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The Clay Road

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In This Time . . . Quotes

  Quotes to the end of the Pandemic collected by the author.

In this troubled time, we are all looking for brilliant, beautiful and insightful poetry.

–Ayesha Chatterjee 

Feminist Caucus Chair and Past President of the League of Canadian Poets 

When poets become buildings, they would be grand and intricate edifices, with rooms containing carved benches and small, locked cupboards.

–Onjana Yawnghwe, from When Poems Are Rooms 

The world is eager for poets. In 2016, more people spent their hard earned money on poetry books than any other year on record. When times are dark, the world always turns to poets for empathy, for answers, for words, bucking and new. 

–Palette Poetry

When asked about the keys to a productive creative life, many writers point to the importance of a strong community. The lonely work of writing is best balanced with active participation in writing groups and readings, connection with readers, and support for fellow writers.

–Poets & Writers

Our society is grappling with a soul-sickness that is ultimately an infection of our imagination. An election may address symptoms, but how do we treat the underlying disease? How to heal the imagination? Perhaps this is what the arts are for...Grabbing hold of us by the senses, artworks have a unique capacity to shape our attunement, our feel for the world. The question isn't whether the arts will shape us, but which.

—from "Healing the Imagination: Art Lessons from James Baldwin," James K.A. Smith's editorial, issue 107

An image is an inner representation of your experience or your fantasies – a way your mind codes, stores, and expresses information. Imagery is the currency of dreams and daydreams . .  It is the language of the arts, the emotions, and most important, of the deeper self.

Imagery is a window on your inner world . . .

Imagination, in this sense, is not sufficiently valued in our culture. The imaginary is equated with the fanciful, the unreal, and the impractical . . . but imagination nurtures human reality as a river brings life to a desert.

—Martin L. Rossman M.D.

Art has been said to be ‘an expression of both hope and despair,’ which embodies all facets of the human condition. The awe inspiring cathedrals of Europe rose from the ashes of plague, cruelty and despair. After which, the forward thinking artists of the Renaissance era emerged in times of religious persecution and political chaos…

—Lori McKnee

Poetry and literature and painting are a glossolalia that the imagination hears in its own language. And in our imagining, we may learn how to be human again... learn how to be empathetic and live with one another, just to the extent that we see one another again, in all our fractured complexity and mixed motives and dogged hopes.

—Image editor in chief James K.A. Smith, The Christian Century

Empathy means realizing no trauma has discrete edges. Trauma bleeds. Out of wounds and across boundaries.

—Leslie Jamison, The Empathy Exam

In times of crisis, we must all decide again and again whom we love ...

—Frank O’Hara, from poem “To the Film Industry in Crisis”

I don't think art is propaganda; it should be something that liberates the soul, provokes the imagination and encourages people to go further. It celebrates humanity instead of manipulating it.

—Keith Haring

Our guilt is denied, our sense of personal responsibility is numbed, to the degree that we perceive the sacrificed lives as statistical abstractions and our personal comforts as more real. By such choices we are revealed to ourselves. Where our treasure is, there is our heart. By and large, in the once-Christian democracies of the West we have been measured in the scales and found wanting.

—Micheal O’Brien, The Family & the New Totalitarianism (2019)

There is a demeaning and even violent assumption that everyone needs to think in one particular way, and if they don't they are wrong, savage, barbaric—all those words that were used to justify the alienation and extermination of people. Listen: the contents, discontents, and complexities of woman-being in our many worlds, the ways of "feminisms," are numerous. The world is pluriversal. It is multipolar. And isn't that also its beauty?

A God Who Wails and Dances: A Conversation with Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor

     Image Journal, No. 109

I resolutely reject the nostalgic bent of so much "art & faith" paradigms that posit a false dichotomy between faith and contemporary art, or tend to reify some past era as the "golden age" of faithful making. To believe in the call of creativity is to be waiting to see what we'll make next, because what the worlds needs is ever-unfolding.

—James K.A. Smith, Editor of Image Journal. "For the Sake of the World."

How human awareness works is also an undecided question, and not only because the price we often pay for consciousness is inattention. Since that encounter in Mozambique, I’ve found myself wondering: What happens when creatures from separate species become aware of each other? Is there something there, something shared or shaped between them? Or do their sensoriums simply overlap—like car alarms setting each other off—in isolation, without reciprocity?

—Klinkenborg, Requiem for a Heavyweight

In the best spirit of Oscar Wilde's critic-as-artist, Klinkenborg takes Giggs's own remarkable prose as both provocation and invitation. The reviewer rivals the author's creativity and in the twining of the two, it's hard to tell whether this is a duel or a dance. In either case, the result is a kind of literary spectacle . . .

—James K.A. Smith, Editor of Image Journal

For it is in our choices that we experience the limits of our self-understanding and the pressures of our unchosen circumstances. We are forced to make our decisions within the liminal space between the generality of what we know and want and the particular demands of our circumstances. It is a shadowy realm, between the possible and actual, and it is here that human freedom becomes both real and burdensome. It is the place where we feel most deeply our helplessness—and our need for outside illumination or aid.

—Jennifer Frey, Image Journal  Issue 109, Recording Angels: New Fiction by Phil Klay and Christopher Beha

[W]e strive to deliver diamonds, not coal, this holiday season. 

—David Frankel, CEO

Victoria Trading Company 

Truly we’re boxed in an annex

Of the mansion

                           of your text.


—“Plague Psalm 90”  Philip Metres

      Image Journal, Issue 110

Getting your work online and marketing it well is no longer optional, it's imperative.

And, for many creatives, healers, and solopreneurs it doesn't come naturally. It can be overwhelming. It can stir up shame, fear, frustration, an impulse to hide . . .

—Room Magazine Newsletter, Nov 2021

‘Human sin. Broken relationships. Loneliness. Take the most agonizing question of your life—that's the question Jesus came into and walked.' Which seemed a good way to think about what drove men like Dismas and Anthony-Maria to become monks. An agonizing question for which there were no apparent answers, a yearning without apparent remedy.

—from "The Underground Life of Prayer"

2022 Glen Workshop instructor Fred Bahnson in Image issue 77

I was asked to consider what Taylor describes, in Sources of the Self, as the postmodern denial of "strong evaluations"—our late modern allergy to "thick" versions of meaning and goodness. I suggest that those denials are mostly repressions that keep coming back in other forms.

—James K.A. Smith, Editor of Image Journal, "Contemporary fiction can't quit religion"

Lewis, while admitting "in the filth of war, the baresark shout / Of battle, [the spirit of man ] is vexed" (SB,7), affirms that the human spirit will not be crushed, a theme he retunrs to later in "De Profundis." In fact, the poem ends with an affirmation negating much of the poem's earlier morose tone: "Though often bruised, oft broken by the rod, / yet, like the pheonix, from each fiery bed / Higher the stricken spirit lifts its head / And higher—till the beast become a god".

 —Don King, C. S Lewis, Poet (Pub 2001)

thank you for our argument that ends,

thank you for my deafness, Lord, such fire


from a match you never lit.

 —Ilya Kaminsky

     "In Our Time"  issue 55 (from newsletter Art is Gratuitous).

A glance, a blow, error a kind of cleaving—

Of? Or to? So something else can enter.

Open wide then. It happens

Those two forget themselves, not knowing—


What, or who?—so something else can enter

And, in entering, replace them.

We can’t forget ourselves.


—Katharine Coles, “Annunciation” 

    Image Journal, Issue 83

While the church’s calendar revisits history, rehearsing the inbreaking of the God Incarnate, the reason Christians need practice waiting is because hope is indexed to what is yet to come. Advent's exercise of memory is only to nourish hope for the future.

—James K.A Smith, Editor Image Journal, Newsletter “Hope Takes Practice”

let the evenings

extend themselves

while I lean into

the abyss of my being.


Let me lie in the cave

of my soul,

for too much light

blinds me,

steals the source

of revelation.


Joyce Rupp, quoted in [Darkness] Day 6: winter's cloak

    with Janelle Hardy

Something has descended

like feathered prophecy.

Someone has offered the world

a bowl of frozen tears,


has traced the veins


—Anya Silver “Advent, First Frost” Image Jounal, issue 66

The music waited,

it had time, I had power.

There was not room for my piano,

with standing room only in the hall.


—Emily Isaacson, LITTOP, 2022

Having recently wrapped its second season, the show remixes the predictable "teenage drug addict" narrative: it explicitly exposes the toll that drugs can have on relationships while allowing us to walk alongside a teen as she navigates personal identity.

During season two, however, the most prominent themes explored are redemption and forgiveness. In a later episode, after one of Rue's most harrowing withdrawal periods, she calls her sponsor, Ali, to apologize for all the pain she has caused him. He responds with a simple "I forgive you." Shocked and confused, Rue questions how he knows if she really means her sobriety. Ali says, "The hour is certain to come, so we must forgive graciously."

—Malia Alexander, Intern, Image Journal, "Euphoria".

I hadn't noticed that the arduous labor of reading Hegel would fall during Lent. But now it seems perfectly fitting, and not only because reading Hegel's notoriously obtuse prose is a kind of philosophical penance. What has struck me on this latest re-reading of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit (published in 1807) is how radically cruciform his philosophy is… Unlike so many philosophies that prioritize self-possession, for Hegel we find ourselves by giving ourselves away. Through sacrifice we discover the gift of an identity. It is only when we lose ourselves that we find ourselves, as he puts it, caught up in the life of the Spirit.

—James K.A. Smith, Editor, Image Journal, his “curation, criticism, and commentary”

“Art in the time of crisis” . . . the vital role of the arts in times of precarity, examining artistic practices born amidst crises. Awaken yourself to the prophetic witness of the arts, asking why so many people turn to the arts during times of struggle.

—Adrienne Dengerink Chaplain, Regent College

[Nashville] is hot chicken on sopping white bread with green pickle / chips—sour to balance prismatic, flame-colored spice /

for white people, I-40 bisected the black community / like a tourniquet of concrete. There were no highway exits. /

120 businesses closed . . .

—Tiana Clark, “Nashville,” published in the New Yorker (2017).

I found an answer in a question Ilya Kaminsky penned earlier this month, "Why [do] so many turn to poetry in a time of crisis?"

My class turned to poetry. In the hope to change and change again, here are four poems we found, read, and treasured. Poems of resistance and of asking, of naming and love, by Ukrainian poets Olga Livshin, Ilya Kaminsky, Natalka Bilotserkivets, and Dzvinia Orlowsky.

—Benjamin Bartu, “Poetry We Admire: Resistance,” associate editor at Palette Poetry, editor at Literistic.

Kahn's paintings continue to tread the border between abstraction and figuration, as he has done throughout his career, but in these new works he forces himself to find strangeness and unfamiliarity in the most intimate subjects, standing right before him.  His figures stretch their limbs with the elegance of dancers, but beyond that it is difficult—and often impossible—to establish any identifying characteristics, whether religious, ethnic, sexual or otherwise. . .

In his words, the artist seeks to capture a "liminal moment, before the apprehension of gender and sexuality, an uncertain moment filled with possibility." This is not an effort to evade or ignore struggles for recognition by communities who have long been marginalized because of difference.  Instead, it is a call to acknowledge a common wellspring of dignity, beneath the surface, which flows into and animates all bodies, each in their own way.

—Aaron Rosen, Visual Arts Editor, Image Newsletter 4/14/22  Read more: Image Journal Issue 33

A Peace Lily adorns my kitchen island, especially apropos during these recent days. This flower is so named because of its graceful white shrouded petal resembling a surrender flag that declares a truce.

—Melissa Capa Rolston, Founder of Victorian Trading Co.

"I became a priest because of a deep, keen yearning to traffic in transcendence... Poets also make transcendence tangible, using the materiality of language—its written shapes, its sonic texture—to give form to the invisible and abstract. Through the artful employment of sound and sense, poetry communicates intellectually as well as emotionally—with the head as well as the heart. . . Poems give flesh to our hopes and fears and cell-deep longings, manifesting what groans most deeply in the bone and loam of things."

Travis Helms, founder and director of LOGOS, Image Journal, Issue 112

Jesuit spirituality often speaks of "finding God in all things."  I understand and appreciate the sentiment. The only problem is: it still requires me to look. And if I'm honest, I'm not always looking. In fact, sometimes I'm exhausted looking for a God who seems to prefer to hide.

But then God shows up when you're not looking, arriving as a surprise. . .

As the poet Jeanne Murray Walker puts it, sometimes, despite our denials, "God blazes up." Thank God that God is not only found by those looking; sometimes it's less about finding and more about being found. 

A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud: curation, criticism, and commentary from James K.A. Smith. Editor of Image Journal.

Surrounded by a terrific cast of seasoned musical performers. . . Garfield gives a blazingly self-assured performancemelancholy and ebullient, nuanced and unabashedly over-the-topthat pays off on Miranda's bet, and then some. And boy can he sell a tune. . . "I'm a f*** theatre major at Wesleyanwhat do I have to offer the World?" Miranda recalls. "And here's a show by my hero, and he's telling me two things at one: It's harder than you think it's going to be, your peers are all going to go get real jobs, and you're going to be the only one knocking your head against the wall of your childhood dream. But, if you love what you do, it is all worth it. And God, I love sitting down and writing a song. It makes me feel so alive."

Adam Green, Vogue Magazine Dec 2021 Issue: on Andrew Garfield.

The notion of art seeking understanding (ars quaerens intellectum) invites association with the notion of faith seeking understanding (fides quaerens intellectum).

Just as faith is a gift of grace that grows toward deeper knowledge, so it seems that art is a gift whose practice leads to a deeper order of understanding.  This seems true not only for the person who experiences art, but also the artist—whether musician, painter, sculptor, or poet.

—Baylor Symposium on Faith and Culture, October 26-28, 2022

My work investigates the feminine archetype. I like the word “archetype” because my focus is on the timeless values of the feminine in each of us and not on gender. I seek to raise awareness of these values of collaboration, compassion, nurturing, and patience—and I believe they could help us regain balance in a culture that has lost its compass and runs wild.

—Anne Mourier, Issue 113 The Missing Mother, Image Journal.

O my most fragrant Lord, you are honeysuckle

my childish hand will not relinquish. Forbear,

this once, your punishment of lilac and rose—

for in this wild and weedlike trickery

I am made meadowless.


—Geri Doran, "Common Prayer" Issue 66, Image Journal, 

Eager for Pacific Theatre's upcoming season to begin, I read Leah Nanako Winkler's God Said This, which they'll perform in the new year. Winner of the Yale Drama Series Prize, Winkler sets her play in a Kentucky hospital room where a mother's chemotherapy becomes cause for an unwelcome family reunion. After many years apart, sisters Hiro and Sophie must confront that they can't outrun or pray away a cancer diagnosis, their father's alcoholism, or the effects of their traumatic past. Despite her prognosis, it's Masako, the matriarch, who leads her loved ones to forgiveness, modeling the capacity to let love in—even when it looks like unsolicited candy bars, spontaneous prayer sessions, or choosing to stay when everything says "head for the door."

—Rebecca Branscom, Director of Community Cultivation, Image Journal Newsletter

The Non-Portraits center Blackness in an effort to confront and deconstruct ingrained social conceptions of it. I'm negotiating a paradoxical space between invisibility and hypervisibility, the conscious and unconscious, portraiture and iconoclasm, figuration and abstraction. I've found this space where I weave together different strands of my identity and incorporate a range of references. Ultimately, I am trying to make archetypes that are windows to the mysteries of human existence.

—Askia Bilal "In the Studio" interview, Issue 114: Image Journal.

I only feel angry when I see waste. When I see people throwing away things we could use.

—Mother Teresa

There was a kind of self-censorship that afflicted her heart, until the thoughtful little girl began to tell her little lies, and the white-socked child clawed into the soft-creek mud, and the self-negating teen unleashed a sharp, sarcastic tongue. The imperfection of trying to be perfect was the worst kind of imperfection there was.

—Beth Kephart, Wife/Daughter/Self: a memoir in essays (2021).

This black trapezoid isn't named death or murder

or what a lover promises in the dark. Agnes named

it Homage to Life. Near the end of her life, Agnes

lived in an assisted living facility. Everything

violent in the world can be made beautiful with

language. Someone passes, departs, or succumbs.

This is called advertising. The grids are finally

gone. Even while at the facility, Agnes drove to

her art studio each day to work. I think about the

people who bathed her, who cut up her food into

trapezoids. I wonder when she stopped painting

and if she knew. I have a feeling the shape of her last

breath was no longer a rectangle. I have a feeling

her last word was in the shape of sovereignty. Every

poem is trying to be the last free words on earth.


—Victoria Chang, "Homage to Life, 2003" Image Journal, Issue 114.

For me, poetry is not a way to comment on things we already know, but a way to feel things out, a kind of sensory organ like whiskers or fingertips in the dark.

—Isaac Pickell, Poet; founding Editor-in-Chief of The Woodward Review

Ekphrasis comes from "description" in Greek. Ekphrastic poems seek to vibrantly describe, interpret, or engage with a visual scene or moment, often a work of art. They often are about the speaker's encounter with the art, and how viewing or experiencing it has impacted them. Are you haunted by a painting that you encountered online or a sculpture that you stood transfixed before in a museum?

—Palette Poetry Newsletter

I believe writing begins in wonder. Wonder is demanding; it comes at a cost. It can be disorienting; it can be wounding. Perhaps, the term "bewilderment" better conveys the discomfort of the writing process. One of my favorite contemporary poets, Fanny Howe defines "bewilderment" as a loss of one's sense of where one is. As Howe writes, "Bewilderment is an enchantment that follows a complete collapse of reference and reconcilability. It cracks open the dialectic and sees myriads all at once." It is resolving the irresolvable. Howe quotes a Muslim prayer: "Lord, increase my bewilderment." 

—Diane Goettel, Editor; Black Lawrence Press

Take off your headphones for a minute. Look at the world and the people in it. All the horrors, the mundane indignities, the wars and rumors of war, the falling apart at the seams of our homes and families and countries. What can keep us alive?

...Only an embrace of the weak things of this world, a focused attention on the least of these, feels like a way to conscientiously object from what Matthew Arnold called the ignorant armies who clash by night. A holy refusal to cede power and attention to the bad that is purported to be stronger than good. A song, a story, a guitar solo, a garden, an affectionate embrace, Sunday night at the pub or the park, a dollar for the man in front of the drugstore, a letter to your grandmother, a sparsely attended morning prayer at a monastery, a turtle covering its eggs with dirt, your kid's math homework. No trace of the maudlin is intended when I say that these things may matter more than a law or a dictator or a bomb. If anything is worth living for, worth singing an imperfect offering to, it is the low and the small.

—Joel Heng Hartse, on Winnipeg-based band The Weakerthans, Issue 115, The Image Journal.

The eternal feminine needs to be recaptured, a project that would bring healing to everyone. If you pause for a moment, you will recognize that the most healing words immediately bring up a feminine image: for example, loving, peaceful, forgiving, warm, tolerant, harmonious, heartfelt.

The feminine connotation of these words crosses social, gender, and national lines. They are innate in human awareness, and what makes them eternal is that these qualities are not mind-made. There is no birth or expiration date for them. To access them, you need to bring in feminine energy, no matter who you are. When the eternal feminine is disconnected from day-to-day life, an imbalance results. At its most extreme, love gives way to fear, forgiveness to hatred, peace to violence. . .

I'm not issuing a manifesto. Manifestos are a symptom of intolerance and rigidity. The place where healing occurs is in one's own awareness. If you wake up to your attitudes and behavior, it's not esoteric or arcane to discern the imbalance that favors the masculine.

—Deepak Chopra, MD, The Eternal Feminine Is a Healer post,  Deepak Chopra LLC Newsletter

All Hail the Frozen Queen.

—Breck’s Bulbs, newsletter title

“I don’t call it sleep anymore. / I’ll risk losing something new instead,” writes Natalie Diaz in her poem “From the Desire Field,” which appears in her Pulitzer Prize–winning collection, Postcolonial Love Poem (Graywolf Press, 2020). The poem speaks from the mind of someone unable to fall asleep who attempts to find a sense of relief through their insomnia. “Let me call my anxiety, desire, then. / Let me call it, a garden,” she writes.

—Poet and Writers, “The Time Is Now: Crystallizing Words” poetry prompt Feb 24, 2023

I use my observations of the real world as the foundation for a painted one. Arranging pigments on a surface allows me to bring particular real-world observations into a sphere of contemplation....I see my paintings and drawings as invitations to encounter a lived environment slowly, fully, and reflectively.

—John Descarfino on finding inspiration in windows. Image Journal Issue 115"Bodies of Light: A Study in Windows."

In “When I See Stars in the Night Sky,” Joy Priest writes an ode to the late iconic singer Whitney Houston, tethering her memory to the stars in the sky. “It’s 1988      Her head /       Thrown back against a black backdrop   She is the only thing / glowing    So distant       from us in the universe,” writes Priest. The poem then moves into the personal connection the speaker has with the singer. “I love myself / because of her,” writes Priest.

—Poets & Writers, “The Time Is Now: A Moment in Time,” poetry prompt. March 3, 2023.

It is a special treat when you finally get to dive into a book that a younger you acquired in hope.

—James K.A. Smith, “A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud: Curation, Criticism, and Commentary.” Editor of Image Journal.

Consider how to heal the fear of death.

—Deepak Chopra, MD, FACP, FRCP,  “Why Time Isn't Causing You to Age”

This story explores what justice is, giving audiences lots of food for thought even as they try to figure out who the murderer is.

Ken Hildebrandt, "Murder on the Orient Express comes to the stage." Abbotsford News

'The Lady of Shalott’:


And down the river’s dim expanse

Like some bold seer in a trance,

Seeing all his own mischance –

With glassy countenance

Did she look to Camelot.

And at the closing of the day

She loosed the chain, and down she lay;

The broad stream bore her far away,

The Lady of Shalott.


Tennyson’s poem, first published in 1832, tells of a woman who suffers under an undisclosed curse. She lives isolated in a tower on an island called Shalott, on a river which flows down from King Arthur’s castle at Camelot. Not daring to look upon reality, she is allowed to see the outside world only through its reflection in a mirror. One day she glimpses the reflected image of the handsome knight Lancelot, and cannot resist looking at him directly. The mirror cracks from side to side, and she feels the curse come upon her. The punishment that follows results in her drifting in her boat downstream to Camelot ‘singing her last song’, but dying before she reaches there. Waterhouse shows her letting go the boat’s chain, while staring at a crucifix placed in front of three guttering candles.

—Tate Gallery, London. "The Lady of Shalott."

We behave as if the Black Swan does not exist: human nature is not programmed for Black Swans.

—Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable (2007)

It's always Christmas and never winter!

Brian Doerksen, worship leader and musician. The Heart of Christmas CD (2019)

There is something both intimate and humanizing in conversations with artists and writers. We have a sense of eavesdropping on experts from whom we have much to learn. We get a glimpse into how things are made.

In Conversation: interviews from the Image archive (2023)

The more stories. . . I hear, the more I'm convinced that Madeleine's mission as apologist to the wavering, the wounded, the wondering, was a resounding success. She has helped many of us cling to our faith when our universe is being challenged by our own universe-disturbing questions. She has encouraged us to rethink our theological assumptions about what's safe verses sacred. She's challenged our narrow reading of scripture ("How does engaging this passage as poetry, rather than as journalism, change the way I understand it?"

Sarah Arthur, A Light So Lovely; The Spiritual Legacy of Madeleine L'Engle (2018)

I love graphite's simplicity and reflectivity. People often minimize its reflective quality, but I love how dramatically it interacts with light so a piece never looks the same. Graphite also mirrors a narrative ambiguity I try to bring to the work. The effort to grasp the image ties to the effort to grasp its meaning. Graphite's lack of material complexity also feels honest. Since it's a simple form of carbon, any mystery in a graphite work is created through process, and that feels like starting from a place of truth.

Kylee Snow,”In the Studio" Image Journal, issue 115.

We recently managed to turn a lecture gig near Los Angeles into a long weekend in Palm Springs, a place I'm somewhat surprised to have fallen in love with. My sympathy for Lana Del Rey aesthetics in proximity to palm trees and mountains only partially explains the allure. The real magnet is the architecture. It is hard for me to explain how much desert modernism makes my heart sing. From the moment you leave the airport down Tahquitz Canyon Way, the drive is a parade of desert modernism's simple, low-slung, instantly-recognizable facades—geometric assemblages of white triangles and rectangles with dashes of signature orange, yellow, and green. The straight-line minimalism of this style might lead some to confuse it with Le Corbusier's "machines-for-living;" but in my experience, this architecture is fundamentally organic, a response to the land and environment.

—James K.A. Smith, Editor, Image Journal

In Ada Limón’s poem “Accident Report in the Tall, Tall Weeds,” which appears in her collection Bright Dead Things (Milkweed Editions, 2015), the speaker moves through the memories of exes and accidents, including how a friend is obsessed with plane crashes: “He memorizes the wrecked metal details, / the clear cool skies cut by black scars of smoke. / Once, while driving, he told me about all the crashes: / The one in blue Kentucky, in yellow Iowa. / How people go on, and how people don’t.”

—Poets & Writers, poetry prompt "The Time Is Now: Craft and Conscience"

[Joy] is. reading by a window with a soft blanket. an old plant with a new bloom. a completed to-do-list. the first big snowfall. banana bread in the oven. the squeak of sand under bare feet. a cat purring on my lap. finding the perfect GIF to send to the groupchat. a hot cup of coffee. filling the page with unplanned words. freshly painted nails. still and quiet moments of solitude, when all there is to do is rest. cold, crisp mornings. the careful turn of an old book's pages. a fresh bowl of ramen. feeling blessed and loved. setting a personal best. my favourite pair of sneakers. planting vegetables in the garden. sitting on the couch doing nothing, partner on one side, dog on the other. the crack of a home run. a warm cup of milky Earl Grey. a sunset from a plane window.

Happy National Poetry Month 2023! The League of Canadian Poets

Emily, we had a light bulb moment.

—IKEA, Newsletter (Feb 13, 2023)

I recently had the opportunity to see the Phoenix Theatre's production of A Streetcar Named Desire in London. Rebecca Frecknall's stripped-down, focused direction allows Tennessee Williams's text to sing. Her characters are fierce and fragile, and they make a mess of places and people. During most of the production, the set is strewn with a chaos of props: poker chips, the entrails of suitcases, birthday streamers, and table-turned remains; in the final scene, the set is left bare, a striking reversal. While it's no secret that most of the audience was there to see Paul Mescal's Stanley Kowalski, it was Patsy Ferran's portrayal of Blanche DuBois, the frayed but determined Southern belle anxious for home and husband, that held my attention.

—Rebecca Branscom, Director of Community Cultivation, Image Journal

There is a certain kind of art that refuses to imagine suffering as beautiful, while nevertheless insisting that there is beauty to be discovered amid the rubble of loss. My tendency to dwell on this distinction may come from my Christian convictions—"I cannot be an optimist but I remain a prisoner of hope," as Cornel West famously says—but I see it in the work of anyone who labors at noticing and creating beauty in this shivering world. Few writers in recent memory do this as well as poet and music critic Hanif Abdurraqib. His exhilarating essay collection They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us is a favorite of mine, but recently I've been revisiting his 2019 poetry collection, A Fortune for Your Disaster. His rasping laments contain a poignant solace...

Abdurraqib is uninterested in obscuring the devastation of suffering: "Some wounds cannot be hushed / no matter the way one writes of blood / & what reflection arrives in its pooling."  Instead, he writes from the pooling and strains toward the light: "into the hollow void I've left / I echo the names of all who have pulled me / from the depths of my own design. ...we can all mourn / until the mourning trembles out a celebration."

—Judson Bergman, Graduate Intern for Image Journal, Yale Divinity School

Soul music appeals to millions of people, but the music of the soul appeals to everyone. It is the one reliable bridge to the soul in every culture, but ancient India made a specialty of it. Instead of looking back thousands of years, however, it is more powerful to begin in an Alzheimer’s ward.

Imagine that you are present the first day that someone has the bright idea to play music to these patients. A waltz starts up. For a minute, the patients are mute and unresponsive, swathed in the cocoon of their dementia. Then something happens, or rather, a whole range of things. Some patients start tapping their feet to the music; others smile. A few get to their feet amazingly, and begin to dance. We are talking about people whose brains seem too damaged to respond to anything around them.

—Deepak Chopra, MD; "Music as a Bridge to the Soul"

“If you haven’t taken the Amtrak in Florida, you haven’t lived,” writes Megan Fernandes in her poem “Letter to a Young Poet,” which appears in her third collection, I Do Everything I’m Told, published by Tin House this week. The poem’s title borrows from Rainer Maria Rilke’s renowned collection of letters to a young poet seeking his guidance, published in 1929. Fernandes’s poem addresses a nameless “you” while simultaneously revealing details about the speaker, producing a sense of intimacy that presents two sides of a correspondence, its lines swerving associatively, as the pieces of advice turn increasingly lyrical. “It’s better to be illegible, sometimes. Then they can’t govern you,” writes Fernandes. “Sleep upward in a forest so the animal sees your gaze.”

—Poet & Writers, poetry prompt “The Time Is Now: Draft, Craft, and Process” 

With their unique vertical growth, jewel-like flowers and captivating fragrance, hyacinths are a magnificent choice for spring gardens and spring bouquets. Their tiny, bell-shaped blooms emerge early in spring and come in a rainbow of colors, including varying shades of red, blue and sensuous, soft pastels. Hyacinths perform as well when forced indoors as when grown outside.

—Breck’s Bulbs, Scents and Sensibility

Stories of the Virgin's violent miracles can be found throughout Italy, where those who cross her are allegedly blinded, paralyzed, struck by lightning, and swallowed by sinkholes. Although she's willing to inflict pain, the official teaching is that she hasn't experienced it, at least not in childbirth.

—Elizabeth Harper, "The Violent Madonnas" Image Journal, issue 116.

This week marks the birthday of the iconic Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, who would have turned 119 on July 12. Known for his historical epics, political manifestos, and love poems, Neruda’s incisive and joyful odes were often dedicated to ordinary objects making them approachable yet surreal. In “Ode to My Socks,” translated from the Spanish by Robert Bly, Neruda describes his covered feet as “two fish made / of wool, / two long sharks / sea-blue.” In “Ode to a Large Tuna in the Market,” translated from the Spanish by Robert Robinson, Neruda describes a dead tuna fish as “a dark bullet / barreled / from the depths.”

—Poets & Writers, poetry prompt "The Time Is Now: Transforming Language"

All strange and terrible events are welcome,

But comforts we despise. Our size of sorrow,

Proportioned to our cause, must be as great

As that which makes it.

—William Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra: Act 4, Scene 15

... we can be a community that is at once like-minded in a shared devotion to the arts, and yet valued in all of our differences. We want you to be able to bring your whole "incarnate" self here, body and soul, heart and hands. We hope this can be a slice of beloved community where love is not confused with being comfortable. You can come here with outsized ambition and—trust me, you're not alone!—gnawing anxiety. You can come here as an aspiring professional or a tentative amateur. You can be yourself.

—James K.A. Smith, Bonhoeffer's radio, Image Newsletter

In Natasha Trethewey’s “Flounder,” which appears in her debut collection, Domestic Work (Graywolf Press, 2000), the speaker of the poem recalls a scene from her memories as a young girl fishing with her aunt. The aunt explains how to spot a flounder, “A flounder, she said, and you can tell / ’cause one of its sides is black. // The other side is white, she said.” The poem ends with a strong image that subtly casts an emotional parallel with the speaker seeing a connection between her mixed-race identity and the flounder: “I stood there watching that fish flip-flop, / switch sides with every jump,” writes Trethewey.

—Poets & Writers, poetry prompt "The Time Is Now: Your Animal Self." 

  ...editor Harold Ficket interviewed the Presbyterian minister, novelist, and memoirist Frederick Buechner (1926-2022), covering a range of topics of interest: inspiration for his novels, the ambiguity inherent to experiences of the divine, and the faith-informed vision necessary for seeing miracles. "God moves in these elusive, mysterious, ambiguous ways through our lives," Buechner notes. "This is the deepest part of the mystery of being alive... to find and see those moments and ride with them and be nourished by them." Buechner also explores in this conversation his call to full-time writing, the professional challenges of being a writer who addresses spiritual concerns, the interplay between traditional theological writings and fiction, and his experiences of the "clack-clack" sound, revealing the deepest mystery itself.

—Ryan Pemberton, director of community cultivation

In Conversation: an interview with Frederick Buechner, Image Archives

Joanne Allen explores how contemporary artists use the Renaissance for inspiration:

Long ago, Old Master saints and biblical figures were something to be encountered only in reverential spaces like museums and churches. For today's viewers, encountering devotional art among the vast mix of images we consume daily is nothing new. In some ways, that familiarity makes the Renaissance less potent, but contemporary artists have shown that there is something about these timeless masterpieces we can't seem to forget.

—Joanne Allen, “Audacious Borrowing: Contemporary Art Revisits the Renaissance” Image Journal, Issue 117

Carpentry is male-dominated. There's no way around it. And so, I spent some time building houses with men, learning, growing and creating tangible home spaces.

It felt so good, being outside, moving my body constantly, working and learning together as a team, sitting on truck tailgates eating lunch together, hearing stories and getting to know people in the strangely intimate ways of working side by side, bodies coordinated into effort, with minimal talking.

In the process of deepening into this physical construction work, I became more grounded, more equipped to do healing work and abstract projects, and I've learnt a few things about healing and embodiment, through the lens of house building. There are unavoidable laws that must be followed in order to build a home that remains safe and upright, and these truths also apply to healing, personal growth and becoming whole. . .

#3. When you build a house absolutely nothing is untouched. Real, human carpenter hands have touched everything. Nothing is unconsidered. . . Imagine touching yourself into wholeness in the same way as a house is touched over and over again as it's being built, bringing that quality of attention and care to your process.

This attention and touch is an act of love. It's your loving desire to remove detritus, excavate, then rebuild with care and truth and in alignment.

—Janelle Hardy, "What building a house has taught me about becoming whole." Newsletter, Nov 13, 2021.

Creative intelligence flows through us silently and invisibly to enliven our mind and body, always aiming to make us more fully human. Yet modern secular society has barely delved into how consciousness, as opposed to the brain, actually operates, by what lows or principles it organizes everything about us (and about the cosmos, according to Yoga). AI could offer a breakthrough here by gathering everything known about Shakti in the world's wisdom traditions and putting it at our fingertips.

Deepak Chopra, MD; Nine Ways That AI Is Going to Triumph.

I take the word artist very seriously. I am not an artist until that flame within me is lit. So, the beginning of, and the commitment to, each major artwork contains that moment. I need to continually become an artist, to reimagine myself. I let imagination nourish the mysterious becomings within the soul.

But, yes, there was one particular moment. I was young enough to be carried in the crook of my father's arm. At dusk, all of a sudden, a tree on the far side of the garden glows gold. Through my eyes I am pierced by beauty. I crumple forward.

Stephanie Rayner, Image Journal, Issue 117

Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick introduced us to paranoid vs reparative reading in her book, Touching Feeling, in which she argues against a hermeneutics of readerly suspicion as coined by philosopher, Paul Ricoeur, and calls for us to read as careworkers/healers for sustained community growth and empowerment.

—On the theme of the 2023 Anne Szumigalski lecture “On Reparative vs Paranoid Writing: The Ethics and Carework of Storytelling,” presented by Joshua Whitehead; Between the Lines Poetry Newsletter, The League of Canadian Poets

October 24, 2023, marks the centenary of Denise Levertov's birth. Among her numerous awards and recognition, her work continues to draw recognition  for its precision;  attention to the quotidian experiences of everyday life; and its thoughtful engagement with faith and doubt, nothingness and absence, the natural world and war protest—especially relevant this month. In his review of Levertov's collection of essays, Light Up the Cave (1981), critic Daniel Berrigan writes: "Our options [in a tremulous world], as they say, are no longer large. ... [We] may choose to do nothing; which is to say, to go discreetly or wildly mad, letting fear possess us and frivolity rule our days. Or we may, along with admirable spirits like Denise Levertov, be driven sane; by community, by conscience, by treading the human crucible."

—Ryan Pemberton, director of community cultivation, In Conversation: an interview with Denise Levertov, Image Archives

How do we explain a world that seems to have exploded in violence, war, and populist hatred of "the other," particularly when the other is part of a flood of refugees and immigrants fleeing intolerable conditions at home? Before settling on an answer, consider a notion that runs through the world's spiritual traditions: The source of violence "out there" in the world lies "in here" with ourselves.

Deepak Chopra, MD; If the World Is on Fire, So Are We