BYU Studies review of the Matched Trilogy

My review of Ally Condie’s Matched trilogy is now available as a free download at the BYU Studies website. If you are not a subscriber, but would either like a print copy of the entire journal or a PDF download, check out the table of contents for the issue (52.4).

And here are the AMV posts that helped inform my approach to the review:

Correlation, Top Tens and Ally Condie’s Matched

A nod to Mormon history in Ally Condie’s Reached

The Matched Trilogy: Teenagers and correlated media

Poetry, asters to zeppelins

I started to comment on Tyler’s post, “Preach on, Sister Meyer.  Preach On.” But–look out–the comment mushroomed.  Adam G’s comment especially caught my attention. His question seems to be, is it possible to talk about poetry–especially in terms of hierarchies and other high-falutin’ standards for determining a poem’s worthiness–with language that doesn’t float above us like a leviathan, bomb-totin’, gas-filled bag of pretension?

If that’s his question, I think it’s a good one. Continue reading “Poetry, asters to zeppelins”

Preach on, Sister Meyer. Preach on.

(No, not that Sister Meyer. This Sister Meyer)

I’ve just finished reading “Would that All God’s Children Were Poets” by Casualene Meyer (follow the link and scroll down to p. 173), poetry editor for BYU Studies. In this short article she reflects on her responsibility for choosing what poems to publish in the journal and which poems to award prizes in the journal’s annual poetry contest. She touches on what I think are some powerful ideas about the relationship between poetry (and the human aesthetic experience in general), religion, and service to others. I won’t explore these thoughts today, but I’ve invited them into , my own editorial responsibilities, and the virtue of words (also here), so I may return to them more in depth later.

For now, however, as a means to open a conversation, here’s Casualene:

As poetry editor, I would do well to assume that all poetry I receive is a valiant effort in verse, so how, given so much desire on the part of the poets, could I choose a “winner,” especially if poetry is a matter of the heart and of preference, and it would be quite heartless and preferential to say some poems are worthy and others are not? The reality is that sincerity of heart does not equal quality of art, and sometimes bad poetry happens to good people. [Note: I love that line!]

If one draws a parallel between poems and “spirits,” a verse from the Book of Abraham helps illustrate in some degree why all poetry exists in a hierarchy, and that some can and even should be deemed noble and great, or prize-worthy: “And the Lord said unto me: These two facts do exist, that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all” (Abraham 3:19). The task, then, of the poetry editor for BYU Studies is to try to discern among all the poems received which are the stronger, and even the strongest, and recommend them for prizes and publication. All poetry is not created equal, so it is not just a matter of granting open admission to a poetry pantheon for any verse that exists; some poetry should be not only appreciated but actually admired, and like the criterion that “he that is greatest among you shall be your servant” (Matthew 23:11), the best poetry serves readers with the greatest substance and purity. Good poems may touch us, and earnest readers, like the woman who touched the border of Christ’s garment, instinctively seek them out and touch them. In turn, the good poems give us a portion of their power and virtue, leaving us healed.

Eternal intelligence and the workings of language. Editorial practice as discernment. Poetry (and language) as service. Poetry (and language) as possessors and expressions of power and virtue with the potential to heal.


Review of _Adventures of the Soul: The Best Creative Nonfiction from BYU Studies_

Title: Adventures of the Soul: The Best Creative Nonfiction from BYU Studies
Editor: Doris R. Dant
Publisher: BYU Press
Genre: Personal Essays Anthology
Year Published: 2009
Number of Pages: ix; 261
Binding: Trade Paperback
ISBN13: 978-0-8425-2739-2
Price: $14.95
Available from Deseret Book and other sources.

Reviewed by Jonathan Langford.

Note: I received a free review copy of this book from the editor.

A good personal essay is like an evening spent in front of a fireplace with a longtime friend. It’s not about drama and high emotion. Nor is it about polished literary style — though there is a style and a demanding literary craft to writing such essays well. The essence of that craft lies in the achievement of a clear, intimate, authentic voice, as if the author were indeed a close and trusted friend. The satisfaction we as readers take from the experience springs in large measure from that sense of connection.

Continue reading “Review of _Adventures of the Soul: The Best Creative Nonfiction from BYU Studies_”

Losing Reviews–the demise of

I was surprised the other morning to see that was closing up shop. I can’t claim to have been a regular or detailed reader of the service–to be honest, they didn’t review the kind of books I read. But I thought that they served an important role.

Historically, reviewers have served an important role in book publishing, both to let the public know about books and to serve as a check on quality. But it is also clear that the role of reviewers is changing radically.

As a result, I wonder whether or not we should mourn the loss of

Continue reading “Losing Reviews–the demise of”