News that Stays News
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.
A New Birth: Publication Day
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
In Defense of Jacques Maritain
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.
Here's Some Good News (I Promise)
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!
The Latest of Wilson from Around the Web
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 Sanctity of Flannery O'Connor
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.
Reappraising the Vision of the Soul
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.
The Scar of Odysseus
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.
First One Out
Hallucinations and Perceptions
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.
The Benedict XVI Institute commissioned my long poem, The River of the Immaculate Conception, and arranged for its publication with Wiseblood Books in a limited edition. The Institute is now in the process of giving serial publication to the poem. It will not include the historical notes to the poem, but each installment does include a picture taken from the Mass of the Americas, which was the occasion and inspiration of the poem. As each poem in the sequence is published, I will add a picture below. I invite you to click the picture and follow along on this celebration of Catholicism in the Americas.
If you would like to own a copy of The River of the Immaculate Conception, just click the book cover below, and it will take you to the Wiseblood Books order page.
I am pleased to share two new essays: "First to the Camps: An Interpretation of Adrian Vermeule," appears as part of a symposium on the Harvard Law professor's recent article in The Atlantic. "Real Presence," my latest column for The Catholic Thing explores the ecclesiology of the Catholic Church with a meditation on the thought of the great theologian Henri de Lubac. Click on the logo to read the essays.
The world is awash in new poems of mine in magazines, print and online, these days, and I'm glad to have some prose to share to complement such offerings.
Wrestling with Angels
Most of my publishing news these last weeks has pertained to the appearance of the Quarantine Notebook and the serial publication of The River of the Immaculate Conception. I am pleased to announce, however, two new prose pieces, both review essays, one on the contemporary novel and Catholicism and the other on the present state of the higher education and how to save it.
Click on NR to read about "The Ghost in the House of American Fiction," and L&L to read "Academic Wrestling," my review of Michael S. Roth's Safe Enough Spaces. Both reviews have a curious element in common, their attention to the intrinsic need of cultural practices to transcend themselves and to arrive at a vision of the divine. We wouldn't be human without that.
A New Poem in First Things
Yesterday morning, I joined Bud Marr and Bo Bonner on their Iowa Catholic Radio Show, The Uncommon Good. We talked about the liturgy, T.S. Eliot, the making of a Christian life and the making of good art. Tune in and have a listen, below.
With all the cancelling and closing down of our public culture, it is gratifying to be able, nonetheless, to share my work in this manner.
A Hollow Mound
In the new issue of Presence:A Journal of Catholic Poetry, award-winning novelist Karen Ullo reviews The Hanging God. She writes:
The book is Wilson's eighth, the previous seven having been both collections of poetry and scholarly nonfiction. Here again he proves why he has been widely honored by the literary establishment, both Christian and secular. Wilson finds meaning in form, and though he liberally weaves together any number of different meters and rhyme schemes--sometimes within the same poem--his work is always characterized by adherence to the classical traditions of poetry.
And further along:
the book gives its readers a glimpse of the Light and shows once again why James Matthew Wilson's star continues to rise.
Click the magazine cover to read the whole thing (opens as a .pdf). And, if you have some free time, why not visit my BOOKS page, and click from there to purchase a copy of your very own?
Okay, friends, we would all like better and brighter headlines, right now, I know, and they will come in time. But here's a poem about all too complacently not seeing the present rot and presages future despair.
The North American Anglican has just published my "Teele Square, Sunday Morning, Summer 2001," a poem of the blithe and the bonny and the botched. Click the NAA masthead to read the poem. Then, click the cover of The Slumbering Host, the volume in which the poem appears, to visit your local online book seller and pick up the anthology itself.
I have two items for your attention, today, one you may have already seen, but another, from a small magazine, that you likely cannot discover anyplace else. The first is "The Post-Liberal Moment," in The American Mind, a short essay and riposte to a dreadful article about "Reocons" that was published a couple weeks back. Readers have written to say how timely and helpful it is; as I read it, even with the last-minute addition of references to the coronavirus, it seems already somewhat dated. I do hope it will prove useful to many, in any case. Click the TAM logo at the bottom of this posting to read.
The second item is an interview I gave to a small magazine called The Scholastic. Next week marks the one-year anniversary of my colleague Colleen Sheehan and my editorial in the Wall Street Journal confronting head-on the inane new policies Villanova University has put in place as its cute, personal contribution to the triumph of identity politics and the despoliation of the higher learning.
Our editorial was met with widespread protest by our colleagues, many of whom had opposed the policy until they learned that we opposed it as well. At that time, they felt obliged to sign a petition giving a full-throated endorsement to the erosion of their and our academic freedoms. I found their whole display comical, or shall I say it was sad but in the sense of inducing laughter rather than weeping?
Despite these protests, Colleen and I were partially successful in so far as we got the University to almost entirely limit the use and distribution of the new "diversity" questions that were inserted into the course evaluations students are asked to complete at the end of every semester. The University's highest officials claimed the questions were "never" intended for use in faculty evaluation. This was untrue or, in laymen's terms, a lie. But to make good on that lie, they did at least part of what we were asking for. We continue to press for the complete elimination of such questions, though, along with everyone else, we have other things to worry about just now.
The Scholastic asked me to talk about the controversy and to discuss the nature of liberal education in light of my work as a poet. It is my hope that what I say in the interview will be of substantial value even when -- as it surely must -- the shameful occasion of it will have long been forgotten. I notice, alas, a number of typos in the interview; consider them signs of small-magazine authenticity. Click the picture of St. Thomas, our greatest scholastic, to read.
Staring down Socrates
I make my debut in the much celebrated Notre Dame Church Life Journal with a new essay, "The Catholic Poet in a Neo-Pagan Age." This is the fourth prose piece I've published in the last several weeks that examines directly or indirectly how we are to see the world and to engage it, in terms of our everyday metaphysics or our everyday approach to poetry and the arts.
The title here is flippant, but I think opens up a new line of thinking.
Click the logo to read.
When I received the Hiett Prize, just over two years ago, I was given a chance to reflect on what I have done as a poet and scholar over the last two decades. It is a rare honor indeed to be given such a patient hearing, as I was that day in November, surrounded not just by hundreds in the audience, but by much of my family as well.
I have since revised the comments into an essay called "Rediscovering the Form of Things: On My Work to Date," and Catholic World Report has generously published it just this weekend. Click on CWR to read the essay or, if you prefer, look below and see and hear its first delivery for yourself.