I have a great deal to share with you this month, including news about the little volume pictured above as well as several new works linked to in the images below.
So, first, the Benedict XVI Institute has been commissioning poems from me over the last several years. Readers of The River of the Immaculate Conception will recall that that entire volume was written in honor of Frank La Rocca's Mass of the Americas, and that both the mass setting and my poem were commissioned by the Institute. I have continued to write occasional poems, including "In Memory of the North American Martyrs" and, most recently, an "Offertory Hymn for Ukraine." The first was one of two poems I wrote for the Year of St. Junipero Serra and the American Saints, the second was written specifically for Frank LaRocca as a text for music. LaRocca has since composed a setting for the first three stanzas of the hymn, which made its world premiere in Toronto this last September and which will make its American premiere early next year as part of a new mass setting.
Two Poems for Martyrs contains the complete text of both poems, including stanzas that were not included in the LaRocca setting. The Institute has published this limited edition booklet as a gift for their donors. They have generously given me a small number of copies to sell as a way of raising support for my ongoing work as a poet. The book is small but beautifully produced; and by small I mean my fourteen-year-old, James Augustine, read the whole thing standing in our front hall with his backpack still on. He did say, however, that it took him longer to read it than he expected and that he could hear the iambs, so I am consoled.
I am offering ten signed copies for those who are interested in supporting my work. I ask for $15 (postage included) as a starting donation for this little keepsake. Simply write me on my CONTACT page to learn more.
Just below, you'll find three new works of mine, each of which is a first in one way or another. "Vanished Fire" will be the penultimate poem in my next book, but here it is in the pages of Plough. It is written in the most complex stanza form I have yet used (this one borrowed from Shelley). "Sweet Land of Michigan" is an essay I have waited nearly two decades to be able to write -- and with satisfaction, I have now not only written it but published it as my first-ever cover article in First Things. After years of writing poems and reviews for that journal, it was a pleasure to join the lead articles. Finally, National Review has just published my review of the new biography and collected poems of Anthony Hecht. If the art of poetry ever fully regains its bearings in the coming decades, Hecht along with Richard Wilbur will be the two poets who spanned the abyss and kept the present in touch with the past while keeping the poetic tradition a live and agile. This review is the first time I have written about Hecht since one of my first scholarly articles was published more than a decade ago; and, since so few people actually read scholarly articles, this is effectively the first time most readers will have heard me reflect on one of the Old Masters of American verse.
Click the icons below to read, or click over to the CONTACT page to learn more about Two Poems for Martyrs.
My regular updates when on hiatus during most of the summer, while I spent a few weeks in Houston running the wonderful Summer Literary programs there, including our Summer Writers Institute, Summer Literary Series, and the MFA Residency. Nearly every night, I welcomed some talented guest to the stage to read or lecture and, most of the time, also to offer seminars to our graduate students. It was incredible, but exhausting. In the lead up to the series, I wrote a great deal of new work, which has been slowly appearing, but only now have I had a chance to begin collecting it for the faithful, or casual, reader.
This may be a bit of an overload, but here we go. In Ad Fontes, you'll find one of two recent sesta rima poems I have published: "The Heart Would Make Itself Known." In The Catholic Thing, I revisit the theological virtue of hope as Benedict XVI explored it; Benedict offers a devastating critique of the modern age, one that we should all heed. National Review published my review of Zina Hitz's latest book, A Philosopher Looks at the Religious Life, and First Things has just published my short review of Dana Gioia's latest collection of poems. Speaking of Dana Gioia, I recommended his work and that of four other contemporary poets during my interview with Five Books for Catholics. I think the interview went well beyond a mere booklist to help the interested reader discern why poetry is something work thinking about. It occurs to me that I did not ever make notice of another interview I did this year, for Presence, and so I've included a pdf version of the print issue here; I got to share a great deal of my thoughts, all grateful, for the blessing of the MFA program I direct. Finally, printed below, please find "From The Awful Disclosers of Maria Monk," a poem that ran in this summer's issue of The Lamp.
I have some exciting work in criticism coming out shortly and when that appears, I'll provide another of these updates. In the meantime, I would beg the interested reader to follow me on social media, as I will have three major updates between now and next April, as during that span I'll be publishing three new books. People don't stay tuned anymore, but perhaps they scroll by frequently. Click the icons below to read any and all of these new works.
This month, I have a genuine handful of prose to share with readers, all of which explores the connection between the written word and the Eternal Word, the splendor of form which is beauty and the Divine Beauty. In these essays I explore Thomas Aquinas and T.S. Eliot; the classical and Catholic poetic tradition from Homer to yours truly; the aesthetics of witness in the Acts of the Apostles; and the weird imagination of Marly Youmans.
The fifth addition this month is my contribution to Robert George's new project: Fidelity Month. Let us all take time this June, that month when the tyrannical regime of abortion was at last overturned in our country, to renew our commitment of faithfulness to God, to family, to country . . . and to our local communities. I'll be revisiting the great good of commitment to one's place in an upcoming issue of First Things, but this essay touches on one of the major themes. In the meantime, I hope that everyone will continue to learn that living in a smaller place is to live in a bigger world, because things are always much larger on the inside than on the outside. We can only see this, however, if we study them with patience and stability.
Check back here often. I will have a review of Zina Hitz's new book, an essay on Richard Wilbur and the desolation of contemporary poetry, as well as new poems from my own hand, among other things, in the coming monthly newsletters.
"Word-hoard" is, as I recall, the Anglo-Saxon kenning equivalent to "vocabulary" in modern English. This month's update is something of a hoard itself and this update is the hoardings for it. We begin with a hoard of five poems from Alabama Literary Review, including "Catullans" which is indeed about a hoarder. We continue with two essays that hoard, in the sense of gather and treasure together the work of poets old and new. In The New Criterion I attempt to sum up the achievement of T.S. Eliot, that hoarder of other poets' best lines, and in Religion and Liberty, I discuss the career in poetry of the writer and editor Joseph Bottum, who is himself a hoarder of lost things, including Neo-Latin. If you have made it through these redundancies, then stick around long enough to click the icons and read the hoards. Please note that the ALR portfolio of poems will open as a pdf. The complete issue will be published online in the month ahead, but I'm sharing my portion here and now.
My next book, Catholic Modernism and the Irish "Avant-Garde," the result of almost two decades (off and on) of research will appear this fall from Catholic University of America Press. I am currently in discussion with publishers and look forward to seeing through the press my next book of poems, Saint Thomas and the Forbidden Birds.
In this month's update, we have two new poems, a longish reflection on contemporary politics in the light of Aristotle, Burke, and Frank Capra, and a very short reflection on the Sign of the Cross. On this Ash Wednesday, I note that all these items make for good Lenten reading, with one poem giving you reason to look inward and another representing what you may well find there, if you do look. Click the links below to read them all!
Also included below is a recent lecture I delivered on the relationship of Poiesis to Human Dignity. It sums up the present state of my understanding on human nature, art, and contemplation. I gave the lecture to a small, private audience and did not intend it for wider distribution, but since it is now, like everything else, on the internet, I guess there is no harm in sharing.
Look at these beautiful volumes, placed for the moment where I keep a signed edition of Yvor Winters's Collected Poems along with some other dear momentos. What you see here are the first hard cover copies of The Fortunes of Poetry in an Age of Unmaking and Some Permanent Things, both now in Second Edition with redesigned cover and dust jacket.
When these books first appeared, in 2014 and 2015, Wiseblood books was a young press and issued volumes only in paper. Wiseblood has grown and flourished in the intervening years and the publisher wanted to issue these volumes from the early list in elegant hard cover editions. Some Permanent Things had already appeared in a second edition, revised and expanded; Fortunes had long been in need of a second edition to make a few corrections, typographical and substantial. Now we have both in a matching set.
I have ordered ten matching sets of these books and would like to offer readers the opportunity to order signed, hard cover sets of these books, for $64 (shipping included). If you are interested, please simply drop me a line using my Contact form on this web site. You can pay by check or by Paypal, and I will get your volumes in the mail within the day.
Thank you, Readers, for your past support and your continued interest in my work in verse and prose.
My last update spoke of the poetry of autumn. This one finds us barely past the beginning of the Christmas Season and the people of West Michigan sunk beneath about thirty inches of snow, all raising its brilliant and silent hymn of glory. As we mark these joyous feast days, we recall also another anniversary, the centenary of the publication of T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land. St. Mary Woolnoth is the historic Anglican Church in central London that sits opposite Lloyd's Bank. During Eliot's years at the Bank, he would visit that parish and its consolation and summoning to the life of the spirit would be memorialized in his great modernist poem.
The homily for the Second Sunday of Advent moved me to write an essay on Yvor Winters. And the feast of the North American Martyrs led to my commission to write a poem in their memory. Look below to find those three items. Click the icons to read them. Click still another to read Patrick Kurp's review of The Strangeness of the Good.
And scroll even farther down, if you would like to see my public conversations with Dana Gioia and Robert Royal. One took place during the Summer Literary Series at the University of Saint Thomas, where my MFA program had gathered for its annual residency. The other took place at the Napa Institute, in late July.
I will have a further special announcement soon, regarding my books, but in the meantime, click and enjoy these free items. I hope they somehow enrich this season of new birth for all of you.
"We all are falling." So Rilke writes in his poem, "Autumn." This months update includes writing on autumn, both its poetry and its politics, along with two poems, one old one new.
First Things has just published my short essay, "The Poetry of Autumn," which is one of several pieces I've written (though the others are forthcoming) that considers the New England poetic tradition and its famous representatives. "The Culture Wars Comes to Michigan" is my first essay for The Dispatch, an argument against the egregious Proposal 3, which would install an unlimited right to kill unborn children -- and indeed all manner of other violences -- in the Michigan constitution.
Also in First Things, this time in the November issue, is "For Martha," a new sonnet." The Catholic Thing has just reprinted an older poem of mine, "On a Palm." Since they were reprinting it anyway, I asked them to print a revised version that I think improves the poem (the revised version will eventually appear in my book On the New Physics). This poem has the same title and is from the same poetic sequence as another poem of the same name. The differences between them are very great, including that that other poem appeared in The Best American Poetry 2018, while this poem did not.
While I am at it, I am including a video of my reading with Frederick Turner and Paul Mariani at the Future of the Catholic Literary Imagination conference, which was held on the final weekend of September and the first day of October. The reading was sponsored by the Catholic Culture Podcast.
As always, click the icons below to read the new work.
A few new items have gone out from my desk in the last month, including two new book reviews and one new poem. So, click below to read about the work of Daniel Brown, John Foy, and Paul Mariani, and have a look at the beautiful spread The European Conservative created for the debut of my work in their pages.
This month also marks the publication of two new anthologies, Christian Poetry in America Since 1940, edited by Micah Mattix and Sally Thomas, and The Saint Mary's Book of Christian Verse, edited by Edward Short. Some of my poems appear in both these anthologies. I've included some pictures below. Those of us who want to make a lasting work, and worry about the mortality of mortal things, will appreciate what a blessing it is to have poems live on in anthologies, where new readers and future readers may discover one's work.
What's new this month from James Matthew Wilson? I'd like to know myself. After a month of running the Houston residency for the MFA program, circling Lake Michigan with family and friends, a trip to Louisville to give three lectures and receive the Memoria Press Parnassus Prize, and then doing a public interview with Dana Gioia at the Napa Institute, there has not been a whole lot of time for writing.
I have some new work forthcoming in books and magazines, including a good number of poems, and I expect to have two new books out in the coming year, but for the moment I have two prose pieces to share, both of which speak, I think, to an important theme in the intellectual and Christian life: honesty. Or, what W.H. Auden called being "silly." Have a look.
I write this note from Houston, where the University of Saint Thomas Summer Writers Institute begins tomorrow. For three days, participants from around the country will convene to discuss theology and the arts, the history and practice of literary craft, and their own work. Through a generous donation, we were able to pay for all students' tuition and food for the Institute. We kept the numbers low to ensure an intimate but convivial gathering and personal attention to each participant's writing. As soon as that concludes, the first annual MFA residency in creative writing will begin and, for ten days, our students will gather to discuss poetry and fiction, to critique each other's work, and to hear from some of the great writers of our day. Indeed, the Saint Thomas Summer Literary Series will run from tomorrow through June 28th and bring an incredible slate of writers and scholars to Houston to discuss the future of Catholic letters.
Online silence will soon descend, and so let me share just a few items in the usual monthly update. I have a new poem to share, two new essays (including one bringing to a close my three-part Map of Dante), and a miscellany of lectures and podcast appearances, all viewable or listenable just by clicking the images below.
The selection of videos here may prove a little overwhelming: a lecture on the Catholic imagination in American poetry, my participation in a discussion of the classic Italian film La Strada, some thoughts on poetry, and my conversation with several distinguished writers on the question of literature, form, and story.
My most recent book reviews are available here. In the months ahead, I'll be publishing short essays on what the great works of the Catholic literary revival have to teach us still. If you read last month's "The Body of Notting Hill," which was the first in the series, you'll have a sense of what I mean. New poems are forthcoming for a number of magazines presently. I'll be traveling the lecture circuit so much that I do not have time to list the dates and places. I hope you'll find something in these new pieces to while away the hours and draw you nearer to good art and transcendent beauty.
This month, I have a few encounters to share. First, my new poem "Encounter," in North American Anglican Review. Second, a set of five poems in Alabama Literary Review, most of which were inspired by the re-encountering of my native terrain, after my family's permanent return to Michigan this summer. Third, my interview with Matthew Sawtelle of Vermillion magazine. And, fourth and finally, my re-encounter with The Catholic Thing, where I resume my regular column after a short hiatus. This month begins a series of essays inspired by Catholic authors; this round, Chesterton and Pope Francis on the irreducible necessity of the truth of incarnation. Click the icons below to read the latest from James Matthew Wilson
The establishment of the world's first MFA program in Creative Writing in the Catholic Literary Tradition is taking a little time away from the Wilson writing desk. Who could have guessed? There is forthcoming work, however, and will be more as we head into the new year. For the moment, have a look at this new poem and new review essay, both of which dwell on one of my favorite subjects, the question one's natural homeland and our spiritual homeland. Click the icons to read.
Providence often draws the unlike together to make it a coherent whole. So it seems in this month's update, where a new poem, an essay in political philosophy, and a reflection on composing a new Litany for a requiem Mass all seem to call us to enter more deeply into the religious mystery of being -- or rebuke us for the often cruel ways in which we refuse to do so. Click the links below to have a look.
In the very old department, have a look at my new essay in Catholic World Report in commemoration of the seven-hundredth anniversary of Dante's death. In the new department, please find links to two recent poems in Reformed Journal: "Cracks" and "The Prow of the House." In the very, very new department, learn a bit more about the new MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Saint Thomas, Houston, in my latest Catholic Thing essay, "A New Chapter of Grace." Click the icons below to take a look!
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.
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