Meeting Islam in Interfaith Friendships

dining-table-by-rik-wouters-via-wikimediaIn 1993 my husband George Dardess began visiting our local Islamic Center: first to learn Arabic so that he could read the Qur’an, then cementing friendships with his teacher there and with the imam. So when the events of September 11, 2001 hit, George was in a position to join with members of the Center in presenting programs on Islam to the public.

Our Islamic Center’s brave response to 9/11 was to open itself to the larger community—to invite Christians and others to learn about Islam, to observe the communal prayers, to ask questions. At the programs George, as a Christian, would dialogue with a Muslim on a topic like Jesus in the Qur’an, or Mary in the Qur’an, or the real meaning of jihad.

I accompanied George to the programs, which were often preceded by a potluck dinner, and it’s there that I met my first Muslim friend, Yasmin. [Read more…]

Kathleen Wakefield’s Invisible Stenographer

givegripandswaykathleenwakefieldbookYou’ve got to meet this character. She’s a stenographer by trade:

From the outset she was the obsessive type,
maker of lists: dates, births and deaths, diagnoses,
times of arrival and departure, the amassing of coins, weapons
and works of art, portions of letters, speeches and grocery lists,
though soon it was statements of motivation, speculations
on the nature of the original crime,
the 33 million names for God.

She goes easily, as here, from the mundane specific (“grocery lists”) to the cosmic (God’s names—but thirty-three million?! She has certainly been around to collect so many).

You’ve got to meet this extraordinary character, whom you’ll find in the final seventeen poems of Grip, Give and Sway, the new collection by Image’s recent Artist of the Month, Kathleen Wakefield. [Read more…]

Saying Yes to the Annunciation

annunciazione-by-fabrizio-boschi-on-wikimediaOf all the Gospel episodes, the Annunciation has long been one of the favorites of poets. The scene is unique and literally earth-shaking: Gabriel’s sudden appearance to the girl Mary, his announcement that she will bear a son who will be “the Son of the Most High,” her puzzlement (“How can this be, since I am a virgin?”), and her final yes—“Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word.” [Read more…]

Twitter #Micropoetry

CC zero licenseTootling around on Twitter, I’ve come upon a delightful community of poets. Their hashtag is #micropoetry. What these writers have realized is that Twitter’s restriction of 140 characters can be a stimulating challenge to finding just the right words to express concisely an impression, an experience, a thought.

Much micropoetry on Twitter seems to be images from the natural world. While many of these poems are clichéd, some have a freshness. Here are three, from different tweeters:

arsonist flowers / trying to set / balconies alight

March visiting June / laughing at her sister’s blooms / she knifes her with cold

The clouds descend on the hill / and brush the swings in the park / into movement / phantom wind child / swinging its legs / into the sky

The second most popular category seems to be love poems. Alas, most are sentimental. But I do like this one: [Read more…]

Reading (in) Walden

607px-walden_thoreauWhat are the classics but the noblest recorded thoughts of man? They are the only oracles which are not decayed, and there are such answers to the most modern inquiry in them as Delphi and Dodona never gave.… To read well, that is, to read true books in a true spirit, is a noble exercise…. It requires a training such as the athletes underwent, the steady intention almost of the whole life to this object.

Yes, it’s Thoreau. I’m re-reading Walden. Why? Because it’s on my bookshelf, and I’m in the process of interrogating each book there. The choice: either read it or get rid of it. I hadn’t read Walden in decades, so I pulled it from the shelf.

Though I admire Thoreau’s radical simplicity—if something isn’t a necessity, get rid of it! and my shelf-purging seems to be in Thoreau’s spirit—the book’s opening hundred pages lay it on too thickly for my taste; too much finger-wagging at people who are attached to even minimal property.

But this short chapter called “Reading”: this one is a treasure. [Read more…]