Let Me Drown with Moses by James Goldberg (2015)
This collection consists of just fewer than fifty poems so no single description will cover all it has to say, but here, I think, is a key thought to carry into reading it: The speakers of these poems (generally, one assumes, Goldberg himself) genuinely love what they are writing about (their faith, their family, etc). But this love does not cause them to fall into blind raptures. No, love rather allows them to see more clearly all their beloved’s features, whether cracked or smooth. This is perhaps clearest and most moving in “And the People Deceived Me (The Prophet’s Lament).” Brigham Young’s lament follows a series of poems that reenacted grotesque actions taken by Mormon settlers against their Native neighbors. The prophet is horrified by the evil his people have done and wishes to have his mantle removed—but simultaneously he is grateful to have sipped God’s bitter cup and to have had his heart broken open in similitude thereof.
Letters to a Young Mormon by Adam S. Miller (2013)
Sometimes the way we teach the gospel does not in fact suggest that the Lord’s yoke is easy nor that his burden is light. I remember plenty of self-recrimination in my younger years as I examined my many failures as a Latter-day Saint. In this slim volume that takes the form of letters to his daughter, Miller addresses basic-if-fraught concepts like sin and love, and spins them out in new ways that feel true and generous. His means of taking these bits of gospel and connecting them one to another into a sensible whole can seem simple at times, but simultaneously reveal the complexity of a religion that transforms lives. As someone who views life as narrative, I was particularly struck by Miller’s descriptions of people creating their own story instead of trusting the story God has planned for them. This is thinking rich for further exploration.
Pilot by pd mallamo (2017)
I read Mallamo’s new novella as a proof provided by the author, but the nature of the work is such that some aspects—such as its paucity of terminal punctuation—may be errors about to be removed or may be a deliberate artistic choice and, really, how could one tell? The story is of a Moldovan girl deceived into a life of prostitution in more Western lands, making it as far as L.A. as she is bought and sold. The story itself is something of a phantasmagoria of hope and despair and bemusement filtered through a series of benefactors and pimps and, perhaps, God. Although the novella, I would argue, is nearly areligious in its attitude, it is rife with religious thoughts and feelings and even one of the better written scenes of revelation I’ve read. This story intends to upset the possibility of answers even before asking any questions. In the end, even happy endings are unlikely to satisfy in this world. But if we must live a fallen life, at least we can experience pleasure and pain along the way.