“The Split House” by Annie Poon


Center Street in Provo is swiftly becoming the happen’est locale in Mormon arts. Pioneer Book has been hosting the monthly Mormon Lit Discussion Group and, more pertinent to this post, Writ and Vision has been hosting some great events and filling its gallery with provocative art.

Opening next weekend: Annie Poon.

Not being in Utah, I can’t speak much to the show (though I’ve seen the catalogue and it looks swell), but Annie gave me access to her new short film playing at Writ and Vision so let’s talk about that, shall we?


It’s just under five minutes long and, thematically, strikes me as a cross between “Runaway Bathtub” and “Annie’s Circus“—and certainly it shares with those films its surrealism. (Aside: I don’t mean surreal, as it often seems to be used today, in the sense of Dalíesque—but, as Breton said, from the position of believing that “pure dreaming . . . is not inferior to the sum of the moments of reality.” All three of these films engage in a fluidity associated more with dreams than the empirical world, and all three of them find their truths through breezing past the strict requirements of realism.

Annie’s cut-out animation encourages viewer identification with her characters. Their ink-on-paper simplicity also connects us to childhood. While with “Runaway Bathtub” this connection is explicit and unbroken, even the “adult” characters of “Annie’s Circus” or “Split House,” by virtue of their medium of presentation, are as safe to identify with as a child. We haven’t all been owls, but the childlike innocence implicit in even her most dangerous characters, makes them as easy to identify with.

As the title suggests, “The Split House” includes various instances of characters splitting. When the woman transforms into an owl, for one. Here are two more: Continue reading ““The Split House” by Annie Poon”

Field Notes on Language and Kinship

I’m indulging in some shameless self-promotion, but only because what I’m promoting is a fruit of my work on Fire in the Pasture and speaks to the publication of Mormon literature (especially via collaborative effort) and my continued promotion of Mormon poets, poetries, and poetics.

Yesterday morning via his Mormon Artists Group e-newsletter, Glimpses, Glen Nelson announced the publication of my single-author book. Here’s what he said:

Mormon Artists Group is pleased to announce the publication of
Field Notes on Language and Kinshipby Tyler Chadwick
artworks by Susan Krueger-Barber

A landmark publication appeared in 2011, an anthology of contemporary Mormon poetry. It was an ambitious undertaking that, it can be argued, is among the most important books on Mormonism to appear in the first years of the century. Unknown to many, even inside the Church, Mormon poets have recently become regular contributors to the leading poetry publications in the country. Their poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Paris Review, Poetry, The Iowa Review, The New Republic, Slate, The Southern Review, among many, many others. The award-winning anthology, Fire in the Pasture: Twenty-first Century Mormon Poets, presented 82 poets’ new works in its 522 pages.

The editor for Fire in the Pasture was Tyler Chadwick, a young scholar and poet from Idaho. After the publication of the anthology, Mormon Artists Group approached Chadwick to write a book to answer a simple question: Why does poetry matter to you? He responded with Field Notes on Language and Kinship. It is Mormon Artists Group’s 24th project.

The book is a direct response to the works in Fire in the Pasture. Chadwick reacts to them in several ways, as a scholar, memoirist, essayist, and poet. Field Notes on Language and Kinship is published as a two-volume edition. The anthology, Fire in the Pasture: Twenty-first Century Mormon Poets, is rebound in hardcover; and Chadwick’s original volume is bound as a companion work, covered with hand-pounded amate barkskin papers from Mexico’s Otomi Indians and brown Japanese Asahi silk. The two are presented in a slipcase. A commercial paperback is also available from Amazon.com.

One of Chadwick’s sources of inspiration is visual art, and Field Notes on Language and Kinship includes eight artworks created especially for this project by Susan Krueger-Barber. Just as Chadwick’s text brings multiple disciplines of literature to bear, Krueger-Barber’s works are multi-disciplinary, mixed media works. Each of them combines photography, painting, and collage (using fragments torn from a copy of Fire in the Pasture). The publication is limited to 25 copies, signed by the artists and numbered.

To read excerpts from Field Notes on Language and Kinship, to explore the original artworks, and to acquire the book and/or the artworks, visit our website.

Continue reading “Field Notes on Language and Kinship”

Mormons at the Met


I’ve long wished that opera spoke to me on more than a purely appreciative, intellectual level. I wish I could say, like Glen Nelson, that

for me opera is serious business. I have always responded to it viscerally.

Of course, he has an advantage, having grown up with opera, whereas I have to learn opera. And the best way would be to attend operas. Which I can do locally, but holy smokes opera is expensive. If opera dies, this will be the reason: that the uninitiated have to spend soooo much money to become initiated. So I suppose the nouveu riche looking for cultural acceptance will join the club, but the poor will stick to novels and Saturday-morning cartoons. Continue reading “Mormons at the Met”

Unpleasant afterlives: New fiction from Peck and Perkins


Two Mormon books this year seem to be getting absolute purity of praise. A Short Stay in Hell by Steven L. Peck and Dispirited by Luisa M. Perkins both seem to have been more widely discussed online in their first few months than most Mormon books get in their first couple years, and both books have been loved by those readers. Which is great, I think we’ll all agree, especially when both books are doing very curious things for “Mormon books.”

A Short Stay is published by Strange Violin and Dispirited by Zarahemla—both publishers with a Mormon bent—even though A Short Stay begins with the Mormon hero learning that Zoroastrianism was the true religion and Dispirited never uses the M-word at all. So the fact that these books were published by whom they were published by, and that we’re discussing these books as “Mormon books,” is a pretty fascinating pair of facts up front. Then add in that they are both filled with information about spirits and postmortal realms. Suddenly the fact that these “Mormon books” have no explicitly Mormon content is not only odd but genuinely remarkable. Aren’t these the very topics for which religion even exists? What’s going on here?

Continue reading “Unpleasant afterlives: New fiction from Peck and Perkins”

song/cycles: music and poetry


In yesterday’s post, I introduced Song/Cycles from New York’s Mormon Artists Group. Today we will read an excerpt from a roundtable discussion from the contributing composers (available in full at the front of the book).

But before we get to that however, residents of Utah should remind themselves that “on Monday, November 8, a performance of all six works from . . .  Song/Cycles . . . is free at 7pm at the Orem Public Library. Performers include Darrell Babidge, Clara Hurtado Lee, Ruth Ellis, Brian Stucki, Doris Brunatti, and Marilyn Reid Smith. For additional information, contact 801.229.7050. Works to be performed are: Mary Keeps All These Things (Harriet Petherick Bushman/Susan Howe), Notes (David H. Sargent/Elaine M. Craig), Seven Sisters (Murray Boren/Glen Nelson), Sudden Music (Lansing McLoskey/Javen Tanner), The Dead Praying for Me (Daniel Bradshaw/Lance Larsen), and Töchterliebe (Charis Bean Duke/Will Reger).”

*  *  *  *  *

How did you come to select the poetry for your composition? Tell us the story behind the collaboration with your poet. Continue reading “song/cycles: music and poetry”



Mormon Artists Group is at it again. In case you didn’t hear about their latest release, it is poetry set to music. The poetry is of high quality (some of them, I will admit, are among the best poems I’ve read in the last few years) and the music also ranges from the good to the excellent. The fancy limited goose-eggshell edition has sold out but the $19.95 paperback is still available.

(Sadly, the paperback does not come with a cd and so you can only read the scores.  If you are someone like me, this is simply inadequate. Fortunately MAG gave me the opportunity to listen to the music anyway and while the current recordings are blemished by coughs and suchlike, the inherent loveliness is generally intact. If you live in Utah, you will have the opportunity to hear the songs live NEXT WEEK. [See below.] In the meantime, I highly recommend that you inform your potential purchase by listening to the samples available at mormonartistgroup.com.) Continue reading “song/cycles”