The last thing the world needs is another post about “living in the moment,” but I just spent a month failing at haiku and can’t help but speak about what I have seen and heard. I’ve been engaging with form this year, so far writing a whole slew of sestinas, villanelles, and most recently, haiku—by far the hardest. In fact, haiku doesn’t even seem like poetry to me and barely seems like writing. It’s a spiritual practice, a mindset. And… Read more

In the religion of love to pray is to pass, by a shining word, into the inner chamber of the other. It is to ask the father and mother to return and be forgiven. But in this religion not everyone can pray —Galway Kinnell, “The Man on the Hotel Room Bed” “I believe a strong woman may be stronger than a man, particularly if she happens to have love in her heart. I guess a loving woman is indestructible.” —John… Read more

We sang it, too. In 1961, Mr. D taught our fourth grade music class folk songs belonging to our American musical heritage. I still know all the tunes and most lyrics to “Shenandoah,” “Ol’ Dan Tucker,” “Erie Canal,” “Sweet Betsy from Pike,” “Barbara Allen,” “Red River Valley.” And the minstrel song, “Shortnin’ Bread.” Complete with disturbing racist dialect: “Momma” was not the word we learned. Dick Allen uses the song’s lyrics (set off in italics) to structure the first three… Read more

Recently I sang Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem with the Seattle Symphony. In his adaptation of The Requiem, Britten juxtaposes Wilfred Owen’s poetry with the Latin mass. The male soloists sing Owen’s poem “The Parable of the Old Men and the Young,” the story of Abraham and Isaac, right up to the angel and the ram. But in Owen’s poem, Abraham kills Isaac, “and half the seed of Europe one by one.” Turning an ancient story on its head, using a… Read more

“Tell me a story,” my son has started to say after reading his bedtime books. The first time he made the request, I looked at him as I don’t do often enough, seeing the soft cheeks and hands already changing so fast for his three years, blue eyes looking at me with trust more complete than I could understand anymore. I looked at him with awe, awe for who he was, that he was, that somehow I had been given… Read more

My daughter asked me to bring some food to the swim meet when I came. I said, “Maybe.” She rolled her eyes, and grumbled as if I never do anything for her, though I’d just supplied the ride she needed to participate in her event. She was still mad that I had looked through her gym bag earlier. “I don’t go through your things,” she said, which was kind of funny, because I was in her bag to retrieve my… Read more

The current issue of Image (#96) features a profile of innovative theater director Karin Coonrod, whose projects range from Shakespeare and medieval mystery plays to adaptations of Flannery O’Connor. Her latest play, now running in New York, is an adaptation of the classic Isak Dinesen short story “Babette’s Feast” (famous for the 1987 film version), the story of a refugee who arrives in a remote Norwegian village populated by the fractious, aging adherents of an austere Protestant sect. Coonrod’s friend… Read more

This is the time of year when I anxiously wait for flowers to reappear. Our valley’s famous tulip fields that are now in full bloom, the show-stopping roses by the front door, and the dramatic yet fleeting peonies that outline our garden beds. We also have a hydrangea outside the living room window and I often find myself gazing over it at summer sunsets. In this stunning poem, Tara Bray has reminded me to not overlook this common yet commanding… Read more

When the email came in from my editor, I wasn’t sure how to answer. What do you want to do next? After years—a decade, really—of what felt like pushing a boulder up a mountain, sitting down every night to write no matter if my family was watching a movie or there was ice cream being scooped into bowls or board games being set up, it was finally paying off. An editor from a major publishing house was asking what I… Read more

If you’re a contestant on American Idol, you may have the holy desires to uplift your fans through your singing and to earn a living for your family. But if you sabotage another entrant to better your chances of prevailing, your holy desires have become warped. While many desires prompt goodness, others trigger evil and thus can’t be signs of our vocation to love. St. Ignatius of Loyola called these desires disordered, meaning that a God-given longing—a holy desire—has become… Read more

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