckFebruary 4, 2009

My nineteen year-old son is a sophomore at a college a few hours drive from where I live. The campus is huge, spread across many tree-lined blocks. My wife and I both went to far smaller schools, and were surprised when our firstborn chose a university so large, but it has the programs he wanted…

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Precious Little

By Brian VolckJanuary 20, 2009

“If life has no standing as mystery or miracle or gift, then what signifies the difference between it and death?”                                                                                                                   —Wendell Berry The evening of December 29 settled clear and cold, and my family was out in it, skiing on an Appalachian mountainside. As my wife and I rode the chairlift, the merest sliver…

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Going…and Coming

By Brian VolckDecember 8, 2008

Friday, November 21, is my daughter’s feast day. Sometimes called “name days,” these celebrations—often featuring special meals, a cake, perhaps a small gift—of the memorial day of the saint for whom one is named, remain a tradition for some Catholic and Orthodox families. When the kids were younger, they welcomed feast days. Those were the…

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Nice One

By Brian VolckOctober 16, 2008

Writers try not to repeat themselves, except when they mean to. Poetic forms such as the pantoum and villanelle use deliberate repetition to powerful effect. Sometimes, however, unintended repetitions emerge in the course of a story, essay or series, revealing unsuspected themes or buried urgencies. In that way, writing becomes discovery, like an archaeologist digging…

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The Language of Change

By Brian VolckOctober 2, 2008

The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter—it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning. —Mark Twain in a letter to George Bainton, 1888 In the 1980s, NPR’s Morning Edition regularly included a short segment, “On Words,” featuring poet and translator, John Ciardi. In his…

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The Gift of Walls, Doors, and Reticence

By Brian VolckAugust 25, 2008

“When the road of excess has reached the palace of wisdom, it is a healed wound, a long scar.” —Wendell Berry For the past half-century, the United States has built its domestic economy on the assumption that cheap oil was as inexhaustible as the oceans. It is now clear to all but the most blindered…

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Cloud of Witnesses

By Brian VolckAugust 6, 2008

“The only really effective apologia for Christianity comes down to two arguments, namely, the saints the Church has produced and the art which has grown in her womb.” –Joseph Ratzinger Those who know me only from the Glen Workshop may not believe I’m an introvert, but it’s true. For all my chattiness and conspicuous upstaging,…

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What We Talk About When We Talk About Race

By Brian VolckJuly 21, 2008

“As a people, we have been tolled farther and farther away from the facts of what we have done by the romanticizers, whose bait is nothing more than the wishful insinuation that we have done no harm.” —Wendell Berry I suppose if anyone’s to read what follows, I should up my bona-fides. I’ve struggled—if a…

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