Commentary

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“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...

Illustration by Jeannie Phan

I write for free or for fees we call nominal. Not as a matter of principle. Certainly not in pursuit of an ideal.

I write for free because the economic structure of my country dictates the necessity of this arrangement and institutions (of education, of publication), their agents being people much like myself, admit no alternative.

At first I wrote for free because I believed that “getting my name out there” was a worthwhile use of my time,...

Cover of the North American Review

I would like to write a little something about my picture “King Pest” which is on the cover of 301.4. It is an illustration for Edgar Allan Poe’s darkly comic story about a plague, two sailors, and a group of remarkable characters who each had one of his or her features (nose, head, ears, etc.) distorted (enlarged) by the pervasive plague. Out of the hundreds and hundreds of pictures I have...

Odd coinage, “blog.” Because of the consonants, maybe, connotatively echoing blah, blob, bog, fog—all blah and meh and open, lax slack sound, texturally yielding and passive, amorphously maybe moist (a word frequently topping lists of most-disliked words), slogging through a bog.  Then there’s trog as in -lodyte. Old media “cavemen” were often named Og—which means “and” in Old Norse. But in Old Irish it means “egg” or “testicle”: and in Kunjen, a Paman language spoken on the Cape York...

I started writing poems the first time I read contemporary poetry, in seventh grade. That is when I remember thrilling to Sylvia Plath’s Ariel. Not Shakespeare or Tennyson or Poe with their antique diction and fair ladies—rather, a woman who spoke to me and who made me want to talk back. The germ of my new book, Windows and Doors: A Poet Reads Literary Theory, began, perhaps, four years after that, when the advisor of my high-school literary magazine suggested an addition...

SPIRIT MOUND

 

Begin with the naming of things.

“Prairie,” from French via the Vulgar Latin

prataria and further back to the Latin pratum,

meaning “meadow.” And the mound itself,

called by geologists a roche mountonếe

a bedrock knob shaped but not leveled

by the last Pleistocene glacier.

 

But long before these names, known to the Omaha,

Oto and Yankton Lakota as Paha Wakan,

an...

On April 1, 2009—while driving to teach—I heard an NPR story about thousands of children stolen, just after birth, during Franco’s dictatorship. This was no April Fool’s joke. I listened to this broadcast and others that emerged over time. It was incredibly systematic: Parents were told their infant had died, the newborn was then sold to a more politically suitable family, the hospital offered to take care of “funeral plans”, birth records were destroyed. Of course, this news story...

One question I ask other writers is what sounds stimulate their writing––silence, electronica, mud pools, rain showers, foreign film soundtracks, a woman in the next room boiling water. This is because I have a particular kind of synesthesia, known as chromesthesia, in which many pieces of music I hear are twinned with distinct visual experiences. There are exceptions, and in those cases, the sounds can induce a full range of emotional responses with no visual complements. Occasionally,...

WAKE: WORLD, ARRIVED

Reality, divided into light and matter.
A moment travels from the universe’s birth.

A massless noun converts into light, then reverses.
This, the moment when the universe begins

to shine. Mother’s voice whispering by the crib,
brushing with my first series of particulars.

A probability turns true, tips and flashes
slicing the light into particles it daringly

hails through. Father, teaching me to...

Si le feu était à la maison, que sauveriez vous?

--Je sauverais le feu. – Jean Cocteau

Somehow the conversation comes around to fire. Our coresident Kevin McIlvoy, a novelist and editor, has posted this quote on his website.

‘If your house was burning and you could only save one thing, what would it be?’

‘I would save the fire.’

-Jean Cocteau, in response to an interviewer.

It’s late at night and we’ve gathered...

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