Saturday, October 12, 2013


This blog has served its purpose; it has been quiet for awhile, and I am formally laying it to rest.  I appreciate the friends and relatives who read it.  My new blog site may be viewed at Beating the Bounds. I'm not sure when, if ever, I will begin posting there.  Right now, it is a place holder.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Christmas poems

D.S. Martin shares Christian poetry, old and new, over at Kingdom Poets.  I enjoy being introduced to poets, and sometimes find time and inclination to read more, as in the case of Nicholas Samaras and George Mackay Brown.

He offers a list of Christmas poems.   

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Thank you, Barbara Curtis

Barbara Curtis, mother of twelve children, passed away this afternoon, following a stroke a couple of days ago.

Barbara was the first blogger I read. We became acquainted by email, after meeting on a list for parents of children with Down syndrome. She was an encouragement to me, especially during the early years of motherhood.

She loved her family by marriage, blood, and adoption. She and her husband Tripp adopted three sons with Down syndrome after having Jonathan (born with it).  One of her last articles, A Little Extra, in part an appreciation of Jonny and his contribution to her life, was written in honor of Down Syndrome awareness month.

Barbara had a big heart.  She shared what she had with so many. May God comfort and provide for her family in this time of grief.

Thank you, Barbara.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Festival of Faith and Writing, 2012: Luci Shaw

(This was my third opportunity to hear Luci give a reading of her poetry. Her audiences have a special quality.  They come to listen, being fans of poetry, in general, and Luci, in particular.)

Luci Shaw is working on a book of essays about getting older: Views from a Steep Slope: the Adventure of Living Long Enough to Grow Old.  (She deals forthrightly with serious subjects which are becoming increasingly relevant in our culture.)  The Slow Pleasures, a book of poetry, is forthcoming.  She shared conversationally  between readings of several of her new poems, lighting up the background from which they came.  At times, she took questions from the audience.

The church in which she grew up sometimes sang a hymn containing the line, "Teach me to dread the grave as little as my bed."  "Is the grave really as little as my bed? she asked her mother.  :-)

Her son, a surgeon in Thailand, goes into Burma for weeks at a time to help provide medical services to people of ethnic tribes.  He whittles in his spare time, and also writes poems; they share their writing and give feedback across the internet.

A poem is more economical than an essay.  A picture speaks to you, like a sketch in a large white mat, in a frame, saying "This deserves your attention."  A poem is more imaginative and design oriented.

In Horizons, illustrated by calligrapher Timothy Botts, she gives some explanations of how the poems included came to be.  Botts created Shaw's Christmas cards for years.  She first met him, by happy "chance," when she picked him and his wife at the airport the day they arrived from Japan, to come to Tyndale.

When asked about her favorite poets, she mentioned Dylan Thomas, the Celts (Welsh, Scotch, Irish), Jeanne Murray Walker, Galway Kinnell, Seamus Haney.  She also referred to Andrew Hudgins, Mark Jarman, Elisabeth Stevens.  In interactions with the audience, the names Wendell Berry, Billy Collins, Robert Pinsky, and Dana Gioia arose. 

"If I have any ambition it is for my work, not for myself." Donald Hall.

An audience member asked if Luci reads her poems aloud, as she writes.  She responded that she does; reading aloud helps with rhythm, and to catch gaps in logic, and repeated words.  Have someone read a poem aloud, back to you.

Luci Shaw's books include:
Accompanied by Angels: Poems of the Incarnation
The Angles of Light
Breath for the Bones
Colossians: A Studyguide
The Crime of Living Cautiously
Friends for the Journey (with Madeleine L’Engle)
The Genesis of It All
God in the Dark
The Green Earth: Poems
Harvesting Fog: Poems
Horizons: Exploring Creation
Life Path: Growth through Journal Keeping
Listen to the Green 
Polishing the Petoskey Stone
Postcard from the Shore
A Prayerbook for Spiritual Friends (with Madeleine L’Engle)
The Risk of Birth
The Secret Trees
The Sighting
Sightseers into Pilgrims, anthology
Water Lines
Water My Soul
What the Light Was Like
A Widening Light anthology, Luci Shaw, Editor
WinterSong (with Madeleine L’Engle)
Writing the River

Festival of Faith and Writing, 2012: Gary Schmidt

(As mentioned in my previous post, I attended Calvin College's Festival of Faith and Writing this spring. I'll try to post my notes here, as a record of those well-spent hours, for myself, at least.)

Bill Vande Kopple, Co-Chair of Calvin’s English Department, began the Wiersma Memorial lecture with a tribute to Stanley Wiersma, a former Calvin professor and poet (Calvinist Farming), followed by an introduction of his colleague, featured speaker and Newberry Award-winning author, Gary D. Schmidt.  
After his initial remarks, Schmidt set forth on an appreciation of stories:  they offer wisdom, beauty, assurance that we are not alone, proportion, and delight.  They teach us our place, help us to be both more human and more humane.  They give us more to be human with. 

“Anything worth saying is unsayable, and that is why we tell stories.”  Kevin Moffett.

He read the Old Testament story of Naaman’s search for a cure to his leprosy, giving special attention to the mediating words of the servants in the account:  promises of healing, of knowing, a greeting--encouragement when Naaman resists plunging into the river, taking up the mud.  The world is complex, messy.  Begin with Naaman’s humble question.  (II Kings 5:1-19)

“Man He made to serve him wittily, in the tangle of his mind.” Robert Bolton, A Man for All Seasons. 
Stories are not about the right answers; they are about the right questions.  All art, in its deepest purpose, is directive.  “Go, throw yourself in the river.”  “Can I still worship with the king of Rimmon?”  “Go home in peace.”

Stories with quick easy answers often give answers that lie.

Stanley Wiersma poem, “What Is Home?”

“You will never love art well, till you love what she mirrors better. . . .the beginning of all my own right art work in life, depended not on my love of art, but of mountains and the sea.” Ruskin

Don’t bring anger, bitterness, hurt, cynicism, dismissiveness toward the world.  Love the world.

“Pay attention” [to the world]. Beuchner.

A writer serves by loving, paying attention, asking questions.  Love the craft.

Schmidt illustrated his point about attentiveness by telling Barry Moser’s story of drawing an apple on the classroom board.  He asked his students, “What’s on the board?”  It took them awhile to get past the generic apple, the more specific MacIntosh;  eventually the response he wanted was revealed to be “chalk.”

Love words.  Love their ability to make people weep.  For the writer, very little is just given.  Work little by little with stubborn discipline.  Annie Dillard says that dazzling is not enough.  Meaning comes when art is in service of an idea.

Schmidt is interested in a number of questions:

How does a kid turn from childhood to adulthood with so little support from culture? Culture often works against it.

How does a kid move to adult affirmations of beliefs, especially within the crucible of loss?  Loss brings potential for either withdrawal or growth.

We are all wounded and battered creatures in a wounded and battered world.  Many children don’t feel empathy for themselves. When you receive empathy, you are inevitably called upon to give it.

“Anything worth saying is unsayable.”

Schmidt sometimes travels north to work with Ojibwe students at a school in Sioux Ste Marie, where the suicide rate among male adults is above average.  He tries to teach them the power of naming.  To a student who has suffered deep loss and become withdrawn, he says, “I think you may have stories to tell, and you may have the gifts to tell them.”

In closing, Schmidt urged members of the audience to  explore what we may do.  Go down to the river. Maybe we will be made whole.

Bill Vande Kopple closed with a Writer’s Prayer. (Coming soon:  Acceptable Words: Prayers for the Writer, by Gary Schmidt and Elizabeth Stickney.)

Gary Schmidt's published writing includes:
Okay for Now
The Wednesday Wars
First Boy
In God's Hands
Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy
Mara's Stories: Glimmers in the Darkness
Ciaran: The Tale of a Saint of Ireland
Anson's Way
Straw Into Gold
Pilgrim's Progress (with Barry Moser)
The Blessing of the Lord: Stories from the Old and New Testaments
William Bradford: Plymouth's Faithful Pilgrim
The Sin Eater
The Great Stone Face (with Bill Farnsworth)
The Wonders of Donal O'Donnell (with Loren Long)
Hugh Lofting (Twayne's English Authors Series)
 Robert McCloskey (Twayne's United States Authors Series)
Katherine Paterson (Twayne's United States Authors Series)
Robert Lawson (Twayne's United States Authors Series)
The Iconography of the Mouth of Hell: Eighth-Century Britain to the Fifteenth Century
A Passionate Usefulness: The Life and Literary Labors of Hannah Adams
What Came from the Stars (coming this fall)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

17 gifts

1. the opportunity to attend the Calvin Festival of Faith and Writing last week
2. sunlight falling on new-born leaves clinging for dear life to branches waving vigorously outside the window
3. getting to hear Ann Voskamp, live, carry a metaphor--this one, a seed
4. being reminded of the solid strengths of the Dutch immigrant community in West Michigan
5. hearing Marilynne Robinson talk about perception, John Calvin, Wallace Stevens, Gilead, writing, and Presence in the silence of the Idaho woodland where she grew up
6. listening to Henry Baron read from his book of prayers, Talking with God
7. an introduction to the poetry of Stanley Wiersma, in the opening address by Gary Schmidt
8. book-laden tables
9. cheerful green souvenir mug
10. time to spend in the College bookstore (picked up Dylan Thomas, recommended by Luci Shaw, in the Q&A part of her session on ambition with Jeanne Murray Walker)
11. well-managed coffee breaks
12. Mark Richard's honesty (House of Prayer No. 2)
13. Ruben Martinez reading from his work (in-progress?)
14. Baker Book House's extensive used book stacks
15. tulips in bloom
16. helpfulness of Calvin staff and students, in finding way to venues
17. Paul Willis's poem for tenth year anniversary of the attacks on 9/11/2001 (serving in his role as
Poet Laureate of Santa Barbara, CA)

and, running over, two more
18. meeting Luci Shaw, the poet, a very gracious woman
19. meeting Nancy Nordenson, online friend from Just Thinking

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Jesus Trail

My cousin's daughter and her husband spent this year playing various roles in Nazareth Village, a tourist attraction in Israel that helps people imagine life in Bible times.  They were able to walk the Jesus Trail several times.  She is interviewed in the short video above.  Betsy and her husband Philip blog at Run Honey Run, listed to the right.

Monday, April 25, 2011


Thank you to whoever posted this.
Lift your glad voices in triumph on high,
For Jesus hath risen, and man cannot die;
Vain were the terrors that gathered around Him,
And short the dominion of death and the grave;
He burst from the fetters of darkness that bound Him,
Resplendent in glory to live and to save!
Loud was the chorus of angels on high,
The Savior hath risen, and man shall not die.

Glory to God, in full anthems of joy;
The being He gave us death cannot destroy:
Sad were the life we must part with tomorrow,
If tears were our birthright, and death were our end;
But Jesus hath cheered the dark valley of sorrow,
And bade us, immortal, to Heaven ascend:
Lift then your voices in triumph on high,
For Jesus hath risen, and man shall not die.

---Henry Ware

(Listen to, as a funeral song, on Youtube.)