Margaret Young’s Pater Noster

Or, Some Reflections Made upon Having Translated a Blog Post into a Persona Poem

For various reasons I haven’t written much poetry lately. I’ve written a lot about poetry, but not much poetry. Because of this, I was excited the other day when I felt a poem welling up as I read Margaret Young’s meditation, “My Prayer upon Opening the Internet,” which she posted on The Welcome Table, her blog at Patheos. Margaret’s been catching flak since she posted some thoughts on the Ordain Women movement and I can only imagine what effect the sometimes vitriolic response has had on her soul. From what I know of her, she’s a very empathetic person, something that I’m sure has been magnified and made raw by her father’s failing health, especially as she walks with him his path through the valley of the shadow of death. I sense this desire to understand and to connect with others in “Prayer.” Continue reading “Margaret Young’s Pater Noster”

Short Story Friday: Outsiders by Margaret Young

It’s time to get back to AMV’s Friday Features. And I wanted to do so by digging into the Dialogue archives and pulling out a short story that I had never read or even heard of but one that was by an author whose work I was familiar with. I haven’t read it yet — and I’m booked this weekend so I may not get to it until Sunday afternoon or evening. But this it what fit the bill. Enjoy (I hope)…

Title: Outsiders

Author: M. J. Young (Margaret Young)

Publication Info: Dialogue 24:1 (Spring 1991)

Submitted by: Wm Morris

Why?: I don’t know yet.


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Weekend (Re)Visitor: Salvador (again)

Although I remembered most of the plot of Salvador (Amazon), re-reading it five or six years after my initial encounter with it was still an experience of surprise and intensity. And oddly, I think it was an even more intense experience because since I already knew, sorta recalled the basic narrative  and thematic arc for the main character Julie, my mind was freed up to focus on everything else, and it turns out that there is a lot going on.

In short, Salvador became a more important novel to me through the re-read.

Let’s get one thing out of the way first, though: it is not a work of magical realism. Nobody makes hard claims for that, but the term is still sometimes invoked in relation to the novel. It’s easy to see why — it takes place in El Salvador and there’s a certain lushness and vividness and poetics to the imagery — swarms of butterflies, sparkling fireflies, the cry of a jaguar in the night, the smell of gardenias, or the impression that the fruits on the mango tree are decapitated heads. But any values or magic assigned to the nature imagery are provided by Julie. She experiences El Salvador as magical (until everything goes to hell). Continue reading “Weekend (Re)Visitor: Salvador (again)”

(LDS) Black History Month revisited

In a post last February I raised the question of what kind of literature exists about the black Mormon experience. I got some great answers and decided to get my hands on some of it. Life conspired against me and I haven’t done as much as I’d hoped but I am now the proud owner of the Standing on the Promises series (I got them all in hardback for less than $20!) and I gathered a group of friends to watch the documentary Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons. I haven’t finished reading the books yet and I wanted to write a formal review of the film, but I’m not a film critic so I didn’t. But I do want to plug the movie and share some of my thoughts regarding it.

(Here’s a link to the trailer. Couldn’t figure out how to embed it. Also, here’s a link to Darius Gray and Margaret Young talking about the film.) Continue reading “(LDS) Black History Month revisited”

Weekend (Re)Visitor: Salvador by Margaret Young

I am 50 pages into a re-reading of Margaret Blair Young‘s second novel Salvador (Aspen Books, 1992). I first read it in the early part of this decade and captivated by her teeming prose, pseudo-elements of magic realism (more on that later, hopefully), and use of humor. It all rushed back with the first page.

Let me give you an example of the achingly beautiful prose:

“Salto Blanco” is a hundred-foot waterfall that cascades into steaming craters. You hike up a mountain, then descend a ravine that rivals the Grand Canyon. Half way down, you hear the crackle of the waterfall and see the craters’ steam rising as during creation. Closer, and you see “Blanco” foaming over the cliffs like milk; leaves and moss glistening under it; steam rising from the craters, mixing with its pray. You are descending into an inferno made lovely. Iridescent blue butterflies the size of a child’s hand are hovering everywhere. There are purple-veined green orchids, hibiscus, coconut palms. There are people inside the craters, like something out of Dante. But this is their bath, not their punishment. They know which pitcs scald, and they add cold well-water to the safest ones. They are washing themselves in perfectly warm sulphur water, jumping around happily like brown frogs.

The novel is about Julie, a recently divorced Mormon woman in her early twenties who travels with her (excommunicated, Vietnam vet) dad and (kooky, hippy-like) mom to visit her mom’s brother and her dad’s former mission companion in El Salvador. Uncle Johnny has married a local beauty queen and set up a farm and a bit of a commune to help out (and continue preaching the gospel) to the locals. Other than one early, horrific incident, I’m not yet to that part of the novel where things go seriously wrong and some serious stuff comes out. And to be honest, I don’t quite remember the particulars — just that it’s coming. And I’m thinking that this time I need to dig in deeper to what’s going on, with the language, the use of the materials, the Mormonism, the linkages to faithful realism.

I don’t think Aspen publishes literary fiction anymore. And Young would go on to publish just one more novel in the faithful realism mode — Heresies of Nature. Most of her writing time since the mid ’90s has gone to her work with Darius Grey (including the historical fiction series Standing on the Promises) and blogging and short work. All excellent work that Margaret has felt called to do. But so far my revisiting of Salvador has made me wish for more of the quirky, well-crafted, achingly beautfiul but also funny woman’s voice in faithful realism. It’s been a strange exercise in nostalgia, rediscovery and luxuriating in good writing so far. A flashback to when the field of Mormon literary fiction seemed to hold so much promise. I think we’re in a pretty good place at the moment. But rereading Salvador is a reminder that the trajectory hasn’t been quite what I (and perhaps others) thought it would be. The irony, of course, is that I’m talking about a time a decade after the novel was published. I wonder how those who were ensconced in the community in 1992 feel now.