Las Madres: Art and Death in the Arizona Desert

pic“The artist is a beggar because she is empty, waiting to be filled. But the artist is also… someone who is driven to go out to the margins of society in order to learn what the margins can teach those at the center.”

When I’d read these words in Greg Wolfe’s editorial in the current issue of Image (#84), I immediately thought of fiber artist Valarie James. Living in the desert of southern Arizona, James hasn’t had to go far to get to society’s margins. When she walks her dog near her home, she finds objects left behind by Central American migrants who have risked their lives—and often lost them—as they traverse the harsh desert mountains seeking safety and the dignity of work in the United States. [Read more...]

Jesus Through Poets’ Eyes

15416184450_c48e41f5e6_mIn my Catholic faith, Easter lasts for seven weeks, until Pentecost; so I’m not too late with this little Easter offering. This year for Easter, instead of hunting for colored eggs, I hunted through my book The Poets’ Jesus for some of the many ways that poets have seen Jesus over the centuries. I found hundreds; but here, lined up chronologically in their carton, are a key dozen.

As indeed He sucked Mary’s milk
He has given suck—life to the universe.
As again He dwelt in His mother’s womb
in His womb dwells all creation.

This eye-opener comes from fourth century Syrian poet Ephrem, for whom the Incarnation marvelously turned everything in the universe upside down—here, imaging Jesus as mother. [Read more...]

The Kiss of Judas

Giotto_KissOfJudasWhen Judas approached Jesus in the Garden and kissed him, how do you think Jesus responded? Oh, we know what the gospel says:

While Jesus was still speaking, Judas…arrived; with him was a large crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him.’ At once he came up to Jesus and said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi!’ and kissed him. Jesus said to him, ‘Friend, do what you are here to do.’ (Matthew 26:47-50

So Jesus responds by calling Judas “Friend.” (In every Bible translation I’ve seen, Jesus calls Judas “Friend” here.)

[Read more...]

The Healing Art: Doctors Prescribing Poems

healingartMy hematologist, who has monitored my leukemia for the past ten years, copied me into an email he sent to his colleagues. It was the poem “Beannacht” by Irish poet John O’Donohue, which begins:

On the day when
The weight deadens
On your shoulders
And you stumble,
May the clay dance
To balance you.

And when your eyes
Freeze behind
The gray window
And the ghost of loss
Gets in to you,
May a flock of colors,
Indigo, red, green
And azure blue,
Come to awaken in you
A meadow of delight.

What a grace to have a doctor who would send this around to his colleagues. This is what I want in all my doctors: human beings in touch with the full range of human emotions. People who respond to poetry. [Read more...]

The Art of Evil

OthelloSeeing a fine production of Othello recently has got me thinking about the art of evil, a fitting topic for Lent. And, yes, that pun in “art” is intended.The creativity of Iago’s evil machinations is the force driving Othello’s plot; and art in general—in all its genres—often portrays how evil works in our world.

I hadn’t seen or read Othello in decades, and I’d forgotten how much it is Iago’s play.

[Read more...]


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