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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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