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.
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).
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.
When I published Some Permanent Things Second Edition, Revised and Expanded, back in December, I mostly hoped people would forget the first edition and simply embrace the new, much better, one. But of course, the radical revisions found in that book are a testament to how much I've learned over the last four years, and in that respect -- as a testimony to humility and craft -- I'm pleased to see that the poet Daniel Rattelle, part of our true guild of younger serious poets in the trade, has written a review essay that takes the measure of my work's growth between first and second editions. Click the ceiling to read, "An Old Flag in the Collective Attic."
Last Friday's exciting afternoon of poetry and discussion at the Franciscan University of Steubenville was, it turns out, live-streamed and is now available for viewing at leisure. See below, for my introduction of Colosseum, a recitation of some of my poems, and a brilliant reading by Samuel Hazo of his own work. To learn more about Colosseum Books and the Colosseum Institute, click the icon above.
My 2018-2019 events are still in formation, but I wanted to get these two important fall dates public and on everyone's calendar immediately. Please click the icons to learn more about each event, and check back regularly to learn about more upcoming readings and lectures. The spring events are especially varied and promising; please consider attending if you live near Philadelphia, Dallas, or San Francisco. Information has been updated.
As I was getting ready for my trip to New York, to deliver a poetry reading sponsored by the University Bookman (see my calendar of events page), I noticed that Dappled Things has released its new issue online, wherein three of my poems appear.
"The Imaginary Chapel" and "In the Cry Room" are excerpted from Some Permanent Things Second Edition, Revised and Expanded. They are small selections from my longer sequence, "Four Verse Letters." Have a look by clicking the issue cover at left. And, ahem, you may even find yourself moved to pick up a copy of the Second Edition.
Dappled Things also includes "On a Rain Barrel," which is part of my ongoing "All Things" series, a series that will be collected in my next full-length collection, On the New Physics (I note rather prematurely, as I am keeping it embargoed for another three years).
I have included a link to the whole table of contents of the new issue, not only to make it easier to access any of the three poems, but also because the whole issue is really terrific. Maryann Corbett's poems are, per usual, models of excellence.
The great Frank Wilson, retired literary editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, has just published a new review of The Hanging God in Catholic World Report. He observes,
"Literary taxonomists would peg Wilson as a formalist. But while his mastery of meter, rhyme, and stanza is certainly noteworthy, what is really remarkable is how this virtuosity is so completely subordinated to the imaginative vision informing the poems."
Read the whole thing by clicking the book cover!
Last month, I appeared on J.A. Gray's talk show, Mosaic, sponsored by the Archdiocese of San Francisco, along with fellow poet and essayist, Joseph Bottum, to talk about Rene Girard, art, and Catholic artists. You can view the interview below. Aside from joining two friends whom I've long admired, I was also pleased to recite my poem, "A Prayer for Livia Grace," as a reminder of how to keep oneself human in an increasingly dehumanizing age.
You may have previously seen Steven Knepper's insightful and generous reviews of Some Permanent Things and The Hanging God, in The University Bookman. I have been broadcasting the latter for a couple weeks now, as it is such a satisfaction. In the new issue of Humanitas, Knepper has reviewed The Vision of the Soul: Truth, Goodness, and Beauty in the Western Tradition. His is the first review to engage thoroughly with the argument and to specify the effort the book makes, among many contemporary efforts, to renew a rich everyday metaphysics in philosophy and in the world more generally.
If you click the Vision of the Soul cover at left, it will take you to my Sightings page, where you can quickly click on any or all of Knepper's reviews. Humanitas is not online, and so this will be the only place most people can read that excellent little essay unto itself.
The official website for the Colosseum Summer Institute is still in process. In the meantime, here is the official announcement and application information. Click the Colosseum Books Logo to download a pdf version. Applications are now being accepted.
Colosseum Books and the Franciscan University of Steubenville invite applications to the Colosseum Summer Institute. The Institute is an annual, intensive course and workshop in the art of poetry for aspiring writers who wish to apprentice themselves to the great and enduring tradition of Catholic letters. Come to the Franciscan University campus (in Steubenville, OH) for four days of study, conversation, writing, and critique.
We will examine the philosophy of art and beauty alongside the history of poetic form, and will gather all things together in the actual practice and discussion of the art of poetry. We hope to renew the tradition, to strengthen contemporary literature, and to build up a community of writers who care about making a good work, at once well-crafted and spiritually profound.
The Colosseum Summer Institute will begin the evening of July 8, 2019, with a dinner reception and public reading. For the next three days, participants will convene each morning for two courses: the first, to discuss the philosophy and purpose of art and beauty in the life of the Christian, and the second, to study the history and practice of prosody in English verse. After lunch, participants will have much of the afternoon to work on their poetry, before convening in the late afternoon for an intensive workshop to evaluate and improve their work. Each evening, after dinner, participants will have the opportunity to attend a public poetry reading by a distinguished writer or musical performance and to gather for convivial discussion. Opportunities to learn more about contemporary literary publishing and for participants to perform their own work will also be included among the activities. The Institute will conclude on the afternoon of July 11, 2019.
The tuition for the Institute is $550 and is all inclusive: each participant will have a private room (with air conditioning and private bath); all meals catered (breakfast, lunch and dinner); and we will also provide transportation to and from the Pittsburgh airport, for those who need it.
To apply, please send (as a single .pdf document) a letter explaining why you wish to attend the Institute and a portfolio of 4-5 poems, with “Colosseum Summer Institute” in the subject heading, to firstname.lastname@example.org (limited to 15 students; application deadline is May 31st). Applicants must be at least 18 years of age by start of the Institute. Accepted participants will be expected to be familiar with the basic terms and concepts of English prosody prior to their arrival for the Institute; a recommended reading list in support of that end will be sent to all participants in early June.
About Colosseum Books. Colosseum Books is an annual series of volumes of new poetry and poetry criticism that exhibit spiritual and intellectual depth and an understanding of verse as a craft guided by enduring tradition, metrical rigor, and a commitment to the well-made thing. Each Colosseum book will be published by the Franciscan University of Steubenville Press. In the ancient world, the civilizational achievements of Rome were transformed and leavened by the spirit of Christianity. The Colosseum stood as a symbol of the struggle and suffering such a new birth entailed, but also of final victory and union, as Christendom emerged to take possession of the treasures of Athens and Jerusalem with Rome as its spiritual capital. We honor that spirit of engagement and enduring tradition by seeking to perpetuate it through the publication of good new work by contemporary writers.
News and Events
Check here for the latest news regarding public lectures, readings, and print and online publications.