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North American Review

photography by Chris Highland

“An Equal Right to be Wrong”

I responded to a blog recently where a man mocked divinity schools for instructing professors and students to use gender-neutral words for God. The blogger sneered that this was being “politically correct” and unbiblical. Normally I wouldn’t engage this mean-spirited ignorance, but I wrote that the intense dislike some people have for what they label PC is often merely a demand that we all be RC:  “religiously correct.” Being sensitive...

Mount Rushmore and American Flag

Scholars can study the major narratives of American history by reading the pages of the North American Review, from slavery and the Civil War, to the thoughts of nearly a dozen US presidents. Below are the names several presidents, along with links to writings that appeared in previous issues of the North American Review. Some of these writings only discuss the presidents or their...

Illustration by Kali Gregan

Not writing is a lot like breathing; it can continue without notice. And as I moved through my days into weeks and months of not writing, it started to feel completely normal. Like I never wrote at all: I was never that MFA student devouring every book of poems I could get my hands on, fervent, with my own poems coming like extended fever dreams, these bottle-rocket incantations that my mentor could barely keep up with. Everything I saw and touched was imbued with…what? Incredible potential...

Image of bird by Matt Manley

 

Clouds move at the leisure of the wind, whether urgent and gusting or placidly seeming painted upon the sky. Like eagles and falcons, rivers and the wind itself, clouds have provided a permanent and inexhaustible image for freedom. I find it hard not to envy them, yet I would feel unmoored and unnerved by such complete mobility, something like “the unbearable lightness of being” as Milan Kundera characterized it.   

 

“Plaintive Lives” was written at a time soon...

Photography by Chris Highland

"A New, Secular Scripture”

Naturalist John Burroughs wrote, “The book of nature is like a page written over or printed upon. . .in many different languages. . . We all read the large type [with appreciation], but only the students and lovers of nature read the fine lines and the footnotes.” (Leaf and Tendril, 1908).  John Muir spoke of “Nature’s Bible” and radical reformer Frances Wright, in her lectures in 1829, shocked her audience with the words: “The true bible...

Midwestern

Sometimes poems start with nouns. Could we even go so far as to say all poems begin their at-first fragile lives with the solidity of nouns? In the dark we move, and that moving matters when we bump into something or when our bare foot, warm from the bedclothes, comes down flesh against angle, onto a Lego block. Through the day we touch nouns: a pen, a handlebar, a coffee cup, our ear, a book’s spine, our beloved’s spine; or we long to touch, dream of touching, imagine touching,...

Drinks next to a window

I ate a dead man’s tiramisu this past summer.  I did not plan such a macabre act; one rarely does.  My husband Ryan and I had just become new residents to New York City and new regulars to a French patisserie and café two blocks from our apartment—when the owner and head chef, Jean-Francois, dropped dead from a heart attack.   He was forty-five.  I had seen Jean-Francois several times.  A no-nonsense man, he brought out warm trays of croissants, scones, and baguettes, even in the...

A person

Most poems are written in the space between what Wallace Stevens called the “nothing that is not there and the nothing that is,” issued from silence and seeking the resonance and depth of silence. Like Elijah, poets stand on mountaintops and witness fires, earthquakes, and storms, all while waiting for a word from the Divine. Jake Adam York’s poetry inhabited such space—we might call it the via double-negative—with the highest ethical and aesthetic integrity. His were poems of...

Image of a skyline

“A Church Of The Future. . .Without God”

In The Chicago Tribune, November 1891, Ingersoll was asked, “What is going to take the place of the pulpit?”  His response is chilling for believers, and cause for celebration among the happy infidels.  What he describes is nothing less than a Secular Church for Freethinkers.  Centered in education with “something of use” to thinking women, men and children, The Great Agnostic...

James Hearst

[B]urned in the bold air above you
in Black Hawk County
are the proudest words we can speak:
Here is a man.

Let the earth be lucky.

from Paul Engle’s poem “James Hearst” in the ...

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