20 September 2019
The Edge of Elfland
First and foremost, let me say thank you again to those who donated to help get me here to the Catholic Imagination Conference. Your money has, I believe, been well invested.
Yesterday was the first day of the conference, though most of the day was spent in pre-conference conferencing. It was during the pre-conference time that many early career academics and grad students were given opportunities to give papers, share from their fiction, and read their poetry.
Sadly I missed many of these. Even though I woke up at 2AM Eastern time and arrived in Chicago by 9 central, by the time I got to my Airbnb it was 10:30. By this point my phone needed a charge and I needed a lie down. So I joined in for the lunch at noon with Dana Gioia, Philip Metris, and Jessica Hooten Wilson fielding questions from Dominic Preziozi, the editor of Commonweal Magazine. They were discussing the current state of Catholic Art (chiefly literary). It was refreshing to see a ground of Catholics (and one Protestant) be hopeful about the state of things. Too often, it seems to me, Catholics can get caught up in all the things that are going wrong. We then miss the signs of joy along the way.
After lunch came more student and early academic presentations, a dinner to honor the poet Paul Mariani, and then a keynote by Mariani. I must admit that by this time (roughly 8PM), I was exhausted. I had been up for 17 hours and would be up for another three. So while Mariani recounted the lives of the poets and artists he had studied, who had helped him to find, “an idiom [he] could call [his] own,” I was staving off sleep and back pain as best I could. Mariani is a new name to me (as so often happens with me since most of my attention is usually given to people dead for quite some time). So I look forward to looking into his work more. He has just published a new book of poetry called Ordinary Time Poems put out by the newly refurbished Slant Imprint at Wipf and Stock.
All in all the first day has done exactly what I have hoped from this conference, it has renewed my desire to get back to writing both scholarship and art. It is hard to describe how little I have ever looked at myself as an artist. I often feel so little like one. Yet, somehow, being here has reminded me that even if it be only small part of myself, it is there.
In the meantime, it’s nearly time for breakfast and so I should finish my coffee and get to the beginning of day two of the Catholic Imagination Conference.
David Russell Mosley