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I was on the Joseph Milford Poetry Show last Friday, November 9. Here’s the recording.
I read from Seriously Dangerous (also available on amazon.com), Mansion of Memory (a few copies available from me), Better With Friends, and my new (in progress) manuscript, Red Berries From the Mountain Ash.
Many thanks to Joe Milford.
Many thanks to Michael Lee Johnson, who has posted a new interview with me on Interviews Poets, Writers. Check it out.
A Celebration of Wake Forest Writers and Writing!
March 23-25 on the campus of Wake Forest University
I’ll be part of a panel “Writing Poetry” at 9:00-9:50 am March 24
(Eric Ekstrand ‘07, Helen Losse MALS ’00, Robert West ’91) (409 Benson)
part of a reading Writers Reading IV: The Poets: at 3:15 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. March 24
Eric Ekstrand ’07, Helen Losse MALS ’00, John York ’77 (401B Benson)
signing Better With Friends and Seriously Dangerous at the Wake Forest University Book Store table
and selling Mansion of Memory at the table for the Winston-Salem Writers
Join us. It’s free! See entire schedule.
“Poetry lovers will surely delight in Seriously Dangerous, Helen Losse’s latest collection of deftly sculpted lyric poems. Throughout this volume of 47 mostly short works, Losse reveals a sensibility that is at once intensely spiritual and concrete. Rooted in the natural world and often exhibiting abundant painterly detail, Losse’s poems are eloquent statements about life in the body—both individual and the collective. Life in its myriad private and public scenarios undergoes a thorough exploration, which the poet expresses with economical, sometimes deadpan, frankness as in the mordant poem, “Spin, Spin, Spin”:
People with crosses have
We know that most are dangerous,
except for the chosen few
God actually likes.
“To read Helen Losse’s poems is to savor an eloquent voice. Nowhere is this voice more contemplative than in “Where Light is Going”:
It would be easier to speak as others believe,
not to feel the ocean’s intentions nor to sense
the pull of the moon. Grace abounds in ocean,
in flotsam, in rich sea foam, floats in earth’s
swirling dust . . . .
Ultimately, Seriously Dangerous embodies mindfulness of the connectedness of all things and of the urgency for each of us to be open to what is without forgetting what has been.”
Many thanks to Maria Garcia Rouphail, who is on the English Department faculty at North Carolina State University, where she teaches in the World Literature program
“With the keen observations of a naturalist and the reflective probing of a theologian, Losse’s poems unearth epiphanies from ordinary life. Seeing Queen Anne’s Lace or a Dried-Up River Bed become occasions for spiritual renewal and revelatory wonder. Losse invites her readers on a soul’s journey from mountain peaks to valleys. Her collection Seriously Dangerous is like the liturgical dancer that holds the candle, and whose performance rises like incense. Losse’s poems dance and sing the spirit alive.”
There’s still time to advance order Seriously Dangerous. Please do.
If anyone is interested in the Vatican Museum and St. Peter’s Basilica from the point of view of religious history, be sure to read Scott Erb’s blog. Scott is in Italy for a few days as part of a travel course to Italy involving 16 students and will be blogging from there.
As Scott points out, in his entry “Vatican Voices” about the Vatican Museum and St. Peter’s Basilica, he stands in “awe [because of] the way in which our very civilization was saved by, shaped by and is still affected by the Roman Catholic Church.” Scott points out art works and other valuable historic sites then writes:
“As I left I felt like all day I’d been hearing ‘Vatican voices.’ Voices from the past, connecting the present with all the ebbs, flows, and shifts of western history, a history of which the Church has been the center. I am not a Roman Catholic, I am not a Christian — though my beliefs on spiritual matters are very close to Christianity….”
I’ll be following Scott’s posts as he travels in Italy. Others might want to bookmark Scott Erb’s blog and follow him also.
I planned to post this earlier today. But the day has gotten away from me. Not sure what I did. Oh, I did go out in the snow. It’s stopped now, but we have a great dusting. And I roughed out a poem about that.
Anyway, I was going to post about my friend poet Scott Owens.
Before I saw the Youtube interview of Owens, from Jessie Carty at Folded Word Press, my inbox at the Dead Mule contained a message about his new blog, based on the weekly column he writes, “Musings.”
Scott Owens is the author of The Fractured World, a book of poems published in 2008 by Main Street Rag and two online online chapbooks, “Deceptively Like a Sound” and “Book of Days,” published by the Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, as well as a chapbook that’s out of print. He is a poetry editor for The Wild Goose Poetry Review and a teacher at Catawba County Community College.
Check him out. He’s good.
Making Our Lives Available to Others by Henri Nouwen
“One of the arguments we often use for not writing is this: “I have nothing original to say. Whatever I might say, someone else has already said it, and better than I will ever be able to.” This, however, is not a good argument for not writing. Each human person is unique and original, and nobody has lived what we have lived. Furthermore, what we have lived, we have lived not just for ourselves but for others as well. Writing can be a very creative and invigorating way to make our lives available to ourselves and to others.
We have to trust that our stories deserve to be told. We may discover that the better we tell our stories the better we will want to live them.”
So “there’s nothing new under the sun.” Well, duh! And if we concentrate on message, we probably will be repeating something that already been said. But if we tell our unique story by formulating an image we have seen, we will be adding to what has been previously written.
One lesson I learned when I returned to school is that life is too important to begin with analysis. We must start with our stories. One might think I leaned this in a creative writing class. But no, it was a class in the sociology of religion. Our lives are our stories. From our stories come the lessons. (A big thank you to Alton B. Pollard III.)
—for Alton B. Pollard III
Rustling leaves welcome the breezes,
but tree trunks remain silent.
I recognize the cry of an owl,
not the scuffling: that I cannot explain—
nor Jesus in Alton’s face.
Both. Shining. From the dark.
It is not the day that holds the fire—
nor is there consolation in moonlight,
but rather: where time and place
don’t seem to matter,
nor the colors of skin,
falsely bleached by the bright sun
into a feigned harmony,
’til I’ve forgotten if it is hue or tone
of which we vainly speak. Yes,
the night embellished as it deepened,
enhancing, as the night will do,
that which by day remains shadow.
I know what I saw in the upper room:
what cloaked me in gooseflesh—
and beckons gently now.
from Gathering the Broken Pieces, “Poets On Peace #5,” FootHills
A couple of days ago, I found an editorial, “Managing Ignorance,” by the Rev. Dr. John Mendez, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, in The Chronicle. The article appeared in the April 3 issue.
I should have seen the editorial earlier, but racism doesn’t go away, you see, just because I’m slack. So I’m going to excerpt it now.
The Rev. Dr. John Mendez
“In recent days, the American public has been bombarded by a series of video clips, relentless isolated sound bytes, and lots of frenzied, misinformed overcharged rhetoric by the news media, commentators, and right-wing bloggers, caricaturing and demonizing my friend, Dr. Jeremiah Wright and Trinity Christian Church. Dr. Wright is under attack for the use of language and sentiments uttered while preaching a sermon that criticized and condemned American violence at home and abroad. In my estimation, however, the real reason Dr. Wright is under attack is that he was the pastor of Senator Barack Obama and his family for over 20 years, as UCC President John Thomas pointed out. Those who sifted through hours of sermons looking for a few lurid phrases and those who aired them repeatedly were only seeking to discredit and harm Obama by associating him with the historic prophetic ministry and social gospel preaching tradition of the Black church, as if that is a bad thing; and to divide the American people along racial and religious lines by subtly playing the “race card.”
I have known Dr. Jeremiah Wright for over 25 years. He is a brilliant preacher and scholar. He was recognized by Ebony Magazine as one of the top 15 preachers in America. He has preached in Winston-Salem several times to overflowing audiences. Trinity Church is located in Southside Chicago, where the consequences of racist public policies are manifested in a crumbling infrastructure, a failing school system, and a lack of economic development. For decades, Trinity Church has been hailed as a model church for what Dr. Martin Marty, a professor of religion at the University of Chicago Divinity School and frequent visitor to Trinity worship services, describes as a place of ‘hope, hope, hope.'”
Read the rest of the article here. Emphasis mine.
Dr. Mendez was instrumental to my understanding of black preaching. He spent hours of his valuable time talking with me and recommending books, so that I could understand this aspect of my thesis on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. And now I hope others will listen to this man of God.
You see, I love John Mendez, and I respect him. In my heart, he will always be my pastor, whether I sit in his pew or not. He has helped me educate my ignorance and become a recovering racist rather than a practicing one. And in that, dear reader, there is hope, hope, hope.
American can yet become the nation we dream of.
White Into Black
into that darkened sky—
How can one be born
when one is old:
in the flood from His side,
beneath the piercing sword?
I will abandon my watery grave—
pale as ancestors, plunged
into its flow—
black as my Jesus, comely:
first published in Domicile