A Conversation with Scott Cairns

This post originally appeared as web-exclusive content in Image issue 68.

scott-cairns-picScott Cairns, the author of numerous volumes of poetry, a convert to Orthodox Christianity, and a longtime contributor to Image, has often advocated what he calls a “sacramental poetics”—the idea that a poem should not so much describe something as do something. Mary Kenagy Mitchell interviewed Scott Cairns for Image.

Image: Your poems use an exacting, prophetic voice, but they’re also very funny. Where does that voice come from? Is it with you all the time when you’re going through your day, driving around doing errands? Has it always been with you? Or is it something you consciously invented, that you have to work to generate?

Scott Cairns: I think it’s been with me for a while—thirty years or more—but is surely something of a hybrid of a host of literary voices that appealed to me early on, as I was becoming serious about reading and writing. I’m sure there are traces of C.S. Lewis, W.H. Auden, William Stafford, Wallace Stevens, Rainer Maria Rilke, Constantine Cavafy, and G.K. Chesterton in that hybrid. Also, I grew up in a house where the pun reigned supreme—that may be, in part, where the humor comes from.

Image: One of your poems in the new issue of Image [68] is called “a psalm of Isaak.” What’s the significance of that? I think you’ve used that name more than once in your poems, right? What do the Isaak poems have in common? [Read more…]

The Art of Steve Prince

This post originally appeared as web-exclusive content in Image issue 78.

prince_steve_banner1-640x280Steve Prince, a New Orleans native, works primarily in printmaking and drawing. His richly textured images are steeped in religious and visual culture; critic D. Eric Bookhardt characterizes their metaphorical power as “an ability to elucidate inexplicable worlds within worlds.” Prince’s recent work includes the Katrina Suite, a series (created in public spaces) on the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and the resurrection and rebuilding afterwards. Beth McCoy interviewed Prince for Image in this web-exclusive interview.

Image: Your mentor, John Scott, is integral to all of your work, and certainly to “The Katrina Suite.” How are his life and work important to yours, and what and how did he teach you about multiple forms of faith?

Steve Prince: When I was a student at Xavier University of Louisiana I was profoundly impacted by the teachings of artist John Scott. His impact seeped into every aspect of my life. What stood out to me was Scott’s genuine love for his craft, his family, his community, and his profound understanding that the gifts he was given needed to be passed on. Whenever he gave you something and you responded to him by saying “thank you,” he would in turn respond, “pass it on.” It is that spirit of giving that is central to my artistic endeavors. [Read more…]

A Conversation with Claire Holley

This post originally appeared as a web-exclusive interview accompanying Image journal issue 58.

claire1Mary Kenagy Mitchell for Image: You’ve written in our new issue about balancing songwriting with being a mother. What does your son think of your music? Does he come hear you play?

 Claire Holley: Well, his preferences seem to change a lot. When he was one or two years old, his gut reactions to songs were helpful to me: he might fall asleep, smile big, become animated, or he might be uninterested or fidgety. This last response might tell me that a song wasn’t as strong. I seem to remember one time he heard my song, “Wedding Day” and looked out the window reflectively, then asked to hear it again. But it’s risky, I suppose, to trust someone under five about all your material. [Read more…]

The Smell of Black Mold

Natural Cut Fries with Sea Salt Close

By John Bryant

I write in order that the ornery old bastard and toothless schizophrenic might be more welcome in my life. The man who calls three times a day to give voice to his shattered mind.

I met him at Advanced Autoparts. I’d bought a brake light, put the new one in, was about to step into my truck. Then I heard a kind of rustling sound just loud enough to make me wonder if someone was talking to me.

I turned and saw him, this old man fifty yards off in a busted wheelchair he’d tell me later he’d won in a fight, talking slowly and softly to me as if I was inches from his soft beard.

He pulled himself with tiny feet, unable to push with the hands he kept in his lap because, he said, his fingers were warped from gout and fights. [Read more…]

Poetry Friday: “Homily”

7810908352_a8d1938997_zLast Sunday I was trying to decide whether to go church or take a walk along the river on a beautiful summer day in my corner of northwestern Washington. Some days I have time to do both and some days, for some justifiable reason, I do neither. The poem “Homily” by Todd Davis is both beautiful and deceptively stirring and particularly useful to me when faced with this decision. He writes, “I have been thinking about the God/ I pray to with no lasting effect and note the effortless work/ the stream does as it feeds these bushes.” In this poem, Davis is commenting on the word according to Walt Whitman—the epigraph being a quote from “I Sing the Body Electric” published in the original edition of Leaves of Grass in 1855. While Whitman’s poem explores the complex connection between body and soul, this poem goes one step further in shrewdly observing how our deepest ecologies can provide both poetic inspiration as well as guidance on how to live well, and lovingly. Nature as much a spiritual teacher as the “hand in white robes.” Bird droppings as sacred text. Handfuls of clover as offerings. The imagery Davis provides as evidence, in this relatively short prose-like poem, is convincing. However, he concedes, “I believe,/ despite my unbelief.” Despite the prophetic eloquence of Whitman, our bodies remain part of a larger and more mysterious whole where we learn to accept “the uncertainty of air/above our heads.” The question of Sundays is a perpetual one for me, but with the help of Davis’ “Homily” I will remember that answers can be found everywhere, all the time.
[Read more…]