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Blog

An Odd Apprenticeship: A Belated Mother's Day Reflection

Joy and Matthew Steem

For many trades, the practice of apprenticing has been an established method of imparting instruction from expert to apprentice. The learned takes the initiate under her or his wing, and over a period of time, something is imparted to the apprentice. Whether this is knowledge about gardening, mechanics, pottery or something else, the apprenticing system has proven successful when a skill has been imparted.

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The Theology of Illness

Jean Hoefling

Through illness, man comes back to himself.
— St. Serpahim of Sarov

Very recently, a three-day illness sent me to the wall. Suffice it to say there were woes and throes and flues and vertigo aplenty, of an intensity I’d never before experienced. For once, I don’t need to resort to hyperbole when I claim that I didn’t move. If I tried to, I immediately checked into another dimension where the ceiling spun above me like time-lapse footage of star trails on steroids. Every minute was an hour, or no time at all, and the slightest noise devolved to cacophony and new frontiers of vertigo. Trying to imagine life outside my closed bedroom door was akin to planning a tea party on the backside of Jupiter. In short, I was completely disoriented.

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Poetry Out Loud

William Coleman

"I stood upon the edge where the mist ascended" . . . "Light! more light!" . . . "I've lived the parting hour to see / Of one I would have died to save." . . . "I found the arrow, still unbroke." ...

I watched and heard my students say these lines, and so many more, one day in January. They were embodying poems they'd learned by heart, each one saying two: one of 25 lines or fewer, and one composed before the twentieth century was. We were following the rules of Poetry Out Loud, the national poetry recitation contest sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts.

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T.S. Eliot: A Thought on Liberalism

Joy and Matthew Steem

The trouble with T.S Eliot’s reputation, many writers have said, is that his early work has been explored (think “The Wasteland”) while the later has been ignored. This has changed somewhat lately, but it’s still fairly pervasive. For example, in many poetry anthologies – the place where students get their first taste of poetry – it will be the younger, non-believing rather nihilistic Eliot they are introduced to. It’s not too often that something like the Four Quartets will be provided. Nope, the concluding sentiment received will be, likely, from “The Hollow Men”:

         “This is the way the world ends (x3)
         Not with a bang but a whimper.”

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The Surrealist’s Storm

Jayne English

"I come into the peace of wild things." — Wendell Berry

Have you ever listened to an instrumental version of a song that’s familiar to you and realized, while you’re humming along, singing the words in your head, that a younger person, hearing the same version, would have no idea that there are words to it? You would be experiencing the same song, but at different levels.

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Pain and Petition

Briana Meade

Today, I sit on the bed, looking at the piles of laundry. There is a pile on my right. There is a pile on my left, and there is a pile on the bed. Afternoon happens to be when I am at my weakest. The pain is like a splinter I can’t get out of my thumb, but in this case, that splinter is wedged deep in the space between my condyles and my skull. The  diagnosis I’ve been given is idiopathic condylar resorption—in other words, my jaw joint is disintegrating, along with the condyles. “Idiopathic” simply means no one knows why.

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Sub[urban] Creation

Jayne English

“A box without hinges, key, or lid, yet golden treasure inside is hid.”
     —J.R.R. Tolkien

I grew up in the suburbs. Those places where you could only see distance if you looked up, because the houses and yards and hedges of your neighbors and their neighbors became the extent of your horizon. These views were vastly different from the ones that inspired Coleridge and Wordsworth on their walking tour through moorland and woodland, and along the coast of Bristol Channel. They weren’t like Emily Dickinson’s views at the Homestead, where she wandered through orchard and gardens, tending the flowers that thrived in her poetry. And they’re not the English countryside Tolkien knew as a child that charmed his Hobbits’ Shire.

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The Grace of Graham Greene

Joy and Matthew Steem

For a long while—years—an exceedingly good friend pestered me to read Graham Greene, specifically The Power and The Glory. When I finally made the right choice, I had a sense of loss—grief that had I read the work earlier, I may have been a more replete and insightful person. I now personally know why he has been called one of the better writers (and a Catholic to boot) of the century.

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Cut by Coleridge

Joy and Matthew Steem

While writing on such a grandiose personage, it’s hard to not aspire to touch on a great many magnificent things. And what numerous numbers there are! Ashamedly, I have not read much Coleridge before. I knew of him historically speaking, and what he was known for and with whom he hob-knobbed, but I had read little past “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and a few others. Then I landed his Aids to Reflection.

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A Poet in Pursuit of Freedom

Jessica Brown

George Moses Horton wrote poems, and for a very long time he attempted to sell these poems to purchase his freedom from slavery.

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The Dark Ages: What Petrarch Didn’t Know

Jayne English

“My fate is to live among varied and confusing storms.” — Petrarch

We all have them, dark times of struggle. Whether they last an intense day or long years, whether they’re about money, health, or relationships, they settle on us like night. They create tunnel vision, and can blind us to what lies beyond their shadows.

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Out-Staring Stars

Robert Alan Rife

I am not the first, nor will I be the last to quake and quiver at the rather odd, inexplicable mixture of symptoms to which artists will point for their embryonic work—that most baffling conundrum otherwise known as “the creative process.” It is a rather stupefying concoction of mysteries perhaps best left to psychologists, philosophers, and theologians. When it arrives at one’s door, it does so unbidden and with an inconvenient sense of either timing or manners.

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