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Poetry Friday: “For Whom the Resurrection Is the Full Moon Rising” by Mark Wagenaar

15312920273_04562aa7c5_o-e1456334680521This is a poem to stretch the mind. It begins by stretching our imagination to a cosmic event: a “moondog,” which is a rare bright spot in the moon’s halo. It’s formed by a “mirage of light & cloud & ice”—an image which then brings the speaker down to earth, into his own life. But this life, as he sees it, is stretched among mind-bending options: for instance, he’s “not willing to lose / that which I cannot keep/ for that which I cannot lose.” Then comes what for me is the poem’s core image: “Crumb by crumb the self is whittled down.” It’s the self of the Christian classic The Cloud of Unknowing, the self that must dissolve into “a leash of longing” for God’s very being. The “leash” then leads the poet into a metaphor of himself as “stray dog,” from which more mind-bending apparent opposites follow. All are playing with the self’s “dissolutions,” until the poem’s final line: the diminishment into a mere parenthesis filled with absences.

—Peggy Rosenthal
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Poetry Friday: “Daybreak, Winter” by Betsy Sholl

23666248919_9ed672e6e0_zI have a complicated relationship with the sun, having grown up in southern California and now making my home in the moody Pacific Northwest. I swerve between desperation for even an hour of brightness and a stoic claim that my poet-soul finally feels at home in this rain-soaked climate. So Betsy Sholl’s poem about the longing for light—and its frustration by winter’s darkness—feels like it’s speaking directly to me, even as the lengthening days pitch us toward summer solstice. The poem’s four movements cast me out into the big questions, then draw me back in with quiet, simple sounds: “Now light…In my dream… Dawn in winter…” I love the stepping-stone quality of this poem’s thinking, how it steps carefully from image to image, as if the speaker were groping along the walls of some dark hallway while tracking a dream-truth. I stumble along holding tight to this poem’s unsure but deeply curious and trustful voice, as it moves from room to room. Here are familiar worries like “moths done with hunger, / white as tiny brides,” and a tree bearing fruit “only the birds, / and just a few of them, want to eat.” The poem is in some ways a procession of earthly failures, a meditation on the ways in which everything falls just short of oblivion—and yet finds light and grace again and again.

—Melissa Reeser Poulin
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Poetry Friday: “Tenebrae” by Anya Krugovoy Silver

hospital-600x450This is a dark poem, raising a profound question about suffering. Its title, “Tenebrae,” is in fact the Latin word for “darkness”; and its setting is Holy Week, when we follow Jesus’ suffering and death. The poem’s first six lines paint in painful detail the immense suffering of a particular woman known to the poet. But the speaker’s tone is all: he says explicitly to God “I know that the bitterness is for her own good.” The words state pious assent, yet their tone undercuts simple acceptance of suffering as God’s will. The same complex tone carries through lines 7-8, beginning “Thank you, God for your wisdom that widows” (that is, creates widows by the death of their spouses). Then in the final four lines, the speaker begs to be spared God’s will. He’d rather be free from suffering, even if this leaves him ignorant of God’s wisdom. What I treasure about this poem is that it gives voice to my own fears of suffering. And implicitly it poses a stark question that makes us ponder: does God truly will our suffering? If so, what sort of God must this be?

— Peggy Rosenthal


“Tenebrae” by Anya Krugovoy Silver

Holy Wednesday

Lord, I know that the bitterness is for her own good.
Through the numbness that has made her quadriplegic,
she has drawn nearer to you, has been purged
as with bloodroot of whatever sins still grieved you.
Her pneumonia has sent her to hospice.
Her descent was rapid. She sleeps her morphine dreams.
Thank you, God, for your wisdom that widows,
for the orphans who continue to praise you.
But Lord, whom I love, close your eyes to me.
Pluck her soul from her tumor-choked body.
But spare me your will and secret knowledge.
Let me continue to live, ignorant and erring.

 

Anya Krugovoy Silver is the author of three books of poetry, The Ninety-Third Name of God, I Watched You Disappear, and From Nothing(all from Louisiana State). She was named Georgia Author of the Year in poetry for 2015. Recent poems have appeared in Harvard Review, Georgia Review, New Ohio Review, Saint Katherine Review, and Five Points. She teaches at Mercer University.

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More Incisive, More Powerful, More Permanent: Cast Your Vote for Image!

selfie2webA political season is upon us. I’m guessing that whatever your party affiliation or philosophical persuasion, right about now you are frustrated and anxious about the political process. Yes, democracy is messy, but the amount of anger, fear-mongering, and divisiveness out there is leading many to cynicism and despair.

Millions of votes have been cast, but have they moved us toward a better place?

Since I’m a writer, I got curious about the root of the word “vote” and was surprised by what I found. It comes from the Latin word meaning “to vow” or “to desire.” One of its earliest uses in the West was “to assign by a vow; to devote religiously.” Hence “devoted” and also “devout.” Maybe if we saw our votes as vows we’d cast them more wisely, not in anger or frustration. But now is the time to recall what some of us have been pointing out over the last thirty years:

Culture is upstream from politics.

Ultimately, the stories we tell and symbols we use to understand ourselves are what will shape the political debates.

Beauty, with its expression in art, is one of the most powerful shapers of culture. At last year’s MusicCares tribute to Bob Dylan, Jimmy Carter said, “There’s no doubt that his words of peace and human rights are much more incisive and much more powerful and much more permanent than the words of any president of the United States.”

Art teaches us to pay attention to the small quiet moments, the daily decisions, the seemingly insignificant gestures that make us human. Art is unafraid to look at the worst things about us—but it’s also able to show us the overlooked good in humanity. It gives us a language to speak and share these things.

And in an election year, this is refreshing news.

If you looked at the past few issues of Image for clues about our age, you’d come up with a pretty different picture than you’d get from this year’s election coverage:

• A young poet, who is also a pastor, reads the body language of his congregants and listens to the deeper desire for connection beneath every conversation.
• A six-year-old girl begins asking her father questions about the world that make him realize how much we can love a thing we don’t understand.
• A car crash victim, the daughter of immigrants, is mystically connected to the boy who receives her transplanted heart.
• An elderly Christian statesman visits a dying Jewish philosopher in Jerusalem.

The truth is that we are “voting” every day of our lives, by the way we live. At Image we believe that a life nourished by art, faith, and mystery does have an impact on our world.

Image’s approach to the world—ecumenical, interfaith, seeking out beauty, finding new ways to explore ancient faiths, inviting others to become attuned to the rhythms of slow culture, generating meaningful dialogue—stands in stark contrast to the current political climate, which is divisive, hyperbolic, and fearful, with an eye always on the next news cycle.

In the spirit of this mission, we now write with a request. In a very special way, we are asking you now to cast your vote for Image.

We are asking you to make that vow, show your devotion, and cast your vote with a financial contribution.

Image needs your financial support. The need is real! While our readers tell us that the quality of our magazine has never been better, our donations, which are used to fund operations beyond the subscription revenue, are not keeping up with our costs. This is especially true for the months of May through September.

I trust you know how hardworking the Image staff is, and how much programming we put out into the world: a world-class journal, a beloved summer workshop, a postgraduate fellowship and an undergraduate fellowship, an acclaimed blog, a gorgeous website, and an email newsletter that goes out to 8,000 subscribers.

We work our hearts out because we believe in Image, which you have voted for time and again. For that we are grateful beyond words.

Cast a vote today that you don’t have to feel ambivalent about.

Vote for art, faith, and mystery. Vote for slow culture and the space that imagination carves out where we can meet and come to a deeper understanding of our common humanity.

Thank you, now and always.

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Click here to vote for Image! (US) | (Cananda)
Check out the current delegate map here!

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Image above by Aubrey Allison.

Poetry Friday: “Christmas Morning in a Hotel Room” by Carrie Fountain

Each Friday at Good Letters we feature a poem from the pages of Image, selected and introduced by one of our writers or readers.

FreewayIs there any place more melancholy to spend Christmas morning than a hotel room? A place designed to be no place at all? Yet it’s strangely fitting: the mystery of the Incarnation is that it’s precisely nowhere—on the margin of the world—that a God bursts in. In this poem, a narrator stands at a hotel window on Christmas morning, an figure in isolation, and wills herself to believe that “something important / began or ended precisely” in this no-place, some parking lot by some highway. And it’s her simple belief that even the empty places of the world are filled with meaning—“no doubt,” she thinks—that becomes the miracle of this scene, her belief transforming the commonplace world into one where hope rises in billows, where God arrives like a stranger in an idling car, waiting right outside.

—Tyler McCabe


Christmas Morning in a Hotel Room by Carrie Fountain

Out the window, the parking lot
and beyond that, the highway.

No doubt something important
began or ended precisely there, or

there, in that spot where the ice-white
rental car is idling neatly, clouds [Read more…]


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