The Thing Itself: Art and Poverty, Part 2

Continued from yesterday.


picasso1How should we treat the poor?

Among those who work on behalf of them, it has become a truism that our first obligation toward our less fortunate brothers and sisters is to first recognize and celebrate their humanity. What is less often recognized is the vital role that art can play in such a process. Roberta Ahmanson in the interview she gave recently for Image spoke about how she, as a patron of the arts, has worked to serve homeless families through a nonprofit called Village of Hope:

I think people might say that the Village of Hope doesn’t need stained-glass windows; they need food, job training, tutoring, beds for the babies. But Jim [the founder] intuitively understood that the places you bring people to speak to them about their own value. When you…put them in a box like a prison cell, you have just said, “We think you are a prisoner.” [Read more…]

The Thing Itself: Art and Poverty, Part 1

The following is adapted from a presentation given at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley in January 2015 during a convocation on the topic “Blessed Are You Poor: What Does It Mean to Be a Poor Church for the Poor?”


pop__frugal_mealI am profoundly grateful that the witness of Pope Francis has spurred so many of us to rethink our relationship to the poor and marginalized. There are a dozen directions to take this topic, depending on how we define poverty. We have spoken of it as an evil—a condition to be ameliorated whenever possible—and we have spoken of it as a virtue—a habit that embraces simplicity, freedom, and sacrifice.

It is, of course, both.

[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…]

Epic Tales: an Interview with Amit Majmudar, part 2

Claude_Lorrain_024Guest post by Sarah Arthur

Continued from yesterday. 

SA:  In your essay “Me and the Monotheists,” you say that even though you are a Hindu, many Christians seem to warmly welcome your poetry (e.g., I’ve included your poem “Incarnation” in the anthology Light Upon Light). You say this is primarily about “aesthetic resonance”—particularly with imagery—but you also point to the English language itself as being encoded with biblical influence.

And yet not every contemporary English-speaking poet writes this way. Can you elaborate?

[Read more…]

Shakespeare: God’s Will

Has the Lord God graced us with any poetic mind as elegant and potent as that of his darling, William Shakespeare?  No, I say, No!—thrice and four times, No! Fie upon it. Out, damned calumny!

And don’t speak any garbage about him not really being him; nobody outside Bigfoot believers and Roswell Rosicrucians seriously contends it. He was him, all right, and a thrashing from crown to crow’s foot is owed to any villainous cur who repeats such bold and saucy wrongs.

The occasion of my praise is to once again bring forth Shakespeare’s good, so that not for one second may it lay interred with his bones.  So let it not be with God’s Will. For I have recently seen Ralph Fiennes’ film version of Coriolanus, the tragedy most beloved to those of a formalist persuasion (T.S. Eliot and company didn’t think much of Hamlet—they preferred Coriolanus; I disagree, but more of that anon), and it is a thing well made.

Coriolanus is about revenge—a favorite theme in Shakespeare—something all desire, all suffer for. Its power wields about indiscriminately, redounding upon the vengeful as often as it lands upon the victim—a bloody muddle of indignation, pride, and wrath. [Read more…]