On Poets & Poetry: Salt to the World

BYU Studies Quarterly just published my review essay on two recent poetry collections: Susan Elizabeth Howe’s Salt (Signature Books, 2013) and Lance Larsen’s Genius Loci (University of Tampa Press, 2013). Both collections are well-worth your time and they sustain and reward multiple readings. Here’s an excerpt, right from the middle of my review, to whet your lyric appetite:

Mormon theology demands that in all we do—language-making included—we attend closely to the environments we inhabit. “Consider the lilies of the field,” Christ said in the Sermon on the Mount, then again in his sermon at the Nephite temple and to Joseph Smith in Kirtland. His utterance, reiterated across dispensations, calls his disciples to rely on his grace as they seek to build Zion: “You’re worried about where you’ll get your next meal?” he seems to ask. “How you’ll quench your thirst and clothe your nakedness? Well, look closely at the lilies. See how their relationship with the earth sustains their growth? They root in rich soil. They withhold their presence and their beauty from no one. They consume only as their needs demand and what they produce contributes—even in death—to the health and constant renewal of their environment, to which the species readily adapts. Can human institutions, which are prone to excess, say the same of themselves?

“Live, rather, like the lilies.”

Howe, it seems, has taken this imperative to heart (though perhaps not directly via Christ’s statement), using her poiesis as a way to sustain the world and to draw out her presence—as well as her readers’ presence—therein. Poet and professor Lance Larsen, who (like Howe) teaches at BYU, seems to have responded likewise, although the places he inhabits in his fourth poetry collection, Genius Loci, are more directly mobile than those Howe inhabits in Salt. Salt‘s geographies and the people and creatures who populate them are essentially in motion. But a persistent concern in Genius Loci is what it means to live in a world that doesn’t hold still—scratch that: not just to live in a world that doesn’t hold still, but to be fully present in that world.

You can read a PDF copy of the full review essay on the flipside of this link.

(Cross-posted here.)

Let the 2nd Annual #MormonPoetrySlam Voting Begin!

Now that the busyness of Christmas has passed and the final performance in the 2nd Annual #MormonPoetrySlam has posted (see the event archive here), it’s time to determine the winner of the Audience Choice Award. For your consideration and reviewing pleasure, here are the eighteen entries, listed in order of appearance (you may need to hit “Read next page” at the bottom of the Storify to review all of eighteen).

To get straight to voting, click here. Continue reading “Let the 2nd Annual #MormonPoetrySlam Voting Begin!”

Eric Freeze: Dominant Traits
(review & interview)

domtraits.

I hadn’t heard of Eric Freeze until last year.  I suppose this isn’t surprising, what with him being Canadian, ha ha, but for a Mormon with as long a fiction CV as he has, I’m sorry I hadn’t. Plus, he’s an academic who writes about comics and I really needed one more of those back in 2010 when I was finishing up the Sunstone comics issue. Ah well. I’ll know where to turn next time.

Dominant Traits is a US reprint by Dufour Editions of Dominant Traits from Oberon Press, the orginal Canadian collection of Freeze’s stories, all but one of which have been previously published in a variety of reputable literary rags. The exception is “Goths”; we’ll talk about it later.

The collection is a complex mix, and so I’m going to break this review into pieces. Also, we’re going to try mixing the review with an interview. I’ll end each  bit of review in the form of a question. Then get Brother Freeze to reply.

Shall we get started?

Continue reading “Eric Freeze: Dominant Traits
(review & interview)”

Poetry in Print — April 2010

This is the third year that I have prepared a bibliography of poetry by Mormons in print for National Poetry Month. Surprisingly, this year we only added titles to the list — nothing went out-of-print. But don’t think that is because all these books are easy to find.

Continue reading “Poetry in Print — April 2010”

Best of Mormonism 2009 (in brief)

I was pleased to receive a copy of Best of Mormonism 2009 (edited by Stephen Carter) by virtue of my Irreantum subscription. That was a nice bonus. I mostly endorse Theric’s review and recommendations. But to be brief and positive:

My Favorite Work: Neil Aitken’s poem “Traveling through the Prairies, I think of My Father’s Voice”

The One I’ve Been Thinking About: Lisa Torcasso Downing’s short story “Clothing Esther”

Prose I Most Admire: there’s some very good writers here, but the one that really got me in the flow of the language is Joshua Foster’s essay “God Damned the Land But Lifted the People; Or, A Redemption in Three Levitations”

Best Use Of Humor: To be honest a bit disappointing overall, but this sentence from Lynda Mackey Wilson’s essay “We Who Owe Everything to a Name” cracked me up — (talking about a book about she received from her agnostic parents called The Origins of Life) “There were dramatic pictures of lightning flashing over moody ammonia seas.” (152)

Favorite Sentences/Lines: I’m going to pick two. From Aitken’s poem — “…Here, the wind sounds the same/ blown from any direction, full of dust, pollen, the deep toll of church bells/ rung for mass, weddings, deaths. …” (1)

And from Lance Larsen’s essay “A Feeling in Your Head”  (which is about him as a young boy with an uncle fighting in Vietnam and the fragile hope for his return) — “On winter Sundays, we entered the church for sacrament and sermons in afternoon light, then exited in darkness, as if our praying brought on the gloom, our singing caused it to lick at the chapel windows, our amens led it to press down on the station wagon my father maneuvered through the streets like an elegant hearse.” (115)

Short Story Friday: The Bluest Eye by Lance Larsen

As Tyler points out below, this is technically creative nonfiction. But it’s a story. And it’s short. And it’s by Lance Larsen. And its features the name La Vawn.

Title:

Author: Lance Larsen

Publication Info: Brevity 29, January 2009

Submitted by: Tyler Chadwick

Why?: “Though this isn’t technically a short story, it is a very short narrative that shows Larsen’s poetic acuity and that blurs the generic distinctions we like to make. It also speaks to some interesting things about sight and perspective, about how we view the world, and about the wonder of human relationships (as comes through the eyes [pun intended] of childhood).”

Participate:

Submit to Short Story Friday

Possible online sources of stories and link to spreadsheet with current submissions

All Short Story Friday posts so far

The Hero’s Journey of the Mormon Arts

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As Motley Vision‘s newest Official Contributor, I feel an obligation to have my first post explain something of my experience within and attitude towards the Mormon arts.

Several months ago, I plotted out a post called “Hero’s Journey of the Mormon Artist” which I had intended to submit to William. I’m glad I never finished it however as further reflection has suggested to me that I was implying that that my proposed version of the hero’s journey was a necessary part of being a good Mormon artist. As if being an Orson Scott Card or a Dean Hughes is more admirable than being a Heather Moore or an Anita Stansfield (no sexism intended). And so I continued refining the idea and now I feel that it is not Mormon artists who are on a hero’s journey, but the Mormon arts entire. I will not be going into all seventeen stages of the monomyth, but I will deal with the three major groupings and hit on the secondary levels when they seem helpful.

* Continue reading “The Hero’s Journey of the Mormon Arts”

Mormon Poetry for National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month, so in view of our recent conversations about Mormon poetry, I though it might be a good idea to review what Mormon poetry is in print at the moment, and ask those who visit to take a look. [The links are to the Amazon page for the book – no link means that the book isn’t available on Amazon.]

I think we would also love to know of any books that aren’t on the list. I pulled this information from a number of sources, but like any bibliographies of Mormon materials, it is very hard to get everything.

The list is interesting for several reasons:

Continue reading “Mormon Poetry for National Poetry Month”