Three nights ago my son asked me to translate (his word) a letter he received from a customer communicating something related to my son’s home business. Was the letter in German, for which I have some crude (very crude) translating skills? French? Sometimes he does receive notes in those languages. This time, not so. The letter was in English but composed in cursive handwriting, and my son was at something of a loss to decipher it.
I saw this day coming. When he was a child, I tried to teach him to write in cursive but he found it burdensome. The abundance of keyboards in our household eventually shouted me down. So that mysterious letter when it arrived might as well have been written in a foreign or archaic language–maybe even an argot as arcane and encrypted as the language of the birds. Continue reading “A cursive state of affairs”
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!
On Saturday, November 29, I participated in activities at the Bluff Arts Festival in Bluff, Utah. This little town of just a few hundred people really knows how to throw a party. I took my eighteen-year-old son, an aspiring writer, to this celebration of the arts, sciences, and the human spirit, and having him with me deepened my pleasure in the event immensely. He’s already a part of the unusual Bluff community via his participation in a Shorinji Kempo class held there weekly, but this was his first experience with a writing workshop and open mic reading. Continue reading “Science, Art, and Spirit at the Bluff Arts Festival, Part One”
“Most poets can’t read their own writing.” Leslie Norris said this as we mulled over a reading we’d attended the night before. He wasn’t speaking just about Mormon poets, though most poets reading at the previous night’s gathering had been Mormon. He meant poets generally.
His criticism wasn’t an off-handed remark. He meant it as vital instruction. Many people who have heard him read can sense that for Leslie, getting words down on paper was only part of the business of writing poetry. His verse bloomed when he spoke it aloud to an audience. Or we could say a kind of auditory sun rose in his verse when he performed it. That is, if we could hear the sun rise, it would sound something like Leslie performing a poem. Continue reading “Sing, O Maysie!”