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.
Last weekend I had the chance to attend this year’s regional Sunstone Symposium in Kirtland. I initially had not planned to attend, but after I published three cartoons in the recent issue of Sunstone, the director of the symposium invited me to give a presentation on The Garden of Enid. I gladly accepted.
Kirtland is four hours northeast of my home. Travelling with limited funds, I left at 4:30 in the morning and drove non-stop to the Stannard Stone Quarry in Chapin Forest Reservation, where the early Saints quarried stone for the temple, just two miles south of Kirtland. I had an hour to wait before the symposium, so I grabbed my camera and took a mile-long trail through the forest, hoping to see something neat–like a rock formation. The trail was all trees and moss, however, until I found the quarry itself in a creek a few muddy steps off the beaten path. A few years back, the Church and the local government had put up signage and built a wooden walkway over the creek–perhaps to prevent visitors from climbing down into the creek itself, as I was doing, to get a better view of the chisel marks in the algae-covered stone.
After snapping more pictures than I’ll ever need of the quarry, I hiked back to my car and drove to the Community of Christ’s Kirtland Temple Visitor’s Center, the conference venue, where I picked up my name tag and pocketed a few free copies of Sunstone and an old collection of Mormon cartoons by Calvin Grondahl. From there I headed to the main classroom to wait for the conference keynote address to begin and feel guilty about not making better small talk with strangers.
Today is the anniversary of Paul Swenson’s birth. If my calculations are correct, he was born in 1935 and would have turned 78 this year. I’ve thought about him off and on since he passed, mostly because I know that at the time of his death he was working with Dream Garden Press to publish his second poetry collection. According to the bio note he passed along for inclusion in Fire in the Pasture the book was to be titled In Sleep and he was planning for its release in late 2011. I’m sure, among other things, his poor health pushed back the release, but his passing delayed it indefinitely. I’m not sure what’s happening with his literary estate now. But if anyone within the sound of this post does know what’s in store for the work Paul left behind (both published and unpublished), let me know. I’m interested in doing what I can to help archive, to sustain, and to promote his literary legacy. (You can contact me here.)
With that in mind, I wanted to commemorate Paul on his birthday by posting a couple clips of him reading his work. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any online, but I did have some stored away on a jump drive in a collection of recordings I downloaded a few years ago from Sunstone’s Symposium archive when it still contained audio from past events. The two clips I’m sharing today were snipped from a session recording made during the 1997 Sunstone Symposium held 6-9 August at the University Park Hotel in Salt Lake City, Utah. The session was titled “Too Much Stuff Gone Down, Baby: Performance Poets at Play” and included readings by Paul, Alex Caldiero, Lin Ostler, Stefene Russell, and Laraine Wilkins. Paul read both of the following poems near the end of his set. The first is “Strange Gods,” which was originally published in Sunstone and later appeared in Iced at the Ward, Burned at the Stake; and the second, “Nothing Has Changed Since You Left,” is, as far as I can tell, unpublished. Continue reading “Remembering Paul”
In the latest issue of Sunstone (the latest for me, at least—I always get the new issues a couple weeks later than everyone else), Jack Harrell writes a provocative and, for me at least, difficult-to-argue-with essay about Mormon writing. In fact, I’m tempted to describe it as a manifesto. Sunstone won’t put it online for a few months, but I want to talk about it now.
He starts with calling Mormon artists out for our attitudes toward “two forces . . . [which] originated outside of Mormonism, and [that] tempt us to work below our station” (6). For simplicity’s sake in this review, I’ll refer to these forces as absolutism and postmodernism, but I want to be on record as saying that postmodernism means a lot of things to a lot of people and if you don’t how it’s been oversimplified in this post, get over it. Continue reading ““. . . the universe is fundamentally absurd, but need not remain so.””
Remember Missile Mouse? Book one?Book two? The mind behind these books is one Jake Parker, one of my favorite comics artists, and the one one who meets both these categories: I buy most everything he does. I share it with my kids.
Jake has started a new Kickstarter campaign which has in very few days racked up a tremendous amount of money. Let’s talk with Jake about what he’s up to, shall we?
This Saturday at Claremont Graduate University, Sunstone West, a small tidier Sunstone Symposium, will feature panels about two Peculiar Pages book. (Note that times and participants are subject to clarification.)
The first, Monsters & Mormons, accomplished with the help of A Motley Vision and the most fun currently available in print. Participating authors Erik Peterson (“Bichos”) and Brian Gibson (“The Eye Opener”) will be talking about their works as well as reading their own and others’ stories. Responding to their presentation will be Patrick Q. Mason, the Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies and Associate Professor of North American Religion at Claremont, and the author of The Mormon Menace: Violence and Anti-Mormonism in the Postbellum South (Oxford University Press, 2011).
Also featured are several poets from Fire in the Pasture. Featuring editor, poet, and AMV-contributor Tyler Chadwick discussing a Javen Tanner poem, and, in a separate session, readings from Tyler, Neil Aitkin, Karen Kelsay, Elisa Pulido, Laura Stott, Holly Welker, and, we hope, more.
Sunstone West is always great fun and you’ll want to catch other panels and presentations while you’re there.
Kent posted last week about the Marilyn Brown Unpublished Novel contest. It’s a good contest, but it’s unlikely you’ll be able to hit the deadline unless you already have a novel in the drawer. So here’s two more contests to consider entering (after you finish your Monsters & Mormons submission, of course) plus some other things worth checking out…
Sunstone writing contests
The deadline is Oct. 31*. Winners will be announced no later than Feb. 28, 2011. Full details on Sunstone’s Facebook page. One of the great things about this contest is that it includes a prize for short-short story (less than 1,500 words) in addition to short story (fewer than 6,000 words). I heartily applaud Sunstone’s commitment to the short-short form.
LDS Film Script Contest
The LDS Film Festival has also announced its contests, and this year there will be a Feature Script Contest. R. Don Oscarson has also put up $600 in prize money (three scripts will win $200 each). Scripts are due Nov. 15.
AMVers in Dialogue
Dialogue has been very good to AMV-associated folks the past few years (and I guess you could say vice versa). I’m pleased to report that S.P. Bailey has two poems in the Fall 2010 issue, which also features reviews of Jonathan Langford’s novel No Going Back ( Amazon ) and Theric Jepson and co’s collection The Fob Bible ( Amazon ).
Narratives of Family exhibit
Art History student Emily Larsen and BYU faculty member James R. Swensen have curated the exhibit “Nature and Nurture: Narratives of Family” for the B.F. Larson Gallery at the Harris Fine Arts Center. Here’s what Emily says about the exhibit: “The exhibition … explores the complexity of familial relationships through the art of ten artists with connections to BYU or Utah (8 of the 10 are BYU alumni). The exhibition features the art of well known LDS artists such as Brian Kershisnik and Lee Udall Bennion as well as lesser known LDS artists.” It runs Oct. 5-28 so if you are in the area, do check it out.
Poetry in song from Mormon Artist Group
Song/Cycles is the latest project from the NYC-based Mormon Artists Group. Featuring the work of 6 LDS poets (including Lance Larsen) set to music by LDS composers, the project comes in both a limited edition and a trade paperback. The limited edition version includes audio recordings of performances of the song cycles.
*This post originally had the deadline as Oct. 15 for the Sunstone contests; it’s actually Oct. 31.
I wanted to bring you Joshua Foster’s “The Newlyweds” today, which Th. suggested more than a year ago, but Dialogue’s recent website revamping has put the story back in the paid archive (which it should) so for our purposes, that story is going to have to wait. There are a couple of more items in the spreadsheet, but I don’t want to deal with them just yet (for a variety of reasons), so since I’m off from work today, I decided to randomly poke around the 1980s Sunstone mags (since last time I did this, I had poked around in Dialogue’s archives). I only got two editions in when I found this story by Ann Edwards-Cannon, which received honorable mention in the 1981 Sunstone Fiction Contest. I think it’s worth featuring. Also: we need more submissions so if you have time and interest, click on the links on the bottom of this post and help me find some more stories.
Why?: Wm says: “I’ll be honest here: I was looking for a story that seemed like it fit in to this time period in both American and Mormon literature because we haven’t really featured it much so far. I think “Separate Prayers” very much is of its time (which I don’t see as a bad thing). It’s feminist, but in a downbeat way. It’s a time when fathers — even when they are history professors — can retire as cranky farmers (and resist developers). It’s a time when husbands cook and do the dishes and that fact means something, but doesn’t have quite the weight that it might have had 15 years previous. It’s a time when therapy still could possibly mean Freud. It comes across to me (and I could be totally wrong here) like a post-Doug Thayer, trailing end of second-wave feminism, Sunstone crowd short story. It’s also well-written with several spot on details.”
Zarahemla Books has recently published What of the Night? — a collection of essays by Stephen Carter, Director of Publications and Editor at Sunstone. Stephen was kind enough to answer some questions about the anthology and about his role as a writer and editor and critic in the world of Mormon letters. So read on for his thoughts on being both a writer and an editor, Eugene England, Mormon comics and the craft of writing.
For those AMV readers who haven’t followed your career as it has unfolded over the past several years (and documented on the AML-List), could you briefly explain your journey into creative non-fiction?
I had been working as a news reporter for a few years and having the time of my life, but my wife and I could tell that it was not going to pay the bills. So we made the decision to give our careers a much needed boost by earning MFAs.
I know. Not the smartest way to boost one’s career. But we were young.
So we moved to Alaska with our two young children to go to UAF’s creative writing program. I went in to learn fiction, but the thing that was taking up most of the space between my ears at the time was my relationship with Mormonism. I found myself writing to understand that relationship, going into my past and teasing out the experiences that had brought me to this point.
My first attempts weren’t very good, and my essays turned out to be undisciplined and wandering. Fortunately, my studies in fiction had started to teach me how a story works. Once I learned to use those mechanisms, the essays began to take on a constructive shape and people started to like them. I got rejection letters with handwritten notes attached. And one day, Dialogue decided to print something I had written. Dialogue has always had good taste. Continue reading “Stephen Carter on his new collection of personal essays”