Poets and Pope Embrace our Planet

5439014802_dc3b80295b_zPoets have no problem seeing the world evolving within God’s care.

Okay, that’s too general a statement. Let’s just take some of the poets in the special issue of Image (#85) on “Evolution and the Imago Dei.” (And since Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Sì came out nearly the same time as Image, I hear the Pope conversing with the poets.)

Poet Pattiann Rogers has for decades traced the minutiae of a natural world alive in unexpected ways. I reach for her collection Song of the World Becoming whenever I want to be drawn afresh into nature’s secret life. Here in Image, in “The Moss Method,” it’s the wondrous protective quality of mosses that Rogers burrows her language into. [Read more...]

Dear Patheos

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Dear Patheos:

I hope you guys are doing well. I’ve been meaning to drop you a line and I’ve finally gotten around to it.

The last three years have gone by so quickly! Image journal’s blog “Good Letters” has flourished here, gaining many more readers than would ever have been possible if we’d remained sequestered on our own website.

We’ve been amazed at your growth and all the many fascinating conversations about religions that take place here. The rise of Patheos has certainly been one of the more remarkable stories among religious websites on the Internet.

I must say that you’ve treated us well. You regularly choose posts from “Good Letters” to be featured on your home page. That means a lot to us, precisely because our posts reflect Image’s identity as a literary quarterly seeking to bring the indirect, intuitive language of art to bear on the big religious questions. [Read more...]

Franz Wright: Solving the Problems of Poetry

FranzWright_NewBioImage_Credit-ElizabethOehlkersWright

Maybe all poets are unhinged. There is historical evidence for this going back to ancient days. The Roman poet Catullus opened one infamous poem (known as “Catullus16”) with the line, “Pedicabo ego vos et irrumabo.” It’s among the more, shall we say, forthright responses to critics a poet has ever penned (“I will sodomize you and face-fuck you”).

Such behavior among the poets continues to this day. Franz Wright—who died in May—was known to take a Catullan stance where critics were concerned. He once threatened to thrash William Logan, the critic who was unkind about Wright’s poems in a review for The New Criterion.

Franz Wright struggled with alcohol and drugs his entire difficult life, so the bad behavior had its source. But I also think that, in Wright’s case, the personal suffering that led to his outlandish behavior is related to problems at the heart of modern poetry. [Read more...]

Ray Bradbury Lives Forever

martian_chronicles_250On Labor Day weekend in 1932, a twelve year-old boy from Waukegan, Illinois, having just emerged from a family funeral, noticed a carnival tent by the shore of Lake Michigan and went to investigate. He had heard of a magician there named Mr. Electrico, who sat with a sword in hand on an electric chair with current passing through him, making his hair stand on end.

When Mr. Electrico stood up to knight the boy, making the current pass to him, he shouted: “Live forever!”

Ray Bradbury told this story about his childhood hundreds of times, insisting that the experience set him on the path to becoming a writer-magician, a teller of fantastic tales.

On one level this is a story about vocation—a baptism by electricity—but it is also a story about time and eternity, death and resurrection—themes that would preoccupy Bradbury over a writing career that spanned seven decades.

In all the tributes that have been paid to Bradbury since his death in June 2012—from lengthy newspaper obituaries to blog posts—one aspect of his life and work has been conspicuously missing: the centrality of faith. [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...]


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