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.
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.
After a quiet week or so, James Matthew Wilson is back already with new items for your attention. My latest column in The Catholic Things, "Eyes to See," is a short narrative essay of which I'm quite proud; it is one of those pieces where the author learns at least as much from the composition as the reader may take from the reception. Second, The Benedict XVI Institute's Catholic Arts Today begins its long-promised serial publication of the poems from The River of the Immaculate Conception. Especially nice is that the poems will be published along with photographs from the first celebration of The Mass of the Americas, for which it was written.
I should have two more items, two major essays, appear very shortly, and will simply add them to this list, when they appear. Taken together, all these things will flesh out what I have been trying to do as a writer lo these last fifteen years and more. Click on the logos below to read.
Please Note: Winter, Spring, and Summer dates are still in formation, but almost full. Please visit below to see what is coming up and where I'll be during the coming seasons.
This year promises to be the busiest yet for me, as I hopscotch from place to place to talk about poetry and beauty and, meanwhile, also give a series of readings, including several to promote my new book, The River of the Immaculate Conception, a long poem comprehending the whole history of Catholicism in America, in lyric and narrative chapters.
Although my available travel dates are filling up quickly, these sorts of visits are a real delight for me, and so I invite those who are interested in hosting me for a reading or a lecture to drop me a line via the Contact page on this website.
I'll be speaking at several private events, at Eastern University and at Villanova, but what follows below are events open to the general public. Click on the images to the left, which link to fuller descriptions of the events (as they become available).
It has been a fairly crowded several weeks, for me, in terms of new publications, with the most exciting development being the series of podcasts I have recorded with Thomas V. Mirus. (You can visit those by clicking the Catholic Culture icon below.) I at last have a moment to gather together my recent written publications and, to round them off, a recording I made of one of the newly published poems, "The Love of God." Scroll down to explore.
I do not think any of us foresaw this, but over the last two months, I've held several recorded conversations with Thomas V. Mirus, for his CatholicCulture.org podcast series. First, on The River of the Immaculate Conception, then on my unexpected collaboration with the Catholic painter Andrew de Sa, and finally, in a series of three afternoons, on The Vision of the Soul: Truth, Goodness, and Beauty in the Western Tradition.
Both admirers and detractors of that latter book have commented it is dense and difficult. That was certainly not the intent of the author, but Vision was a book written in conversation over many years, and as the conversation with fellow writers deepened, the book began to bear the imprint of that depth. I think the argument of the book is one that every person, without exception, needs to hear; it is a book that attempt to recapitulate the wisdom of our tradition that instructs us all how to be more fully human and to live lives of transcendent, finally sacred, purpose. How pleased I am, therefore, to share the three interviews on Vision, along with the previous two, in hopes that those who might be put off by the book might still get a sense of its bigger claims. We were pretty thorough. I hope you enjoy them. Click on the icon at left to hear a particular episode.
Those days I set aside to read some spiritual work for no reason other than my own edification, especially if I vow also to let a football game play just over the crown of my book, those are the days I end up not getting to sit down for a moment until the day itself is all spent and it is time to join the family for dinner.
This feast of Mary, the Mother of God, has been one of those days.
I can still share a few thoughts, prospective and retrospective, however. This site is dedicated to providing a place where the interested reader can come across my published work, wherever it happens to appear, and so it seems appropriate to mention some incidental details in that regard. If current paces continue, sometime in the coming year, I should publish my two-hundredth poem in a magazine, my two-hundredth essay, and my one-hundredth book review.
I got to read quite a bit this last year. If you click the F below, you will find a short list of three big, chunky books that I recommend you include in your reading this coming year. It is included in First Things magazine's annual year in books feature.
Robert Royal asked authors at The Catholic Thing to provide their predictions for the coming year and decade. I was happy to oblige, nay, joyful. Click the TCT to hear from many authors, including yours truly, who believes that, in defiance of fate, we are "Destined for Joy."
One prospect about which I am particularly hopeful is the continued work of the Colosseum Institute. As we prepare for our second annual Colosseum Summer Institute, to be held at Villanova University, this June, I invite you to explore our work by clicking the Colosseum below. Join us in June! Or support our work, so that we can provide scholarships for worthy applicants.
I am pleased to report that First Things magazine has published a short essay of mine on "America as a Catholic Country." It contemplates the Catholic character of our country particularly as that found expression in my long poem, The River of the Immaculate Conception. I'm told that reviews of that book are soon to appear, but for the moment, perhaps you will enjoy hearing a little about what one can learn from listening to one's first teachers (click the icon to read the whole thing):
For Michigan, surrounded by the Great Lakes, was among the places the French missionaries and traders came centuries ago, moving by canoe along the navigable bodies of water, to encounter the Indians, trade with them, live alongside them, and instruct them in the gospel. This communion of the French Jesuits with the Indians was one of several founding moments of America. The Jesuits at every opportunity consecrated places and events to Our Lady, no such instance of which is more striking than Jacques Marquette’s naming the Mississippi the River of the Immaculate Conception. Through these acts of prayer, this offering of the land to the Mother of God, they consecrated America, piece by piece, as a Catholic country.
If it is not too much to mention America as a Catholic country and the North American Anglican in the same place, let me also make the following announcement. In keeping with my more or less fortuitous practice of pairing new prose pieces with recently published poems, let me conclude by providing a link to "Sunlight," a very short poem of mine that has just been published in the North American Anglican magazine. It is one of five poems to be published online, in that magazine, over the next several months, and which will be collected in a new anthology, to be released soon.
By happy coincidence, sitting on my desk this afternoon is Robert Royal's great book, A Deeper Vision: The Catholic Intellectual Tradition in the Twentieth Century. I have a few items to share here whereby you can go deeper into my work as a poet, should you be so inclined. Scroll on down and see what there is to be discovered.
First, the Benedict XVI Institute has commissioned a series of short films about my work, the first one officially releasing today.
If you have not gone too deep for your tastes already into the world of James Matthew Wilson, then why not click the book cover at left, and pick up your own copy of The River of the Immaculate Conception?
It has been a busy, even hectic, month, as I went to Chicago for the Future of the Catholic Imagination Conference, where the advance copies of The River of the Immaculate Conception were made available for sale. In consequence, I have not had much chance to post other items besides the publication announcement of the book and -- note well -- my lectures and readings, which includes some very exciting events next month, in Washington, D.C. Please scroll down to learn more about those things.
But, now, I want to share something of graven seriousness; my new poem, "Waking in Dresden," has just been published in First Things magazine, one which I hope rightly balances reverence with despair and despair with hope. Click the image that inspires the poem, above, to read it.
I will have other poems published this month, which I may append to this notice, but I did want to include a link to my most recent Catholic Thing column, a bit lighter fare I think, called "The Burnt Orange Carpet Liturgical Test." Click the TCT icon to read.
Every chance to bring some new work into the world is a grace and a blessing, but I am not the only one who feels the hand of providence at work in the appearance of this new book, a long poem that is a liturgy and history of Catholicism in North America, The River of the Immaculate Conception.
This is a limited edition printing of the poem published to commemorate the premiere of Frank LaRocca's glorious Mass of the Americas, which occurred December 8, 2018, at St. Mary's Cathedral, in San Francisco. You can hear the Mass for yourself, whether on EWTN's recording of the event, or by attending one of the Masses themselves, as the Mass is held at various cathedrals around North America and, so I am told, at St. Peter's seat itself.
Click the cover to order your copy of River directly from the generous people at Wiseblood Books, who worked tirelessly to see that a beautiful book was produced.
Bishop Robert Barron's Word on Fire Institute has launched a new magazine. Evangelization & Culture is a quarterly dedicated to culture and the fine arts. I was asked to provide a couple poems for the inaugural issue, and my work was repaid by the beautiful illustrations drawn to accompany the poems.
I've included photos of the relevant pages below. Click on "Seeds" to listen to me read the poem. Click on the picture of "Vita Activa" for another exciting (as far as I'm concerned anyway) link: to Nick Ripatrazone's superb new review of my two books of poems. If he doesn't convince you to take a look, I don't know what could.
By the close of business today, my next book, the long poem, The River of the Immaculate Conception, will be on its way to the printer. The first copies will be given to sponsors of the Benedict XVI Institute, sometime in early September; the first copies for sale will be a small number made available at the Future of the Catholic Imagination Conference, at Loyola, Chicago, from September 19-21, 2019. Finally, an official launch is being planned to coincide with the celebration of the Mass of the Americas in the extraordinary form at the National Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, on November 16, 2019. Details on all of this will follow, but, this afternoon, I just wish to share the elegantly designed book cover, from Wiseblood Books.
A year ago on this day, I came in from canoeing with my daughter on the big pond on my family's vineyard estate and wrote a short poem. A year to the day later, as I once again have climbed the hill from the pond with my daughter, I see that that poem, "On the Water," appears in the new issue of National Review. It reminds me that, for all that has changed in this last year, nothing has changed.
One stanza in the poem gave me some trouble and that led me to reconsider some aspects of my practice of rhyme that in turn precipitated the massive revisions that became Some Permanent Things Second Edition, Revised and Expanded, not to mention an overall as I think elevation in my sense of how meter and good poetry is to be written. I hope the causes of despair in our present moment may prove, finally, only occasions for silence and reflection, before we once again push off in search of, and with the intention of restoring, the permanent things.
Click the picture of the pond to read "On the Water."
The consistently excellent magazine of the ALSCW, Literary Matters, has just released its latest issue, which includes, among many, many other items, a poem of mind, called "Sloth." This is the last in my series of four Sapphics to be published. It begins,
When autumn came, my grandfather set up
Behind a metal desk in his garage,
With slender ballpeen hammer and curved pick
….. To hull and crack
The acrid mound of tennis-ball-sized husks
From which he freed those gnarled piths of black walnuts
Gathered beneath our trees the weeks before
….. And meant for this.
Click the logo above to read the whole thing.
In the interest of economy, I sent out, just this morning, a humble first newsletter to those who have registered for it through this website. If you are interested in rare and periodic announcements and summaries of what work I am publishing, please visit the Forms page on this website and join the fun. Alas, because of the design of this webpage, hyperlinks appear in white font, and so what looks like a Mad Lib below will in fact reveal itself, if your mouse simply scrolls over the apparently missing text.
After dawdling for more than a year, I thought it time to kick off the JamesMatthewWilson.com periodic newsletter, which will serve, as the website primarily serves, to provide news to interested readers about what and where my work has been appearing. Feel free to pass this on to others who may find it of interest, and by all mean, encourage readers to visit the site; I have new work appearing about once a week, including my monthly column for The Catholic Thing and my ongoing series on Catholicism and poetry (and Catholic thought and literature more generally) for Catholic World Report.
This has been an unusually fruitful year, made possible in part by a year's leave to spend my days writing and studying. By the end of the summer, I should have completed my next prose book, a scholarly work on literary modernism and Catholic philosophical theology, called Catholic Modernism and the Irish Avant-Garde. If you had assumed that St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and Blaise Pascal played little role in the making of modern poetry, you may be correct, but I shall show in this new book that for three unusually devout Irish modernist writers at least, the greatness of the Catholic tradition was thoroughly fused to their practice of an often cosmopolitan and complex modernist art.
In October, Angelico published my second full length collection of poems, The Hanging God. The reception has so far been uniformly positive and enthusiastic: more than seven reviews have offered high praise of the volume. You might begin with Frank Wilson's superb study of the poems (the link includes also my television interview, out in San Francisco, that touches on a number of matters). Upon its publication, I felt obliged to revise my first book, Some Permanent Things, in order to correct the somewhat looser practice of rhyme and meter found in those poems and, at least, to bring into print the completed form of my sequence "The Christmas Preface." Wiseblood issued Some Permanent Things Second Edition, Revised and Expanded, just before Christmas, and I've been thrilled by the response to this much revised, much reordered, significantly expanded version of the book; it strikes me as a new book altogether. The response has been very positive, with the young poet Daniel Rattelle offering a brief, cogent study of some of my changes and why they bear fruit.
In a year of mostly good news, it is hard to pick just one more item to share with you, but I think it ought to be this. The great poet Samuel Hazo and I convened in the Gentile Gallery, at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, at the end of April, to celebrate a new beginning. Franciscan's University Press now publishes my book series, Colosseum Books, which will bring into print works of poetry and poetry criticism that demonstrate a commitment to serious craft and spiritual depth in the Catholic tradition. Sam effectively is the author of the first three books in our series, his final collection of poems, When Not Yet Is Now, the publication sixty years on of his dissertation on Jacques Maritain and the poets (for which I wrote a lengthy critical introduction that provides a comprehensive account of Maritain as a Godfather to modern Catholic arts and letters), and, forthcoming, The Power of Less, a second, expanded edition of a book of Sam's literary essays that reflect on poetry with sophistication but in a familiar voice that will invite new readers into the conversation and life of this ancient, forbidding, but soul-transforming art.
As editor and director of Colosseum Books, I will build up a list of serious new work that every literate person will want to read; beginning this July, I shall direct the Colosseum Summer Institute, hosting aspiring writers for four days of discussion on the philosophy of art and beauty, the craft of prosody, and the practice of the art.
Thanks for your interest in these many endeavors, which are done at the service of the Church and the intellectual life in our day, when so much of the culture has turned against truth, goodness, and beauty in favor of an abyss of nihilistic rage and therapeutic consumerism.
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