When I don’t have other things occupying my mind (and often when I do), I think a lot about language and kinship, about the potential of words to forge new relationships among people and between people and things and thereby to shape new neural, emotional, physical, and social worlds. Because I believe that language has this cosmoplastic capacity, I’m convinced that it has the potential—more than violence and threats of violence—to lead us to better, more sustainable versions of ourselves as individuals, as communities, as nations, and as a species.
In light of Sunday’s mass shooting in Las Vegas, I needed to remind myself of my convictions, which inform my writing and my teaching; so, egoist that I am, I turned to an essay I had published on the topic in Sunstone last year: “‘An Open Palm and a Consecrated Life’: Three Meditations on Being-with Others.” The essay explores the implications of a question Adam Miller asks in Letters to a Young Mormon: “The question is, will we greet [the] passing [of everything and everyone we know] with a closed fist or with an open palm and a consecrated life” (75)? My response to Miller grapples with the ethics of state-sponsored violence, lyrics from Emma Lou Thayne, and Enoch’s vision of a God who weeps over human violence.
It’s May, which means it’s time to celebrate (among other things) loyalty, Star Wars, nurses, Sally Ride, the end of the Middle Ages, and, of course, Mom.
To that latter end, I’ve put myself to the task of reading and commenting on the poems featured in 2014’s A Mother Here Contest. You can read more about the contest via that link, but here’s how I see my project working: as an attempt (alongside and in conversation with the contest artworks) to “express the nearness of our Heavenly Mother” and to witness her presence in the cosmos (as coeval with Father) and in the intimate details of our lives.
As I mention, the project (which I’m hosting on FireinthePasture.org) will be two-fold:
1. I’ll post a recording of me reading one of the featured contest poems.
2. Alongside that reading, I’ll post a short audio comment (likely no more than four minutes long) in which I respond to the poem and explore what it says about the Mormon Divine Feminine.
My hope in taking this on is to expand the rich discourse that’s emerging re: Mother in Heaven and, in the process, to explore my own relationship with her. I’ve posted elsewhere about my experience talking about the Eternal Mother in a short sacrament meeting sermon. What I didn’t mention was how nervous I was when I stood to speak. I knew there was no silence officially mandated on the topic, but the cultural silence hung heavy in my ears and on my mind. As a result, just before I began speaking about her, my heart rapped hard on my sternum. When I introduced the idea that Mother stands beside Father as they carry out the work of eternity, though, I felt her presence and peace in a way I’ve never felt them before.
I’ve sensed that again as I’ve spent time the past week or so with the contest poems.
So: here goes—my first reading/commentary combo. A caveat, though: since May has 31 days and the contest only features 30 poems, what to do with the extra day? Rather than cut the month short, I found another poem to highlight: Emma Lou Thayne’s “Woman of Another World, I Am with You.” I think it provides a fruitful beginning to this month-long engagement with the “A Mother Here” poems.
Emma Lou Thayne’s “Woman of Another World, I Am with You”
Post 1/31 in my A Mother Here reading series. (I’m four days into the project now. Check out all posts in the series via the link embedded in the previous sentence.)
Now that the busyness of Christmas has passed and the final performance in the 2nd Annual #MormonPoetrySlam has posted (see the event archive here), it’s time to determine the winner of the Audience Choice Award. For your consideration and reviewing pleasure, here are the eighteen entries, listed in order of appearance (you may need to hit “Read next page” at the bottom of the Storify to review all of eighteen).
Liberating Paradox(i)es: Tensions, Texts of Comparison, Twitter, and Emma Lou Thayne
After finishing with a reading of Timothy Liu’s short poem, “The Tree that Knowledge Is”—a reading based in and flowing from a nodal model of Mormon culture—I fully intended to move into an extended exploration of Waterman’s suggestions for Mormon criticism: 1) read with an eye toward the plurality of modern identity, focusing particularly on the tensions this multiplicity creates within the text and between the text and the culture it springs from (which opens the way to engage Terryl Givens’ critical taxonomy from People of Paradox) and 2), “[i]nformed by cultural studies/new literary historicism methodologies, […] place […] [Mormon literature] in conversation with a number of other contemporary texts to examine ways […] [this literature] help[s] explain Mormon—and […] [any other aspect of cultural identity]—experience at a certain historical moment.”
But my intentions have changed, partially because of several Twitter-sations I’ve been involved in lately with MoJo (@MoriahJovan), Theric (@thmazing), and William (@motleyvision) about Mormon lit. In fact, Saturday I came to this realization (in a series of Tweets): after wondering how the Mormon literary community has “been having the same critical conversation for 30 years,” I pursued the thought that part of this may stem from the relative invisibility of the community’s non-prescriptive critical cache—that is, the offline venues through which Mormon literary criticism has developed/been presented and published. Dialogue, Irreantum, and Sunstone contain some of this work, but I sense I’m missing something because I don’t have access to the thirty years worth of proceedings from the AML annual meeting. Continue reading “Beyond Prescription, Part 4”