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Showing posts from July, 2009

Elizabeth Gilbert: Advice for Writers

By Elizabeth Gilbert

Sometimes people ask me for help or suggestions about how to write, or how to get published. Keeping in mind that this is all very ephemeral and personal, I will try to explain here everything that I believe about writing. I hope it is useful. It's all I know.

I believe that – if you are serious about a life of writing, or indeed about any creative form of expression – that you should take on this work like a holy calling. I became a writer the way other people become monks or nuns. I made a vow to writing, very young. I became Bride-of-Writing. I was writing’s most devotional handmaiden. I built my entire life around writing. I didn’t know how else to do this. I didn’t know anyone who had ever become a writer. I had no, as they say, connections. I had no clues. I just began.

I took a few writing classes when I was at NYU, but, aside from an excellent workshop taught by Helen Schulman, I found that I didn’t really want to be practicing this work in a classroom. I…

Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Annie Dillard (1945-present) studied theology and creative writing at Hollins College, near Roanoke, Virginia. She married her writing teacher, Richard Dillard, who Annie claims "taught her everything she knows" about writing. Her Masters thesis was 40 pages on Thoreau's Walden Pond. Thoreau's influence on Annie's writing of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is evident. She was awarded the Pulitzer for the book in 1975. Annie was twenty-nine at the time.

Tinker Creek was the product of a serious bout of pneumonia which struck Annie in 1971. After she recovered, Annie wanted to experience life more fully and spent four seasons living near Tinker Creek where she journaled about the surrounding forests, creeks, and mountains. Her journal reached 20-plus volumes which she transposed to notecards. It took her about 8 months to turn the notecards into the Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Towards the end of the 8 months she was so absorbed that she was spending 15 hours a day writing, ign…

Oscar Wilde in Florence

Ave Maria Gratia Plena
Oscar Wilde

Was this His coming! I had hoped to see
A scene of wondrous glory, as was told
Of some great God who in a rain of gold
Broke open bars and fell on Danae:
Or a dread vision as when Semele
Sickening for love and unappeased desire
Prayed to see God's clear body, and the fire
Caught her brown limbs and slew her utterly:
With such glad dreams I sought this holy place,
And now with wondering eyes and heart I stand
Before this supreme mystery of Love:
Some kneeling girl with passionless pale face,
An angel with a lily in his hand,
And over both the white wings of a Dove.

C.S. Lewis "On Being Human"

On Being Human
By C. S. Lewis

Angelic minds, they say, by simple intelligence
Behold the Forms of nature.
They discern Unerringly the Archtypes, all the verities
Which mortals lack or indirectly learn.
Transparent in primordial truth, unvarying,
Pure Earthness and right Stonehood from their clear,
High eminence are seen; unveiled, the seminal Huge Principles appear.

The Tree-ness of the tree they know-the meaning of
Arboreal life, how from earth's salty lap
The solar beam uplifts it; all the holiness
Enacted by leaves' fall and rising sap;

But never an angel knows the knife-edged severance
Of sun from shadow where the trees begin,
The blessed cool at every pore caressing us -
An angel has no skin.

They see the Form of Air; but mortals breathing it
Drink the whole summer down into the breast.
The lavish pinks, the field new-mown, the ravishing
Sea-smells, the wood-fire smoke that whispers Rest.
The tremor on the rippled pool of memory
That from each smell in widening circles g…

"Saint" G.K. Chesterton?

ROME, JULY 14, 2009 ( Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) is well known for his clever and humorous writing, and his thought-provoking paradoxes. But he might also become known as a saint, if a proposal to launch his cause of beatification goes forward.

ZENIT spoke with Paolo Gulisano, author of the first Italian-language biography of the great English writer ("Chesterton & Belloc: Apologia e Profezia," Edizioni Ancora), about the origins of this proposal. Here, Gulisano explains why Chesterton might merit recognition as a saint.

ZENIT: Who is promoting this cause of beatification?

Gulisano: The cultural association dedicated to him, the Chesterton Society, founded in England in 1974 on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the great author's birth, with the idea of spreading awareness of the work, thought and figure of this extraordinary personality. For years now, there has been talk of a possible cause of beatification, and a few days ago, during …

Wendell Berry on Stones

The Stones

I owned a slope full of stones. Like buried painos they lay in the ground, shards of old sea-ledges, stumbling blocks where the earth caught and kept them dark, an old music mute in them that my head keeps now I have dug them out. I broke them where they slugged intheir dark cells, and lifted them up in pieces. As I piled them in the light I began their music. I heard their old lime rouse in breath of song that has not left me. I gave pain and weariness to theri bearing out. What bond have I made with the earth, having worn myself against it? It is a fatal singing I have carried with me out of that day. The stones have given me music that figures for me their holes in the earth and their long lying in them dark. They have taught me the weariness that loves the ground, and I must prepare a fitting silence.
-- Wendell Berry, Collected Poems 1957-1982, pp. 103-104

Kaleem Omar RIP

Celebrated poet and journalist Kaleem Omar died in Pakistan on Thursday, June 25 of heart failure at the age of 72. He had undergone a bypass only a month before.

Omar was born in India in 1937 to an affluent family that owned the vast construction firm, Omar Sons. He went to school in Nainital, India, and then to England. After completing his studies, he came back to Pakistan to work for the family company and then for Cessna. He became a journalist in 1982 with The Star and then joined The News.

Kaleem Omar was known for his investigative reporting and was also ranked amongst the top 150 English poets of the world and his work was published by Oxford University Press in 1975, under the title Wordfall. His poems also appear in an anthology titled Pieces of Eight.

The poem that follows is from Wordfall.

Kaleem Omar

By first light we are at the river’s edge,
Unsnarling tackle. Hands, with a new day’s life in them,
Choose favourite spoons and pocket sweets
For the thirst that will come lat…

Francisco's Farm and Wendell Berry's Farm

Each year I reserve the last weekend of June to enjoy Francisco's Farm, a well organized summer crafts fair hosted at Midway College in Midway, Kentucky. This year the weather was perfect!

I visited the booths, ate an Italian ice, sat in the shade an listened to jazz and R and B and bought Wendell Berry's book of poetry The Farm. Here is an excerpt from that volume.

Stay years if you would know
The work and thought, the pleasure
And grief, the feat, by which
This vision lives. In fall
You plow the bottomland
For corn, the heavy ground,
So frost will work the clods.
When it's too wet to plow,
Go to the woods to fell
Trees for next winter's fuel.
Take the inferior trees
And not all from one place,
So that the woods will yield
Without diminishment.
Then trim and rick the logs;
And when you drag them out
From woods to rick, use horses
Whose hooves are kinder to
The ground than wheels. In spring
The traces of your work
Will be invisible.

-- Wendell Berry

Another Poem by Fr. Longenecker

The Unreal City
By Fr. Dwight Longenecker

In a dream I walked though the unreal city,
Down streets that were silent and desolate.
Stone faces gazed on me without pity,
although I was poor and desperate.

They gazed from towers of marble and glass,
and watched as I wandered the empty lanes.
No one restrained me, they let me pass,
and then returned to their flickering screens.

Over the doors were the names of power:
Xanadu Bank, Mammon Securities,
Ozimandius Insurance Tower,
Iscariot’s Purse Global Equities.

I watched the towers grow and multiply,
and rise up in splendid magnificence:
Alabaster palaces in the sky,
for lords of omniscient opulence.

The towers stood--powerful and permanent.
Ageless against the swirling clouds,
their steel and concrete reigned omnipotent
over the helpless, huddled, plodding crowds.

Overwhelmed, I stumbled along afraid,
and came upon a garden in a square.
A lawn was surrounded by an arched arcade,
An ancient stone fountain stood sentry there.

I sensed a solemn silence in the sun,

George Herbert: Prayer as Banquet

PRAYER the Churches banquet, Angels age,
Gods breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth;

Engine against th’ Almightie, sinner's towre,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six daies world-transposing in an houre,
A kinde of tune, which all things heare and fear;

Softnesse, and peace, and joy, and love, and blisse,
Exalted Manna, gladnesse of the best,
Heaven in ordinarie, man well drest,
The milkie way, the bird of Paradise,

Church-bels beyond the stars heard, the souls bloud,
The land of spices, something understood.

-- George Herbert

Glimmer Train July Fiction Competition

The Very Short Fiction competition closes July 31. First place wins $1,200 and publication in Issue 77 of Glimmer Train Stories. Second and third place winners receive $500/$300 (or, if chosen for publication, $700). Go here for Guidelines.

Winners and finalists of the April Family Matters competition have been notified, and the Top-25 list is posted! Our thanks to all of you for letting us read your stories!

1st place: "According to Foxfire" by Randolph Thomas
2nd place: "Chim Chiminy" by Amy S. Gottfried
3rd place: "A Month of Rain" by C. Abe Gaustad