Conflict of Cultures
As a devoted member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), and an active member of the theatrical community, the conflict between the LGBT community and the Church is an issue that has been impossible to avoid for me. Some people’s reluctance in talking about the issue altogether has not been an option for me. I have a number of friends and loved ones (both with connections to the Church and those without) who identify themselves as somewhere on the LGBT spectrum. I mean, let’s be frank, I’m in theatre. In or out of Utah, there are always going to be many of my peers, co-workers, fellow artists and friends who are going to be gay. So it’s something I have had to face, even within my own soul and identity.
I personally know a number of gay Mormons. Many have left the faith (sometimes hostilely), feeling as if their worldview and practices are simply incompatible with the Mormon culture. Yet some have desperately tried to hang on, groping about for some middle way, whether by trying to make a heterosexual lifestyle work for them, living celibate, or hoping (sometimes beyond hope) that the Church will one day change its stance regarding gay marriage. And then there are those Mormons who feel so attached to the issue, even when they are not personally gay, that it has caused some painful soul searching of their own.
Conversely, I have also experienced some very personal and pointed prejudice directed towards me from members of the theatrical community because I am a card carrying, committed Mormon. I have personally experienced a double standard in this regard, where tolerance was only preached , but not practiced by certain “progressive” individuals when it came to views or lifestyles that opposed their own.
I have no easy answers for any of it, but I have made a study of a number of plays that have dealt with the conflict between Mormonism and homosexual lifestyles and tried to grapple with the conflict between these two cultures in the best way I can. Searching through these plays has been at times uncomfortable, often challenging (in both the positive and negative aspects of that word), and at choice moments even enlightening and inspiring. However, it’s made me doubly sensitive to how Mormons are represented in such stories, as well as tender hearted towards those who are caught between the monoliths of these cultures, especially those who identify with both. Continue reading “Tensions: Representations of Mormons in Secular Drama and Gay Identity in Mormon Drama”
After four years of preparing this bibliography of poetry by Mormons in print for National Poetry Month, I thought I might have discovered most of the poets and books out there. However, this year I’ve discovered several more that I missed, and began the process of looking back through the Mormon journals to see who I may have missed.
Continue reading “Poetry in Print — April 2011”
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”
Some time ago, I started following John Granger‘s Twilight studies blog, “Forks High School Professor” as a corollary to my own academic interest in Meyer’s books. Granger made a name for himself as Dean of Harry Potter Studies when he took J.K. Rowling’s books as subjects worthy of academic study. And now he’s trying his hand at Twilight, an effort I heartily applaud as I think of my own haphazard attempts to do the same thing.
And yet, sometimes he just rubs my believing-Mormon-skin the wrong way with his cursory engagement with Mormonism, something that’s simply secondary to and arising from his academic interest in literature, faith, and culture. Since he’s a newcomer to the still-blossoming field of Mormon studies* and an outsider to the LDS faith, I can’t fault him for this engagement and for getting some things wrong every now and then. Heck, cultural Mormons are a peculiar lot with an equally peculiar history. Putting things together about the religion can be difficult even for those with a lifetime commitment to it. Continue reading “Where Twilight Studies Meets Mormon Studies: Setting the Record Straight”
It isn’t often that an LDS author creates an LDS-themed play that is performed outside of the few venues in Utah that are willing to occasionally perform Mormon works. I have the impression that the timeliness of the topic of the play has a lot to do with interest in performing these works, which makes me wonder, shouldn’t more Mormon playwrights confront topical issues? Or are they and I’m not aware enough?
Continue reading “Producing Mormon Theater Outside Utah”
You can’t buy a lot with forty-six cents these days. Not a soda. Not a pack of gum. Not even Lifesavers from the vending machine. But you want to know what I got for forty-six cents (thank you amazon.com!)? The best book I’ve read in a long time, Harvest: Contemporary Mormon Poems.
This is one of those books in Mormon letters that everyone references and talks about and now that I own a copy I can see why. Harvest has become a companion of sorts for me. It travels around the house with me and when I have a second–waiting for my kids to finish eating or while I’m brushing my teeth or when I’m supposed to be doing the dishes–I open it up and find the literary equivalent of a gourmet truffle. Each poem has some familiar elements, with rhyme and meter and subject mattter, but at its center the poem, well, it’ll blow your mind.
Harvest includes work from more than sixty poets including legends like and Leslie Norris, contemporary masters like our own Patricia Karamesines, and Carol Lynn Pearson even makes an appearance. There are also plenty of authors the average reader has probably never heard of (especially if you didn’t attend BYU) but will certainly enjoy reading. One of my favorite discoveries is Mary Lythgoe Bradford. I think “Coming Together Apart” has got to be one of the best descriptions of love I’ve come across. And Elouise Bell’s “This Do In Rememberance of Me.” When I read, “How pallid the bread when pale the memory/ . . . Every symbol has two halves/ But to us falls the matching./ What match we, then, in sacramental token?” I wished I could take it to Church with me so I’d remember to ask myself that question.
Harvest was originally published twenty years ago and is probably the most important anthology of modern Mormon/LDS poetry to date. It’s broad enough that it contains something for everyone (and some things individual readers may not care for) and it’s a book you’ll find yourself picking up over and over again because, like a gourmet truffle, one poem is never enough.
So, in honor of National Poetry Month (and since used copies are a steal!) AMV is giving away one copy of Harvest. Just leave a comment about Mormon poetry to enter. Tell us, who’s your favorite? What poems have touched you and stayed with you? What kind of poetry do you want to see more of? We really want to know!
Also, keep your eyes (or your Google Readers) open for our other poetry posts this month. We’ve got some great interviews lined up and some original poems coming your way!
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”