I remember once mentioning to a classmate of mine that I'd gone to the movie theater the evening before. She was compulsively facetious and, no sooner had I shared this small bit of intelligence, than she spat out, "Oh, was it a talkie?"
On the road, preparing even now to unload the boxes I only just loaded in Pennsylvania two weeks ago, I have not done much writing this month. But I did have the great honor of delivering a lecture for Thomas More College, in New Hampshire (set in my home study just before the shelves came down) and then to appear on a wonderful video podcast. I share them with you here in hopes that, should you be interested in seeing a movie and hearing a talkie, on the subjects of beauty, poetry, and the divine, these might do the trick.
These last weeks have been -- and will remain, I pray -- singular in my writing life. My library broken down into book boxes and stacked about me, as they await moving day, I managed to crank out a handful of new pieces. These are the last I shall write in Berwyn, Pennsylvania, my family's home these last twelve years. Anything new I may write will be written somewhere in Michigan, after our return to our home state after such a long absence. Some of that final work will be forthcoming in the months ahead, but two little pieces managed to appear within eight hours of each other (not good pacing, Wilson!). I hope you will enjoy a little tribute to two great writers under one title: "O Rare Ben Jonson," and also my review of Sohrab Ahmari's important new book, The Unbroken Thread, which appears in the latest issue of National Review. Click below to read them now.
On the far side of that move I will also continue with the founding of the new MFA program in Creative Writing at the University of Saint Thomas, in Houston. There has been much good and generous publicity for and attention given to this new institution; it is not only hopes that are pinned on its flourishing, but those of many who want to see an improved and richer age of thought, literature, and culture within American society and within the Catholic Church. If you have any interest in joining us, in supporting us, or simply in learning more about what we are up to, do not hesitate to drop me a line through the contact page of this web site.
This last week, it has been my distinct pleasure to fight for things worth loving: the Church and Her Saints; the academy and the joy of wonder; the human person as a being made for more than petty bodily pleasures. Click on the icons below to read my latest in The Wall Street Journal, Public Discourse, and Genealogies of Modernity.
This week, I have to share two newly published poems and an exciting conversation with actor Peter Atkinson, who hosted me on the daily podcast of his theatre company, The Merry Beggars. I invite you to click through had have a read, a listen, or both.
Finally, I update this website regularly so that it brings news of all my various publications. I encourage you to check back regularly, to subscribe to my irregular and informal newsletter, to pick up a copy of one (or more) of my books, and, last but not least, to pass on word of my work to your friends, enemies, neighbors, and distant, long-estranged uncle in California. Everyone -- even that guy! -- needs a little more poetry in their life.
Thanks to the generosity of the Benedict XVI Institute, my new book of poems, The Strangeness of the Good, was launched from its berth last night. I was delighted to read some poems and field questions along the way from those in attendance. Nothing replaces the pleasure of a proper reading and book signing, but it is gratifying to be able to spend even this sort of time with readers and with those concerned about the arts of beautiful and the sacred. If you missed the event, you can watch it all right here, and if you still have not picked up a copy of the book for yourself, I encourage you to click the book cover (at left) and do so.
I could not have expected to ring in the New Year by getting to spend so much time in conversation with the Bishops of the Church. But last week, I appeared on the Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Dolan's radio show to discuss my Wall Street Journal essay on Christmas. And, tomorrow night, I will join San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone to launch my new book, The Strangeness of the Good.
I invite you to watch the interview by clicking on the newspaper below (I come on at about 27:00) and also to register for tomorrow night's book launch. We are all looking forward to proper events in person returning this new year, but it is a curious blessing to be able to include people from all over the world in my public events thanks to the internet. I'm grateful for the interest that has already been shown in my work and for this opportunity to share it with others.
I'm about to go downstairs to play some Christmas carols, but before I do, let me wish all readers a Merry Christmas in the only way that I really know how: to share some writing on the subject. Here is my Christmas essay for The Wall Street Journal's weekend magazine. Click on my beloved Jimmy Stewart to read it.
Readers may have come across my essay, "Poetry and the News," which kicked off the a Theopolis Institute Conversation last month. Since its appearance, five poets and scholars have weighed in and, now, I have written a final response and reflection -- one that reflects on the meaning of Ezra Pound and modernism for poetry, but one which also sets down some observations and principles that help, I hope, explain why so few people read poetry in our day but also why they should. Click the Theopolis Logo to see my Final Response.
Jessica Hooten Wilson kindly recommended The Strangeness of the Good in her newsletter, last week. She is back, in Law and Liberty recommending it once more and this time with the kind of detail that I hope will whet your appetite. 2020 may be the year that we want to forget, but Wilson argues I have made that dismal period memorable in a way we will want to remember. Click the Law and Liberty logo and scroll waaay down to see Jessica's generous recommendation.
Just over a week since The Strangeness of the Good was published. In that short time, we've released some additional promotional materials, including my recording of "April 1, 2020" from "Quarantine Notebook." You can read that below.
But already there seems to be a little "buzz" about the book. The great historian Bradley J. Birzer has just published a substantial interview with me in The Imaginative Conservative. Walker Percy scholar Jessica Hooten Wilson has pronounced mine the best book of 2020 and the best book of poems she has read in years. Rod Dreher included my poem "Through the Water" at the conclusion of a lovely essay on Auden and the "Strangeness of the Good" of this world. And literary critic Nick Ripatrazone includes Strangeness as one of four "must read" December volumes. You can find links to all these items below.
This is a season of waiting: waiting for the birth of Christ, waiting for a lousy year to drag its long green dragon's tail into the abyss of the past, and, finally, for the publication of my newest book, The Strangeness of the Good.
One of those waits, at least, is over. I am pleased to announce that Angelico Press has just released The Strangeness of the Good. The book is available for sale on amazon in both cloth and paperback editions (though, in the mystery of things, those remain separate listings for the moment, but should be converged by the end of the day. I invite you, and indeed ask you, to support this work, to repay the faith of the publisher, and to get a little something that you might enjoy, by picking up a copy of the volume. Just click the cover image to buy.
If you would like to learn more about the volume, I have good news for you. The Christian Humanist Podcast just released a longform interview with me yesterday, and I have recorded two of the poems from the volume. You can access all of these, for free, simply by clicking the appropriate images here. But, before you do, allow me to share some advance praise for the volume from some of the great voices of the contemporary Catholic and literary worlds, all of whom have something kind to say about the book.
There are poets who, alas, can only feel. And poets who, regrettably, can only think. James Matthew Wilson can do both. And in this substantial collection of sensuous and sonorous verse, Wilson gives evidence of being a major talent whose body of work grows steadily towards beauty and wisdom.
-Robert Royal, President, Faith & Reason Institute
James Matthew Wilson makes the everyday lyrically urgent and memorable. Few poets writing today write with such unfailing elegance, close attention to the human world, and generosity of spirit.
-Kevin Hart, Edwin B Kyle Professor of Christian Studies, The University of Virginia
The Strangeness of the Good is a beautiful act of faith . . . As we seek to see and reflect God’s beauty in the world, these poems will help you be enchanted with the Divine life – in these times when the world needs us to be that hope in the world!
Kathryn Jean Lopez, Senior Fellow, National Review Institute, editor-at-large, National Review
The Strangeness of the Good shows us yet again . . . what contemporary American poetry written in an American idiom with a fluency few can equal looks and sounds like. For years, I searched for a wisdom and humanity in father figures like Robert Lowell and John Berryman and found only in shards there what I have found (to my surprise and delight) in someone decades younger than myself. Especially in his Quarantine Notebook he has wrought comfort and light out of darkness and managed to “build new worlds at the center of the old.”
-Paul Mariani, author of Ordinary Time and Gerard Manley Hopkins: A Life
“Quarantine Notebook,” composed of fifteen monologues written during the COVID lockdown . . . gives us a new and powerful Wilson . . . It's the brilliant genesis of a writer re-born.
-Samuel J. Hazo, Pennsylvania Poet Laureate, 1993-2003
I have been writing on Jacques Maritain's political thought off and on for a decade, but I have published little of what I've written on the subject. Recent ill-founded attacks and mis-readings of his work prompted this Defense. I do think it is more than a defense, however. It is also a chance to take stock of the failure of modern polities, the dangers of secularism, and the need for a condign vision of the Church itself and the ineradicable desire for God that drives human nature -- to fulfillment or miscarriage. Click the picture of a younger Jacques (whose birthday was two days ago, November 18th) to read my essay.
It has been an otherwise quiet month. I have new work in verse and prose forthcoming, and am about to begin writing more in my Notes on Form series of essays. There will be a great deal coming, and quite soon, too. But all of that pales in comparison to my delight and anticipation of The Strangeness of the Good, which is due to appear just eleven days from now. I'll be doing several interviews and Zoom/virtual events related to the book, as we wait for the present catastrophe to move on. Live events promise to be chock-full in the summer and fall, if that occurs.
Mentioning the news in our day is a bit like bringing up matters scatological at the dinner table, but not this time. My new essay, "Poetry and the News," has just been published at the Theopolis Institute. A number of writers will be responding to it in the days ahead. I think it will make for an interesting discussion.
My regular column at The Catholic Thing ran a couple weeks back, but I had not had time to share it here until now. Have a look at "Our Virgilian Civilization (Or, The Devil Was the First Whig)."
Finally, the latest issue of Dappled Things is out with a new sonnet of mine, "A Common Tongue," and a generous selection from "Quarantine Notebook," which will appear whole in my forthcoming book, The Strangeness of the Good.
Click below to read these items, and keep scrolling down to see the cover design of the new book!
Calendrical commitments, as it were, require that I send you this consolidated run-down of new poems, essays, and reviews from the month of September. Please enjoy clicking through to the various items, and stay tuned for exciting news in the month ahead.
The absurd events surrounding the name of Flannery O'Connor and Loyola University in Maryland have received numerous treatments already. I sent a private note on the matter to several persons, but was asked to expand it somewhat and make it public. I do so now, in my much belated debut in Public Discourse. Click the feathers to read.
The family and I made our annual multi-week pilgrimage to Michiana, in July. We drove back at the end of the month, and in a hurry, as I had to be rushed into Philadelphia for emergency eye surgery. The prognosis is not bad, thank goodness, at this hour, two weeks out from what seemed a total catastrophe. But it is not especially bright, either, and so reminds me both of the frailty of all flesh, as well as the centrality of finding one's treasure in a place that can endure forever (and there is only one such place).
As the headline here suggests, much good has happened alongside all the bad, and I'm pleased to share what I can with you.
Below, I gather four recent items: my latest column for The Catholic Thing, on Pope John Paul II's poetry; my latest column for the "Notes on Form" series for Forma magazine, "Joyce's Tetrameters"; and, finally, two new poems of mine, "The Weakness of Men," and "By that Heart Known." Simply click the pictures below to follow the links and read them.
A couple months ago, I was delighted to see that my work in poetry and criticism was discussed in the Introduction to the latest issue of Logos, a journal of Catholic thought. I kept my joy in my heart, in imitation of the Blessed Virgin. But, I see now that the introduction has been republished as an essay in Catholic World Report. And so, I invite you to read David Paul Deavel on "Poetry's Revival and Mr. Wilson." Click the picture to read the essay.
In almost totally unrelated news, I joined the CatholicCulture.org Criteria film podcast to talk about Ingmar Bergman's greatest film, Wild Strawberries. It was a pleasure to puzzle out this fascinating classic in good company. Click the logo below to listen in.
The new issue of Religion and Literature has just appeared and in this number appears a very fine review of my book, The Vision of the Soul: Truth, Goodness, and Beauty in the Western Tradition. It is one of those balanced reviews an author appreciates most, because the critic sees the same weaknesses as the author himself but, further, like the author himself, does not allow the presence of those weaknesses to define the whole or to sunder its fundamental goodness. Click the book cover to read a .pdf of the review and, if you are so inclines, pick up a copy of the book itself.
I have been meaning to record some of my poems as short films and got the ball rolling this last weekend (during a fit of procrastination inspired by a difficult bit of writing I was trying to avoid). And so, I am pleased to introduce The Scar of Odysseus, from The Hanging God.
Below the film, you'll find the link to register for my upcoming reading for the Benedict XVI Institute, which is free and open to the public. Have a look. Join us on July 1st. Look for new work from James Matthew Wilson in the days and weeks ahead.
Amid the noise of civilizational collapse, I invite you to read two new poems, one of which looks back to an early crisis of civilization, and the other looks into the permanent brilliance of the existence of things. Both appear in the Spring/Summer issue of Literary Matters, edited by the poet, translator, and critic, Ryan Wilson. Click on the pictures below to visit my poems. After reading them, have a look at the tremendous new issue of what is perhaps the most serious journal of contemporary literature being published in our time.
You will also find below a recording of "This Marvelous Being" made by the author.
I have undertaken what I hope you will find to be an exciting project, in partnership with Dappled Things magazine. Once or twice a week, DT will publish an excerpt from my long poem in progress, Quarantine Notebook.
If you click on the pictures below, they will take you to the individual entries in the notebook, or installments of the poem, as it where.
I will continue posting photographs with links to the subsequent poems in the sequence here. I invite you to follow along; as my introduction makes clear, I thought readers might find it valuable to have a poem accompany them and reflect on the shared experience and episode, and specifically, I hope, for the sake of finding some meaning and substance amid the flux of circumstances changing and yet not changing almost daily, almost by the hour.
May 13, 2020 Update: We are approaching the end of this long poem, I think, though we are certainly not yet there. I hope you'll continue to visit over the next couple weeks, as I try to bring the Notebook to fitting conclusion. Why not begin by reading Part XII, published today?
May 22, 2020 Update: With Part XIV, May 14, 2020, the Notebook reaches its penultimate entry. All that remains is the concluding Epilogue, which will appear next Monday. I hope you have enjoyed these poems and that their intention, to accompany readers through a period that we really are all sharing in together in several distinct ways, by bringing into focus the way in which our "daily round" rhymes itself into order and significance.
May 25, 2020 Update: It is finished. With Part 15, Epilogue, Quarantine Notebook concludes. You will find the whole poem collected in my forthcoming book, The Strangeness of the Good.
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