Thursday, March 27, 2008

Wendell Berry: A Sure Horizon

Wendell Berry is a critical thinker who has written over 27 books of poetry, many novels and numerous essays. His interests are many and wide. He lives on a 120 acre farm in northern Kentucky and types his letters on an old typewriter. One of those letters hangs framed in my lakeside cottage. The letter was graciously written to encourage my creative writing students. The text of the letter is found in the entry posted below.

Mr. Berry advocates and practices sustainable farming and is a critic of American technological arrogance. He has written, "The time will soon come when we will not be able to remember the horrors of September 11 without remembering also the unquestioning technological and economic optimism that ended on that day. This optimism rested on the proposition that we were living in a 'new world order' and a 'new economy' that would 'grow' on and on, bringing a prosperity of which every new increment would be 'unprecedented' ". (Thoughts in the Presence of Fear)

The following poem gave me courage when I was under great pressure as an Episcopal priest in the Diocese of Lexington to comply with the heretical views of my former bishop.

Do Not Be Ashamed
Wendell Berry

You will be walking some night
in the comfortable dark of your yard
and suddenly a great light will shine
round about you, and behind you
will be a wall you never saw before.
It will be clear to you suddenly
that you were about to escape,
and that you are guilty: you misread
the complex instructions, you are not
a member, you lost your card
or never had one. And you will know
that they have been there all along,
their eyes on your letters and books,
their hands in your pockets,
their ears wired to your bed.
Though you have done nothing shameful,
they will want you to be ashamed.
They will want you to kneel and weep
and say you should have been like them.
And once you say you are ashamed,
reading the page they hold out to you,
then such light as you have made
in your history will leave you.
They will no longer need to pursue you.
You will pursue them, begging forgiveness.
They will not forgive you.
There is no power against them.
It is only candor that is aloof from them,
only an inward clarity, unashamed,
that they cannot reach. Be ready.
When their light has picked you out
and their questions are asked, say to them:
"I am not ashamed." A sure horizon
will come around you. The heron will begin
his evening flight from the hilltop.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Wendell Berry: The Writer's Obligation

The following letter was written by the extraordinary Wendell Berry to my former writing students at Millersburg Military Institute (which closed in 2006). I 'm making it public for the first time, in celebration of the first year anniversary of Student Publish Here!

Alice C. Linsley
March 2008

February 22, 2005

Dear Friends,

Your teacher, Ms. Linsley, has written to tell me about your writing class, and to ask if I might have something encouraging to say to you. This is an assignment that I take seriously, and I have been asking myself what you should hear, at this time in your lives, from an older writer.

The thought that I keep returning to is this: By taking up the study of writing now, you are assuming consciously, probably for the first time in your lives, a responsibility for our language. What is that responsibility? I think it is to make words mean what they say. It is to keep our language capable of telling the truth. We live in a time when we are surrounded by language that is glib, thoughtless, pointless, or deliberately false. If you learn to pay critical attention to what you hear on radio or television or read in the newspapers, you will see what I mean.

The first obligation of a writer is to tell the truth--or to come as near to telling it as is humanly possible. To do that, it is necessary to learn to write well. And to learn to write well, it is necessary to learn to read well. Reading will make you a better writer, provided you will read ever more attentively and critically. You will probably read a lot of contemporary writing in your textbooks, in magazines and newspapers, in popular novels, etc. The contemporary is inescapable. You may more easily escape the writing that is most necessary to you. I mean the books we know as "classics," books that have been read for generations or for centuries and so have proved their excellence.

As you learn to judge what you read, you will learn also to judge, and so improve, what you write. Reading, I think, is half of your responsibility as students of writing. The other half of your responsibility, of course, is to write, and your effort to write well, as I hope you already know, will make you better readers.

But you must never forget that the purpose of all this effort is to become capable of knowing and telling the truth.

Yours sincerely,

Wendell Berry

One Year Anniversary!

Today marks the first year of Students Publish Here!

I thank the readers and contributors for making this a successful first year. One young student, whose work is published here, asked about the students and was surprised to learn that they range in age from 6 to 70. That's as it should be! Writing is a craft we refine throughout our lives.

The success of this blog depends largely on readers telling others about it. Do you know a young person who has written a good poem, essay or short story? Why not tell them about Students Publish Here? I'm always looking for new writings, especially from students who have never had anything published before. Seeing your work in print for the first time can be transformative. It grabs you and shakes you into awareness of the power of words. For most people that first publication leads to a second, and a third. It can bring focus to peoples' lives, be they young or old. So spread the word about Students Publish Here!

Again I thank you, dear readers and writers.

Alice C. Linsley
March 26, 2008

Sunday, March 23, 2008

O let me rise!

LORD, who createdst man in wealth and store,

Though foolishly he lost the same,

Decaying more and more,

Till he became Most poore:

With thee O let me rise As larks, harmoniously,

And sing this day thy victories:

Then shall the fall further the flight in me.

My tender age in sorrow did beginne:

And still with sicknesses and shame Thou didst so punish sinne,

That I became Most thinne.

With thee Let me combine,

And feel this day thy victorie:

For, if I imp my wing on thine,

Affliction shall advance the flight in me.

--George Herbert (1593-1633)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Happy Easter!

This poem was written by Piper Todd, age 6. Piper also drew the picture of the rabbit surrounded by Easter eggs.

Bunny Joy

Sunny day Easter egg hunt
behind the school
where children and parents
with smiling faces
find surprises
pet soft bunny fur
and flopping ears.
Easter is great and good
Easter joy is for everyone.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Hannah's Acrostic

Just and
Sovereign and
Understanding is our
Savior, Lord and King.

Hannah Mulliken, grade 6

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Acrostic for Hannah Mulliken

In an acrostic poem the initial or ending letters form a word or phrase. To the right appears an acrostic which spells and describes the lemur.

Here is another. What does it spell?


Jovanni, Grade 4

This was written by one of our friends, Ed Pacht, a poet from New Hampshire:

Acrostic for an Author

Hidden in an obscure home.
Anonymous, the true king waits.
Not knowing what his destiny will be,
Nor the mighty throne that shall be his;
And unaware that greatness marks his soul,
Humility is his royal vesture.

Many seek to rule his kingdom,
Under false impression of their worth,
Little knowing that their aim is folly,
Little knowing that there stands among them,
Innocently thinking he is but a child,
Kay the king to whom belongs the sword that
Even mighty men cannot take up and wield.
Now he does, and now begins his reign.

ed pacht
March 14, 2008

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Boy and the Jewel that Made Him King

The Boy and the Jewel that Made Him King

Hannah Mulliken
Grade 6

It was a frosty Christmas morning in Londontown many years ago. The snow was quickly falling, snowballs whizzed by and a nippy wind blew fiercely against the shutters of the old stone church. Despite the weather, the whole congregation still gathered inside, intrigued at what the renowned wizard, Merlin was telling them about the rightful heir to the throne.

Sorrowfully, many years ago, King Rinus perished in battle, leaving an orphaned baby in the hands of an evil counselor. Because the infant was endangered, Merlin rescued him and gave him to Sir Ector, who named him Kay. Now, eighteen years later, Kay was as unprepared as everyone for the astounding secret Merlin was to reveal.

As the people huddled in the drafty church, there suddenly came an earsplitting crash outdoors, shaking the entire church building! Curious, the people rushed outside. Across the churchyard an impeccable rainbow of colors burst from a massive jewel, blinding them all. When the colors died down, Kay excitedly ran to examine the jewel. He was awed at its splendor and beauty, yet surprised that a sword hilt was sticking out of it. Etched on a gold plaque were the words, “Whosoever pulleth the sword from the jewel is the rightful heir to the throne.”

All the knights attempted the great feat, but the task was impossible! Surely, Kay, who was not yet a knight, couldn’t do it, or could he?

About ten days later, a tournament was held in Londontown for all the knights of the kingdom. Afterwards, the winners would endeavor to retrieve the sword from the jewel. Instead of hiring a squire for the tournament, Sir Ector allowed Kay to perform the tasks for him, though they were difficult. Kay worked hard. He prepared and finally, the day arrived.

It was a chilly winter day and the air was filled with noise from the horses and buggies that filled the narrow cobblestone streets. When father and son reached the tournament grounds, Sir Ector realized that Kay had accidentally left his sword at home.

“Son! My sword is not here!” he exclaimed, “Hurry and retrieve it!”

There was no use in going all the way back home, so Kay galloped to the churchyard and grabbed the sword from the jewel.

“Here is a sword for you to use!” he panted.

“It isn’t mine!” Sir Ector told him.

“Gladly would I have fetched yours,” responded Kay, “but it’s too far, so I snatched the sword from the jewel!”

But, no one seemed to believe him.

The Merlin’s voice was heard: “Then, let us all depart to the churchyard and see if the boy is telling the truth.”

Everyone agreed. The people mounted their horses and galloped away. When they reached the churchyard, an unusual sight met their eyes. In the place of the jewel, which had stood their minutes ago, was a gold crown, embellished with pearls, rubies, diamonds, and sparkling emeralds. The people gasped. It was true; Kay was the King of England.

A shout went up, “Hurrah! Hurrah! Hail King Kay!”

Merlin smiled, knowing that the people were happy again. They had a king who would learn to be as wise as he.

Hannah Mulliken has written: “I’ve always been interested in writing. Ever since I was able to read and write, I’ve been writing stories and poems. Since writing is my favorite subject in school, I do it often. During my spare time, I’ll sometimes write stories and even songs. Someday I hope to write books about Christ that will be published and maybe change lives.”

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The One Year Mark is Fast Approaching!

March 26, 2008 marks the one year anniversary of Students Publish Here! On that day I will publish a letter written by Wendell Berry to my creative writing students, in which he sets out his philosophy of writing. You don't want to miss it! Here are a few lines from that letter:

"By taking up the study of writing now, you are assuming consciously, probably for the first time in your lives, a responsibility for our language."

"The first obligation of a writer is to tell the truth -- or to come as near to telling it as is humanly possible."

"As you learn to judge what you read, you will learn also to judge, and so improve, what you write."

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Introducing a Talented Young Writer

Let's Go to the Fair
Hannah Mulliken, Grade 6

Come and go to the fair with me;
today's the day there is no fee;

We'll have a lot of fun on the carosel;
and eat lot's of sweets with caramel;

The weather is nice and the skies are clear;
don't be afraid, there is nothing to fear;

I am waiting and the fair is too;
so, ta ta for now... I hope you'll be there too!

Hannah has written a fine short story which will appear here on Friday, March 14. You don't want to miss it! - Editor

Sunday, March 9, 2008


The snow finally stopped here in central Kentucky! In my area we had an accumulation of between 10 and 12 inches. The state trucks plowed the snow into a heap at the mouth of my drive, so my car sits idle until the thaw. Today the sun is shining and the blanket of undisturbed snow around the lake is brilliant white. I thought that I would post some poems about snow, as this certainly will be the last (we hope) of the winter storms.

Winter's Alliteration
Justin Clements, Grade 10

Frail relationships are made firm
when flurries fly.
Families form
when frost falls.
Neighborhoods forget
distances, fences and yards
watching children frolic
in winter's frigid fantasy.

(Justin was one of my gifted creative writing students at Millersburg Military Institute before it closed.)

SuzAnne Cole

November fields - snow
flakes drifting down to cover
the last ripe pumpkins

(Published in Suraga-Baiku Literary Festival Anthology, 1999)

Snow in March
Melanie Bartelt

Errant snowflakes cling
To black slumbering branches –
The final showdown

(copyright 2006.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Ed Pacht Captures Mickey Blue Eyes

Mickey Blue Eyes is an astoundingly beautiful and personable female husky who obviously owns the novelist K. Spirito and accompanies her and her husband to many of their public presentations. On December 10, 2007, K Spirito was reading from her novels at the Conway Library. Mickey Blue Eyes was watching as passages about a dog were read. In his poem My Party, Ed Pacht captures the dog's evident excitement.

My Party
Ed Pacht

She's reading about a dog.
I'm a dog.
Look at me.
It's my party.
Isn't it?
Isn't it?
All those people -
they see me -
why not pet me?
It's my party.
Isn't it?
Isn't it?
Isn't it?

This poem comes from Ed's chapbook titled Among the Bards, copyright 2008.
Available from
Ed Pacht
223 Wyandotte Falls
Rochester NH 03867
$5.00 from Ed or $6.00 USA postpaid or in shops.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Another Look at Sayers' "Lost Tools of Learning"

In the essay that follows, Hope E. Rapson, recounts her journey from student to teacher. In retrospect, she sees how she personally benefited from a Classical Education.

I read The Lost Tools of Learning by Dorothy Sayers first as a university student. It made me appreciate that my family had provided me with a classical education in spite of the fact that at twenty-two years of age, I had attended twenty-two different public schools. My grandmother, schooled through the Trivium by missionary parents in India in the late 1880’s, graduated with her Master’s Degree in English Literature and Christian Theology at the age of twenty. A contemporary and admirer of Dorothy Sayers, she strongly advocated and practiced its philosophy of education as a college literature professor, an ordained minister, parent, and grandparent. She truly embraced the goal of education---“to teach men how to learn for themselves.” In my “Poll-Parrot” or grammar years, I was primarily under the care and tutelage of this woman who read her Bible from the original Greek and Hebrew. She supplemented every subject I received in the local “progressive” California school with lessons on the weekends. She took me through the complete Bible relating its events in secular history. She had me instructed in the grammar of music, and delights of classical literature and poetry. She played geography games with me integrated with exposure to different periods of history and customs of language and culture.

In my “Pert” years or dialectic years, my father began to teach me dialectic reasoning, helping me discern, understand, and often refute much of the assumptions taught as truth in the increasing more liberal public schools that I attended. As a Doctor of Jurisprudence, he was fully equipped to argue the use and discount the misuse of evidence and logic. As a new Christian, he was able to analyze and practically apply Scripture to form a new style…Classically Christian…of approaching my education. Theology was a woven piece of every subject, including the explosion of scientific and mathematical study following Sputnik.

I entered my rhetoric years studying Latin, Western Civilization and advanced mathematics while living in the Philippines and traveling through Asia. The world opened up to me as a synthetic whole because grammar and dialect had prepared me to think through my observations, my questions, and how to research for answers. The geography, the events of history, the rules of logic, the ability to speak, write, and creatively communicate enabled me to study classical piano and cultural anthropology at the University of the Philippines while finishing my high school in three years.

My experience of the Quadrivium was then and has continued to be difficult because it has made me different. Training under professors, and with students and other teachers who are products of “modernized education” has placed me in the position of being “old fashioned, too difficult, abnormal, even un-Christian” in my profession of forty-two years. In our culture, where specialization, psychology, naturalism, secularism, and politically correct talk dominate, it has been a struggle to maintain Christian and classical life goals as a professional teacher. I am reminded of something that Saint Anthony the Great said: “A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, ‘You are mad, you are not like us.’” (The Desert Christian: Sayings of the Desert Fathers, translated by B. Ward, Macmillan, 1975)

However, in retrospect I realize that my career reveals the synthesis that results from having a classical education and a classical approach. I have taught preschool through adults, every subject, grades in both public, private, Christian, secular, and home schools. What a challenge! What a proof! I was taught how to learn. I need not teach kindergarten or music for thirty years. I can create synthesize and create new curriculum, integrate Bible into every subject area, present grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric in many subjects, and on multiple levels. Why? I found the “lost tools of learning,” and I am committed to teaching students to take hold of these tools so that they can be life-long learners.

Related reading: More on Sayers and Classical Education; Response to Sayers' Lost Tools of Learning

The Writer's Journal

Alice C. Linsley

The journal is a writer's constant companion. With pen and paper at hand, the writer is able to save scraps, poetic pieces, and tidbits of thoughts that might otherwise be forgotten.

The writer's journal reveals recurring personal themes. Looking back at entries over many years, I find my mind has often been preoccupied by images and questions concerning authority.  A person in a uniform intrigues me: a policeman, a firefighter, a medical professional in a white gown. What is it about a uniform? Looking back through my journals I find many characters who wear uniforms - soldiers, doctors, clergy, etc.

I have sketches of plots involving conflict between corrupt people in power and those who have true spiritual authority. To this day, my mind is captivated by the struggle between worldly power and God's sovereignty.

If you write, you should keep a journal. Reading it later can speak to you about things in your consciousness that should be explored. This is potentially fertile ground.

Here are some thoughts that writers have offered about journal writing:

The American writer Jessamyn West wrote, "People who keep journals live life twice. Having written something down gives you the opportunity to go back to it over and over, to remember and relive the experience."

Gail Godwin wrote, "I often reread old journals and make notes to my former selves in the margin."

The French writer, George Sand wrote, "Writing a journal implies that one has ceased to think of the future and has decided to live wholly in the present... Writing a journal means that facing your ocean you are afraid to swim across it, so you attempt to drink it drop by drop."

"Journal writing is a voyage to the interior," wrote Christina Baldwin.

Mark Rudman has written, "We are drawn toward journals out of a craving for the authentic, for the uncensored word and thought."

Lyn Lifshin, an American poet, wrote, "...diaries should be like a ripped or stained sloppy bathrobe you put on when you're alone, that you can be yourself in. Some are more like fancy bathrobes waiting for company... Nothing I'd wear for just me and the cat."

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Ed Pacht, Another New Hampshire Poet

In the following poem, Ed Pacht responds to his friend’s description of a dream he had of being with his late wife in the heavenlies, listening to music he was composing for “O, How a Rose e’er Blooming …”

The Rose
Ed Pacht

A rose,
red rose,
with blood that shall be shed,
a rose amid the thorns,
whose wounds shall soon bring pain,
a rose that blossoms brightly,
whose radiance fills the earth,
a rose that springs from ancient soil,
that grows upon a timeless branch,
and rests upon a golden throne,
while brilliant beings sing its praise

Ed Pacht on Poetry as a Calling

"Poetry is a calling. As a Christian, I consider it a sacred calling, an expression of something other than earthly. I consider this true even when, as is the case in most of these poems, the subject matter is not religious at all.

A poem represents a stepping aside from ordinariness, a suspension of the usual way of thinking, an entrance into a realm of words that point to what is beyond words. I find this to be true even in the most trivial of my poems. Even when I am making a bad pun, I find that I am not seeing as I usually see, nor thinking as I usually think. And then there are poems that speak of deep things I can barely imagine, and these too arise from extraordinary ways of thinking."

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Raymond Foss, New Hampshire Poet

In the Hushed Choir Loft
Raymond A. Foss

In the dark of the empty sanctuary
he toiled, alone, refining his skill
preparing himself,
by drill and practice
to become a servant, an instrument
God’s hands on the organ’s keys
God’s voice in the purity of the notes
coaxed from the pipes in the chancel
to be ready on Sunday, in worship, in public
to share, to proclaim his praise
to minister in His church
through his playing
of the familiar hymns
so others too would know God
feel Him, as he surely does
through his faithful service

(Of Hyung-Kyu Yi, practicing alone May 25, 2006)

Raymond A. Foss (1960) was born in Westfield, MA, the oldest of five children. After moving to Claremont, NH at 16, he attended the University of New Hampshire, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science in 1982 and a Master of Public Administration in 1984. He graduated from Franklin Pierce Law Center in 2004. His law practice focuses mainly on special education and family law matters.

Raymond started writing poetry while serving on the Barrington, NH School Board in 2000. The Reading Specialist had asked each board member to bring a piece of poetry to share at the April School Board meeting in honor of National Poetry Month. When one of his first two poems received a favorable reaction, he began to write poetry regularly. (See how important it is to encourage one another?)

In reference to this poem, Raymond has written, "I especially remember Hyung Kyu's fingers, the way they brought the pieces to life... And our church's organ really worked for his gift. He also plays the cello (again it makes me think of the way he held the bow, urging the notes out)."

Since 2000, Raymond has written over 2,200 poems, most of which appear at his poetry blog, here:

When not writing poetry or practicing law, he devotes his attention to his wife and their three daughters.