Sunday, December 25, 2022

Thought for the Day

Belief is the most dangerous thing.
And it's also the most precious thing we have as humans.
~ Shahpour Pouyan

Quoted from "In the Studio", Interview by Jordan Amirkhani with Artist Shahpour Pouyan, in Art in America ("In Print: The Religion Issue), December 2022

Shahpour Pouyan, Iran-Born (1979) Conceptual Sculptor

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Thought for the Day

[. . .] Every / poem is trying to be
the last free words on earth.
~ Victoria Chang

Quoted from Victoria Chang, "Homage to Life, 2003", in Image, Issue No. 114

Victoria Chang, Poet, Writer, Editor; Poetry Editor, The New York Times; Acting Program Chair and Distinguished Faculty, Low-Residency MFA Program, Antioch University

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Thought for the Day

To know how to grow old is the master work
of wisdom and one of the most difficult chapters
in the great art of living.
~ Henri Frederic Amiel

Quoted from Henri Frederic Amiel, Journal Intime, 1883; Requoted by Joan Chittister, "Adjustment" in The Gift of Years: Growing Old Gracefully (BlueBridge, 2008; paperback, 2010), page 59

Henri Frederic Amiel (1821-1881), Swiss Philosopher, Poet, Critic

Joan Chittister, American Benedictine Sister of Erie; Internationally Known Author and Lecturer; Executive Director, Benetvision; Co-Chair, Global Peace Initiative of Women

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Thought for the Day

So maybe when we silence the narratives about ourselves
and others and the world itself that run on repeat in our heads,
that we have believed were the truth for so long, we get to
embrace the terrifying beauty of what's possible without
what's possible being imprisoned to what's come before.
~ Nadia Bolz-Weber

Quoted from Nadia Bolz-Weber, "prophets of a different story" at The Corners, November 25, 2022

Nadia Bolz-Weber, Lutheran Minister; Founder, House for All Sinners & Saints; Best-Selling Author

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Thought for the Day

We thought we were done with these things, but we were wrong.
~ Stephen Vincent Benet

Quoted from Stephen Vincent Benet, "Litany for Dictatorships",  The Atlantic, 1935, pages 283-285; reprint, October 9, 2022, with Introduction by Faith Hill

Stephen Vincent Benet (1898-1943), American Poet, Novelist, Short Story Writer; Winner, Pulitzer Prize, 1929, for "John Brown's Body"

Thursday, November 24, 2022

On This Thanksgiving

I cannot pretend I am without fear.
But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude.
I have loved and been loved;
I have been given much and I have given something in return.
~ Dr. Oliver Sacks

Quoted from Oliver Sacks, "My Own Life" (Opinion), The New York Times, February 19, 2015

When the piece above was published, Sacks, a neurologist of renown and author of many best-selling books, as well as a professor at New York University Medical School, was taking stock of his relatively long and fruitful life, which was soon to end because of incurable cancer. 
Remarkably, after nine years of trying to face down his cancer's spread, Sacks could still describe himself as "intensely alive" and even "lucky" and, perhaps more important, "grateful" for being able to "choose how to live out the months" that remained to him. "I have to live," he wrote, "in the richest, deepest, most productive way I can." That he did, publishing in the short time left to him five books and "nearly finish[ing]" others, all while completing his memoir, On the Move: A Life, published in the spring of 2015. Declaring his "detachment" from daily news and politics and issues of the day, he turned his focus "on myself, my work and my friends." His was, in every sense, lived life.
This Thanksgiving, having crossed that threshold that places me among the old, though not the old old, I find inspiration in re-reading Sacks's op-ed, to consider and affirm, as he did, what an "enormous privilege" it is to be of this world, especially to "have loved and been loved," to "have been given much" and "have given something in return."
Note: Sacks's essay and three others comprise his slim volume of reflections, Gratitude, published the year he died.
Earlier this week, the wonderful writer Margaret Renkl published her own essay on gratitude, "How to Give Thanks in a Screwed-Up World," which can be found online and in print in the November 21, 2022, edition of The New York Times. A copy of it will now take its place alongside my copy of Sacks's.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Thought for the Day

All that is left to one who grieves is convalescence, 
no change of heart or spiritual conversion, for the heart 
has changed. And the spirit has been converted 
to a thing that sees how much it costs to lose a friend it loved.
~ from "Gilgamesh"


Quoted from Herbert Mason, "Gilgamesh: A Verse Narrative" (Mariner Books/Houghton Mifflin Co., 1970; New Afterword, 2003); Requoted in Chard deNiord, "Singing Back to the World: A Conversation with U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limon", World Literature Today, November/December 2022, page 48.
Gilgamesh is an ancient Babyonian epic.  

Herbert Mason, Writer and Translator; Scholar of Arabic and Islamic Studies; Emeritus University Professor and William Goodwin Aurelio Professor of History and Religion, Boston University

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Thought for the Day

Insofar as poetry has a social function it is
to awaken sleepers by other means than shock.
~ Denise Levertov

Quoted from Denise Levertov, Letter for The New American Poetry: 1945-1960, Academy of American Poets Archive (Posted May 4, 2016)

Denise Levertov (1923-1997), Poet

Sunday, November 6, 2022

Thought for the Day

[. . .] the most basic lesson that all art teaches us
is to stop, look, and listen to life on this planet,[. . .]
In a world that for the most part steers clear of the whole
idea of holiness, art is one of the few places left
where we can speak to each other of holy things. [. . .]
~ Frederick Buechner

Quoted from Frederick Buechner, "Art", January 25, 2018

Frederick Buechner (1926-2022), American Writer and Theologian

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Thought for the Day

We do not think ourselves into a new way of living;
we live ourselves into a new way of thinking.
~ Fr. Richard Rohr
"Eighth Core Principle"

Quoted from Fr. Richard Rohr, "Living Ourselves into a New Way of Thinking" in Daily Meditation, October 15, 2022

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Thought for the Day

 I'm convinced that Jesus['s] good news is
 that God's choice is always for the excluded one.
~ Fr. Richard Rohr
Quoted from Richard Rohr, "A Gospel of Humility", Daily Meditations, Center for Action and Contemplation, September 26, 2022

Richard Rohr, Franciscan Priest, Ecumenical Teacher, Author, Founder of Center for Action and Contemplation

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Thought for the Day

What we bring, finally, into the new day, every day, //
Is ourselves. And that's all we need /
To start.  That's everything we require to keep going. /


Quoted from Alberto Rios, "A House Called Tomorrow" in Not Go Away Is My Name (Copper Canyon Press, 2020)

Alberto Rios, Award-Winning American Poet, Memoirist, Short Story Writer; First State Poet Laureate of Arizona

Sunday, October 9, 2022

Thought for the Day

Without radical and rule-breaking forgiveness—received
and given—there will be no reconstruction of anything.
. . . Without forgiveness, there will be no future. . . . 
~ Fr. Richard Rohr
Quoted from Richard Rohr, "The Power of Forgiveness" (Weekly Summary of Daily Meditations), September 16, 2022 (Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Wisdom Pattern: Order, Disorder, Reorder (Cincinnati, 2001, 2020)

Richard Rohr, Franciscan Priest; Founder, Center for Action and Contemplation

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Thought for the Day

History is an act of the imagination.
~ Eric Foner

Quoted from Nawal Arjini's Interview with Eric Foner for The New York Review of Books Newsletter, September 17, 2022

Eric Foner, Ph.D, American Historian, DeWitt Clinton Professor Emeritus of History, Columbia University; Award-Winning Writer and Author

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Thought for the Day

A proper community [. . .] answers the needs,
practical as well as social and spiritual, of its members
— among them the need to need one another. [. . .]
~ Wendell Berry

Quoted from Wendell Berry and Norman Wirzba (Ed.), "Racism and the Economy" in The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays (Counterpoint, 2003), page 63

Wendell Berry, Poet, Novelist, Essayist, Fiction Writer, Cultural Critic, Farmer, Environmental Activist

Wendell Berry Profiles at Academy of American Poets and Poetry Foundation

Amanda Petrusich, "Going Home With Wendell Berry" in The New Yorker, July 14, 2019


Sunday, September 18, 2022

Thought for the Day

It is important that we expire.
It is a kind of work we have begun in order to complete.
~ Tony Hoagland

Quoted from "Peaceful Transition" in Turn Up the Ocean (Graywolf Press, 2022), page 79

Tony Hoagland (1953-2018), Award-Winning American Poet

Tony Hoagland Profiles at Academy of American Poets and Poetry Foundation

Tony Hoagland Obituary (The New York Times)

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Thought for the Day

It's such a small
word on which
your lives depend.
~ Nickole Brown

Quoted from Nickole Brown, "Mercy" in To Those Who Were Our First Gods (The poem is printed and read aloud by Brown at Norwegian Writers' Climate Campaign; to access, see the poem title's link above. The chapbook is available from Rattle. It won Rattle's 2018 Chapbook Contest.)
Nickole Brown, American Poet

Sunday, September 4, 2022

Thought for the Day

What cannot be contained
cannot be contained.
~ Ada Limon

Quoted from Ada Limon, "What It Must Have Felt Like"

Ada Limon, United States Poet Laureate 

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Thought for the Day

[Y]ou do not just live in a world 
but a world lives in you. You are a world.
~ Frederick Buechner

Quoted from Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale (HarperCollins, 1977); page 3

Frederick Buechner, American Writer and Author, Theologian

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Thought for the Day

I can't think of a single thing in my life
that doesn't bear the touch of others
~ Russ Ramsey

Quoted from Russ Ramsey, Rembrandt Is In the Wind: Leaning to Love Art Through the Eyes of Faith (Zondervan Reflective, 2022); Chapter 2, "Pursuing Perfection", page 35

Russ Ramsey, Author; Speaker; Pastor, Christ Presbyterian Church, Nashville, Tennessee

Thursday, August 18, 2022

New Artist Watch Feature at Escape Into Life


Hannah Stahl, Salma, 2019
Oil on Canvas 
(Commissioned Work)
20" x 16"
© Hannah Stahl


With the "Dog Days" upon us, it's time for our annual "Dog Days of August" Artist Watch feature at the international online arts magazine Escape Into Life. So slow down, fix yourself a cool drink, and celebrate summer life with portraitist Hannah Stahl, whose oil paintings, commissioned by clients in the United States and around the world, are the subject of today's column.

Hannah, whose masterly and award-winning dog portraits have been honored widely in such publications as New England Monthly, The Providence Journal, and The Westminster Kennel Club "Dog Show Poster Competition" (2016), works out of her Brooklyn, New York, and Providence, Rhode Island, studios. She also creates cat portraits and, more recently, began painting portraits of humans. They all are stunning works executed with an Old Master technique.

For today's Artist Watch, Hannah provided a generous seven images of her dog portraits, an Artist Statement, and brief biographical information.

A Personal Note

Today's feature at Escape Into Life marks nine years of showcasing artists — emerging, mid-career, and established — from around the world. It also marks my last Artist Watch column for the magazine. Nearing age 70, though still without a bucket list, I know it's time to pass the virtual pen to a new editor.
As Artist Watch editor, I have given significant virtual room to artists who are women and artists who work in highly varied media. I owe a debt of gratitude to the many painters, sculptors, photographers, paper-cut artists, portraitists, installation artists, mixed media artists, collagists, illustrators, printmakers, and digital art wizards who accepted my invitations and generously shared their marvelous work. They made creation of my monthly Artist Watch columns a joyous endeavor and filled with beauty my days (and nights) of looking at art. Joy and beauty, especially as found in art, remain the two essential things I look for each day.

To my readers here and at Escape Into Life, which one day in 2013 gave me an unexpected opportunity to immerse myself in my long-held passion for art, I offer my thanks. To three of many special people at EIL — poetry editor, blog colleague, and friend Kathleen Kirk; Mandy Steinmetz, and EIL columnist Basel Al-Aswad, who has kept his son's vision alive — still more thank-yous and much appreciation. 

And to the new editor to be announced, may you enjoy as much as I have communicating with and meeting artists and writing the column. You will find it difficult to avoid purchasing their art for your personal collection.
While I do not post so often anymore at Writing Without Paper, I do plan to continue the blog's regular "Thought for the Day" feature and to share my writing when I'm moved to do so. I might yet have poems to write, and I am still creating art exhibitions for my parish in Arlington, Virginia, St. Michael's Episcopal Church. Look for news of those here and on social media.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Thought for the Day

[. . .] Each day, we must learn /
again how to love, between morning's quick coffee /
and evening's slow return. [. . .]
~ Barbara Crooker

Quoted from Barbara Crooker, "In the Middle", A Network for Grateful Living Poetry Collection Online

Barbara Crooker, Award-Winning American Poet

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Thought for the Day

A stranger always has
his homeland in his arms [. . . .]
~ Nelly Sachs

Quoted from Nelly Sachs's "[If someone comes]", translated from the German by Joshua Weiner with Linda B. Parshall, Daily Poetry, July 9, 2022 (The poem appears in Nelly Sachs, Flight and Metamorphosis, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, March 2022; Weiner is the book's translator.)

Nelly Sachs (1891-1970), Poet and Dramatist; Winner, The Nobel Prize in Literature, 1966

Joshua Weiner, Poet, Writer, Translator; Professor of English, University of Maryland at College Park

Linda B. Parshall, Scholarly Writer, Translator, Editor

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Thought for the Day

Homesick we are, and always, for another
And different world.
~ Vita Sackville-West
Quoted from Vita Sackville-West, "The Garden" (Poem) Note: On The Garden Museum site you will find the image of a hand-written copy of "The Garden", published in Poems of West and East (1917). Commentary is provided.

Vita Sackville-West (1892-1962), English Poet, Novelist, Journalist, Diarist; Gardener; Member, Bloomsbury Group; Muse of Virginia Woolf

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Thought for the Day

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so? [. . .]
~ Raymond Carver


Quoted from Raymond Carver, "Late Fragment" in A New Path to the Waterfall (Atlantic Monthly Press, 1988; Reprint, 1994) Note: This was Carver's last book.

Raymond Carver (1938-1988), Poet and Short Story Writer

Thursday, July 21, 2022

New Artist Watch Feature at Escape Into Life


Fred Lisaius, Looking Forward 
Acrylic on Wood Panel
24" x 48"

 © Fred Lisaius


Today I am showcasing the work of painter Fred Lisaius, my selection for July's Artist Watch column at the international online arts magazine Escape Into Life.

A resident of Seattle, Washington, who holds a bachelor's degree in fine art from Rhode Island School of Design, Fred exhibits widely in group and solo shows throughout Washington State and in a variety of arts venues elsewhere, including medical centers and retail concerns. Among other honors, he has been a featured artist on HGTV Design Stars' "All Stars" program and annually contributes to Seattle's LINK art program for teens. 

For today's Artist Watch, Fred has generously shared 10 images of current work, his Artist Statement, and a brief profile.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Thought for the Day

That's the nature of life, isn't it? To desire to make
meaning and then surrender to the mystery and
the repeat and repeat and repeat. [. . .]
~ Ada Limon

Quoted from Caits Meissner, "The Pen Ten: An Interview with Ada Limon", PENAmerica Online, June 2, 2022

Ada Limon, Award-Winning Poet and Writer; Host, "The Slowdown", American Public Media Poetry Podcast

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Thought for the Day

. . . . To open your heart to pain is to open your heart
to joy. [. . .] In your pain you find your values, and in
your values, you find your pain.
~ Dr. Steven Hayes


Quoted from Dr. Steven Hayes, "From Loss to Love", Psychology Today, June 18, 2018 (Quoted in Susan Cain, Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole (Crown, 2022), page 94)

Steven C. Hayes, Ph.D., Psychologist; Founder of ACT [Acceptance and Commitment] Therapy and Developer of Relational Frame Theory; Nevada Foundation Professor in Behavior Analysis, Department of Psychology, University of Nevada; Author

Susan Cain, Writer and Lecturer

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Thought for the Day

And if it's true we are alone, / we are alone together, /
the way blades of grass / are alone, but exist as a field. [. . .]
~ Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer


Quoted from Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, "Belonging" at A Hundred Falling Veils Blog, June 11, 2021
Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, Poet, Teacher, Retreat Leader, Performer in the Group "Heartbeat"

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Thought for the Day

[. . .] To see a situation is to catch the facts
of the matter. To behold it is to witness the story. [. . .]
~ Martin Shaw

Quoted from Martin Shaw, "Navigating the Mysteries" (Essay), Emergence Magazine, May 22, 2022

Martin Shaw, Writer, Artist, Teacher, Mythologist

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Thought for theDay

We must learn to invite the winter in.
~ Katherine May

Quoted from Katherine May, Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times (Riverhead Books, 2020), page 13

Katherine May, Fiction and Nonfiction Writer, Journalist, Essayist       

Alison Engstrom, "Wintering: A Conversation with Author Katherine May", Rose & Ivy Journal, February 23, 2021

Thursday, June 16, 2022

New Artist Watch Feature at Escape Into Life


Carol Coates, MindsEye V
Mixed Media on Canvas
38" x 56"
Copyright © Carol Coates
The evocative, thought-provoking painter and mixed media artist Carol Coates is my selection for June's Artist Watch column at the international online arts magazine Escape Into Life.

Born and educated in Michigan, Carol is an award-winning, multi-talented artist who works in a wide range of media, including oil and acrylic paints, photography, digital collage, and mixed media. Represented by galleries around the country, Carol currently maintains her home and studio in Ft. Myers, Florida.

For today's Artist Watch, Carol has treated us to images from one of her major, ongoing, and timeless series: "MindsEye". In addition, she has provided her Artist Statement and a brief biography, as well as links to her galleries and social media.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Thought for the Day

Grateful eyes look at each thing as if
they had never seen it before and caress it as if
they would never see it again.
~ Brother David Steindl-Rast


Quoted from Br. David Steindl-Rast, Word for the Day, A Network for Grateful Living, May 21, 2022

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Thought for the Day

 [. . .] love can only be love. [. . .]
~  Vincent Katz

Quoted from Vincent Katz, "Looking at the Sea", from Knopf Poetry, Poem-a-Day (National Poetry Month), April 30, 2022 (The poem is in Katz's Broadway for Paul: Poems of 2020, page 69.)

Vincent Katz, Poet, Translator, Editor, Curator

Vincent Katz on Instagram

Knopf on Tumblr

Poem-a-Day (Signup)


Sunday, May 29, 2022

Thought for the Day

Sacramentality is a quality present in creation
 that opens us up to the Sacred Presence in all things.
Sacraments reveal grace.
~ Christine Valters Paintner
Quoted from Christine Valters Paintner, "Sacramental Vision", Center for Action and Contemplation, "A Sacramental Reality", April 28, 2022 [Reference: Christine Valters Paintner, Earth, Our Original Monastery: Cultivating Wonder and Gratitude through Intimacy with Nature (Sorin Books, 2020), pp 93-94, 106]

Christine Valters Painter, Contemplative Author and Artist

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Thought for the Day

It is said that supernatural spiritual beings[,] while
looking towards the earth[,] do not discern nationalities,
borders of countries, faces of people. The only  thing
they sense is the light, the light of radiant human beings.
Each light is a life of a human being.
~ Anna Mgaloblishvili

Quoted from Anna Mgaloblishvili, "Luminous Hearts" [Visual Meditation on Ivan Marchuk's "Woman with a Candle"], Artway, May 1, 2022

Anna Mgaloblishvili, Georgian Painter and Art Historian; Professor, Department of Art History and Theory, Tbilisi State Academy of Arts

Thursday, May 19, 2022

New Artist Watch Feature at Escape Into Life

Kreg Yingst, Bird in the Wind [Vera Hall]
Hand-Carved, Hand-Painted and Hand-Pulled Block Print
Music Series
© Copyright Kreg Yingst


Today's new Artist Watch feature at the international online arts magazine Escape Into Life looks to music for its inspiration — specifically, the beautiful hand-carved, hand-painted, and hand-pulled block prints of artist Kreg Yingst. All of Kreg's block prints are of wood or linoleum and in limited editions.

Degreed in studio art and painting, Kreg is a self-taught printmaker who makes his living solely from sales of his work, the subjects of which he researches deeply. He lives in Pensacola, Florida.

Kreg has provided for May's Artist Watch eight images that illustrate his popular interpretations of well-known blues musicians. His Artist Statement describes in brief how he creates his works, which also encompass a considerable body of sacred art. A short biography also is provided.


Sunday, May 15, 2022

Thought for the Day

The love of our neighbor in all its fullness
simply means being able to say to him:
'What are you going through?'
~ Simone Weil

Quoted from Simone Weil, Waiting on God (Routledge, 1951; HarperPerennialModern Classics, 2009)

Simone Weil (1909-1943), Religious Philosopher, Essayist, Dramatist, Poet, Social Critic, Political Activist

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Thought for the Day

Isn't it marvelous to wish for a thing
and envision even the barest grainy lines
of it in front of you?
~ Maya Stein

Quoted from Maya Stein, "let gladness be a mantra", 10-Line Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Maya Stein, Poet, Author, Editor, Freelance Writer, Publisher (Toad Hall Editions), Mentor and Instructor

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Thought for the Day

Every pilgrimage to the desert 
is a pilgrimage to the self
~ Terry Tempest Williams
Quoted fromTerry Tempest Williams, Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert (Vintage, 2002), page 77

Terry Tempest Williams, Provostial Scholar, Dartmouth College; American Writer-Author, Educator, Activist, Conservationist

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Thought for the Day

[. . .] To live is to build, to repair, to illuminate,
to leave traces in the fabric of time and space.[. . .]
~ Yuliya Komska

Quoted from Yuliya Komska, "A Stained Glass in Lviv", Los Angeles Review of Books [Short-Takes], March 15, 2022

Yulia Komska, Associate Professor of German Studies, Dartmouth University; Author

Thursday, April 21, 2022

New Artist Watch Feature at Escape Into Life


Ceirra Evans, Y'all Full of Crud, 2022
Oil on Canvas, 36" x 36"
 © Ceirra Evans


Louisville, Kentucky-based painter Ceirra Evans is the subject of April's Artist Watch feature at the international online arts magazine Escape Into Life.

A recent college graduate, Ceirra grew up in Bath County, in eastern Kentucky's Appalachian foothills. Already the subject of New Yorker and Hyperallergic magazine profiles, Ceirra draws her subject matter from her experience in the holler of Appalachia, a region long stigmatized and stereotyped. Her work both represents and critiques Appalachia, sharing not only its myths and folklore but also its truths.

For April's Artist Watch, Ceirra has graciously provided images of eight of her paintings, notes on those works, an Artist Statement, and a brief bio. It is with gratitude that I have the opportunity to introduce this engaging artist in my monthly column.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Joseph Bathanti's 'Light at the Seam' (Review)


Cover Art

Joseph Bathanti's new poetry collection Light at the Seam, published by LSU Press during Lent, could not have arrived at a more propitious, or more precarious, time in our lives. Though we have just retraced, in faith, Christ's journey to death and still behold in wonder His mysterious rebirth, we remain threatened by ruinous instruments of our own making; amid what we take for granted, air and water, birds and game, the earth that feeds us, we are too often oblivious to how the "[s]undial / casts its shadow on the hour" ("Sundial, West Virginia"). We have forgotten our charge to be caretakers of daylily and webworm, thistle and Queen Anne's lace, snake and vole, "whole kingdoms of [. . .] whirring ethnographies of insects" ("The Assumption").

Fundamentally a personal response to, even an indictment of, Appalachia's coal industry and the destruction that continued mining wrecks upon the Appalachian landscape, a place "almost Heaven— / but decidedly not heaven" ("Limbo"), Light at the Seam is, ultimately, a gesture toward resilience, renewal, and hope.

The collection comprises four aptly named sections whose religious connotations are deliberate: The Assumption, The Windows of Heaven, Limbo, and Light at the Seam. These sections suggest not only only glorious beginnings and hard endings but also the in-between "imaginal phase" ("My Mother and Father") of the likely or inevitable, be it disastrous runoff and floods, clouds of powdered coal that catch the air on fire ("Oracle"), slurries streaming toward once-pristine rivers in Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, or the simple sign "No Trespassing / [that] impends / a large red / caution" ("Keyford"). Bathanti sources in these sections the workings of both the human and the Divine, drawing unmistakable contrasts: between the beauty on earth, where [f]ireflies torch the night" and "flowers shrive, and prick eternity" ("Blessed Thistle"), and the ugliness of mountain-top removal that renders a creek "sick // green-brown in slabs of sunlight— / dull as a gorged serpent" ("Postdiluvian: Mingo County, West Virginia"); between the holding of Creation as sacred, and therefore ever-lasting, and the ill-served-taking by humans by authority and assumption, "men [not] beholden / to words on a page" ("Sentences") who exact what's "beyond our ken" ("Boar"); between the clarity of witness and the dark acknowledgment of our "sin black as bituminous" ("Glad Creek Falls"); between loss and the possibility of regeneration. No matter the place named, whether Mingo County, West Virginia, or Dubois, Pennsylvania, how we "look upon the earth" ("Floyd County, Kentucky"), the poet indicates, is how we map our fate and our future. But, "make no mistake: // you are permitted entry through grace" ("Daylily"), the poet reminds us, adding, "Life is more than fable, // but never stops stunning earth" ("April Snow").

Bathanti, in showing how "[t]hings are taking shape" ("Oracle"), relies on muscular verbs and physically robust imagery — "roads conflux and houses, / that once believed they'd be a town, // cower" ("The Windows of Heaven"); "From the gouged peak, subdural, / lobotomized, serpentine switchbacks // weave a cat's cradle into the grade-rooms" ("Sundial, West Virginia"); "[h]e seesaws on his haunches, / as he strips the doe: / his bestial gorge and groan, / tugging her up like taffy, /" ("Boar"); "after years in the pit, hunched, / you could only so far lift your arms" ("The Coal Miner's Wife: A Letter") — and his use of sonority, alliteration ("the thousand thousand thuribles of light" in "Blessed Thistle"), consonance and dissonance, and equally accented syllables to emphasize relationship, mark his poems with a distinctive rhythm that energizes his narrative line.

Bathanti praises, too, in certain of his 35 beautifully written, richly rewarding poems, for even as earth teeters on the "threshold of oblivion" ("Light at the Seam") and "[u]pon the land gathers a biblical // quietus before it explodes" ("The Windows of Heaven"),  life in Appalachia renews itself with each "day [that] dawns repentant, sky blue" ("Postdiluvian"), and the poet finds solace watching "a cardinal and indigo bunting / feed, [. . . ] / [. . .] / their self-absorption / an ongoing evolutionary tick / completed this very instant." ("Evensong"). The "light at the seam", then, is both omen and reward.


Joseph Bathanti, a former Poet Laureate of North Carolina (2012-2014) and a recipient of the North Carolina Award in Literature, is the author of at least 17 books, a couple of which I have reviewed*. Currently, he is the McFarlane Family Distinguished Professor of Interdisciplinary Education at Appalachia State University in Boone, North Carolina.

* Review of Concertina

* Review of Crossing the Rift Anthology

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Thought for the Day

Any small thing can save you.
~ Mark Doty 


Quoted from Mark Doty, "Ararat" in Bethlehem in Broad Daylight (David R. Godine, 1991)

Mark Doty, American Poet; Professor, Rutgers University

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Thought for the Day

Maybe the only gift is a chance to inquire,
to know nothing for certain. An inheritance
of wonder and nothing more. 
~ William Least Heat-Moon

Quoted from William Least Heat-Moon, Blue Highways (Back Bay Books, 1982, 1999; Little, Brown, 2012)

William Least Heat-Moon, American Travel Writer and Author

William Naparsteck, "An Interview with William Least Heat-Moon", Association of Writers & Writing Programs Magazine, December 2015

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

In Bucha's Graveyards (Poem)

In Bucha's Graveyards

Hands tied, they offer
no resistance. Strips
of white, not unlike
the shackles that bind

arms to back to ride
the lightning, tighten

with weeping. This is
not fake news, nor is

it staged to effect
mock pleas for more help.


Bodies not buried
in playgrounds of sand

lie waiting for words,
the calling of names.


On these urban streets,
light fails in a flash.

Shots replace shouting.
Breaching smoke-filled clouds,

the Russians retreat
east, vodka at hand.


It takes time to torture,
no more than minutes

to walk away from
the dead left to mourn.

"Ride the lightning" is slang for the electric chair.

Pick up any newspaper or turn to any social medium, radio, or television station for coverage of the horrific war in Ukraine.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Thought for the Day

[T]he very act of trying to look ahead to discern possibilities
and offer warnings is in itself an act of hope.
~ Octavia Butler


Quoted from Octavia Butler, "A Few Rules for Predicting the Future," Essence, May 2000, pages 165-166 (Epigraph, Rebecca Solnit, Orwell's Roses (Viking, 2022)

Octavia Butler (1947-2006), American Science Fiction Author

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Thought for the Day

Maybe the only gift is a chance to inquire,
to know nothing for certain. An inheritance
of wonder and nothing more.
~ William Least Heat-Moon

Quoted from William Least Heat-Moon, Blue Highways (1982, 2012), E-book; Epigraph, Chapter 19 of Florence Williams's Heartbreak (W.W. Norton, 2022), page 226

William Least Heat-Moon, American Travel Writer, Historian

Florence Williams, American Journalist, Author, Podcaster

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Thought for the Day

is  the moment of your presence
when you leave
~ Alireza Roshan

Quoted from Alireza Roshan, "Seven Poems from Iran" in World Literature Today, Autumn 2020, page 16 (Translations of the poems are provided by Erfan Mojib and Gary Gach.)

Alireza Roshan, Iranian Poet and Author

Thursday, March 17, 2022

New Artist Watch Feature at Escape Into Life


Steven Kenny, The Ribbons, 2015
Oil on Canvas, 40" x 28"
 © Steven Kenny

It is with much delight that today's new Artist Watch column at the international online arts magazine Escape Into Life presents the gorgeous work of painter Steven Kenny.
In his paintings, Steven focuses most often on the human figure paired with elements found in nature. The relationships he creates with these pairings address not only how humans function with each other and Earth but also how we steward our own emotional, intellectual, and psychological landscapes. To view his paintings is to engage on journeys of self-exploration and discovery while at the same time being able to appreciate the work for its mystery and extraordinary beauty.

Today's Artist Watch showcases seven images from a current (2021) body of work and includes an eighth from an earlier period (see image above). Also included are Steven's Artist Statement, a biography, and Steven's social media addresses.

Monday, March 14, 2022

How Spring Comes in Ukraine (Poem)

How Spring Comes in Ukraine
Is this how spring comes —
the neck of the sunflower
broken, vipers escaping
from behind museum glass?
A warm spell has followed
the first days of Lent
preceding the first days of war. 

Maria Prymachenko has stopped
making pictures.
In Kyiv, her yellows and blues
fall from the eyes
of two-headed chickens.

The shelling makes even
her eared beasts to lie down.

Things no longer go well
here. The villain speaks with
his claw of iron,
hobbling the painter's hand.

Her canvases aflame,
the arsonist moves west,
ash just another mark
on the foreheads of soldiers.
Yes, peace talks
amid the mayhem,
and lynching's finally a hate
crime in America.
Listen, there are rumors
of prayers.
Below no no-fly zone
even some Russians flee
when bombs grow instead
of flowers


The last words in italics are the title of a painting by Maria Prymachenko (1909-1997), a self-taught, Ukrainian folk art painter. Some dozens of Prymachenko's paintings were destroyed when the museum in which they were housed (Ivankiv Local History Museum) was burned to the ground. See Rebecca Bengal's article "Russian Forces Destroyed the Wild and Beautiful Art of Maria Prymachenko", Vice, March 1, 2022; and Jasmine Liu, "Ukraine Accuses Russia of Burning Down a Museum", Hyperallergic, February 28, 2022.

Also see: Emily Cochrane, "Congress Gives Final Approval to Make Lynching a Hate Crime", The New York Times, March 7, 2022.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Thought for the Day

When there is no desire,
all things are at peace.
~ from Tao Te Ching

Quoted from Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu (trans. by S. Mitchell), Chapter 37
Lao Tzu, Chinese Philosopher (also known as Laozi), 6th C BCE

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Late Winter (Poem)

Late Winter

Palm trees in El Paso
are haloed in snow
rarer in mid-March
than the Russian tanks
bombarding a Mariupol shoe
factory, the psychiatric
hospital, a maternity ward,
apartments emptying to
missiles. A hotel sauna, 
a subway — deepest space
underground — targeted 
humanitarian corridors
hemmed with smoking autos,
plastic bags and rolling
luggage left behind.
Unknowing, toddlers
learn a new version
of the old game of hide-
and-seek among little Putin's
soldiers. The trains run
east with food and water.
The trains run west with
mothers, wives, the too-
old, the under-eighteen.
What would help most is
another poem from Ilya,
read aloud in the square
in Odessa; not sandbags,
not Molotovs, but arms
to run into, fingers brushing

the blush from soft cheeks
on this late winter morning.
Rev. 3-14-22

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Thought for the Day

Love is nothing but a mattress made of needles.
~ Tom Sleigh


Quoted from Tom Sleigh, "Up the Hill" in The King's Touch: Poems (Graywolf Press, 2022), page 19

Tom Sleigh, American Poet, Dramatist, Essayist, Distinguished Professor in Hunter College MFA Program
Audiovideo Recording of "Age of Wonder" (For others from Sleigh's new collection, go here.)

Monday, February 28, 2022

War Language (Poem)

War Language

 . . . poetry is not merely a description of an event;
it is an event
~ Ilya Kaminsky*

The threat is not speaking
Russian but watching

the tanks lay down
rough tracks in Ukraine.

Already, they've chewed up
the borders of Kharkiv,

spit on the words
from the City of Poets.

Every bullet becomes another
man's eye, every mortar

one more crushing blow
to the head, no body

with the time to argue
one side before the other.

There are shoes in the streets
of Kharkiv, feet herding

to shelter, children in pink
snow suits handed off

to strangers for safekeeping,
the speech of goodbye tears

breaking the silence
that follows the shelling.

Occupied and occupier

cleave the meaning
of war in Kharkiv, 
break it down
into fragments of sound —

one, the whistles of rockets;
one, the louder testimony of loss.
* Epigraph quoted from and poem inspired by Ilya Kaminksy, "Ilya Kaminsky on Ukrainian, Russian, and the Language of War", Literary Hub, February 28, 2022, as excerpted from Words for War: New Poems from Ukraine (Academic Studies Press, 2017), Oksana Maksymchuk and Max Rosochinsky, Eds.


Sunday, February 27, 2022

Thought for the Day

They saw rivers flow west and hoped again.
~ Muriel Rukeyser 


Quoted from Muriel Rukeyser, "West Virginia", in The Essential Muriel Rukeyser: Poems (Selected and With an Introduction by Natasha Trethewey) (Ecco/HarperCollins), page 25

Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980), American Poet, Playwright, Biographer, Children's Book Author, Political Activist

Muriel Rukeyser Profiles at Academy of American Poets and Poetry Foundation

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Thought for the Day

It has long seemed to me that what most of us
are looking for is the opportunity to express,
without embarrassment or judgment or retaliation,
our capacity to love. That means, too, embracing
the opportunity to be loved, to ferret out and nurture
the reciprocated relationships that unite people. . . .
~ Barry Lopez

Quoted from Barry Lopez, "Introduction: Looking for a Ship" in Horizon (Vintage Books, 2019), page 48

Barry Lopez (1945-2020), Award-Winning Author, Essayist, Nature Writer, Fiction Writer

Thursday, February 17, 2022

New Artist Watch Feature at Escape Into Life


Dana Ellyn, Trading Places (Disguised), Oil on Canvas, 2021
Oil on Canvas
14" x 18"
© Dana Ellyn
It is with great pleasure that I introduce via today's Artist Watch column in the international online arts magazine Escape Into Life the paintings of Washington, D.C., artist Dana Ellyn.

Dana is a painter of stories. She has a uniquely personal style that verges between social realism and expressionism and always depicts her own point of view, whether it be about animal rights and food choices, politics, Covid-19, or some other subject that has captured her imagination. She paints only what she knows, and only after doing considerable research and planning.

For February's Artist Watch, Dana has provided a generous number of images of recent paintings (both  2022 and 2021), as well as an Artist Statement and a brief biography.

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Thought for the Day

. . . it is the fever of our attachment to one another
that charges grief with its intolerable brilliancy. . . . 
~ Melanie Challenger

Quoted from Melanie Challenger, "On Death and Love" (Part I), Emergence Magazine, January 20, 2022

Melanie Challenger, British Writer, Researcher on History of Humanity and Natural World, Environmental Philosopher, Author, Editor, Poet

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Thought for the Day

. . . it's the very notion of our humanity as both singular
and triumphal that has given our lives their ultimate meaning
and security. The only trouble is that it's a devastating idea
for the rest of the living world.
~ Melanie Challenger

Quoted from Melanie Challenger, "On Death and Love" (Part I), Emergence, January 20, 2022

Melanie Challenger, British Writer, Researcher on History of Humanity and Natural World, Environmental Philosopher, Author, Editor, Poet

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Thought for the Day

Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have
found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be
imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted
with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants
are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. . . .
~ Frederick Douglass

Quoted from Frederick Douglass, Speech on West India Emancipation, Canandaigua, New York, August 3, 1857 (This speech can be found also at the Library of Congress.)

Frederick Douglass, (1817 or 1818-1895), African-American Social Reformer, Abolitionist, Orator, Writer

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Thought for the Day

To travel, above all, is to change one's skin.
~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Quoted from Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Southern Mail (Harcourt Brace, 1972)

Antoine de Saint-Exupery (1900-1944), French Writer, Poet, Journalist, Aviator

Selina Hastings, "The Courageous, Intransigent Antoine de Saint-Exupery", The New Yorker, November 27, 1994

Meredith Hindley, "The Grown-Up Saint-Exupery", National Endowment for the Humanities, January/February 2016 
Pierre Lassus, "When Antoine de Saint-Exupery Disappeared", Literary Hub, August 1, 2017

Thursday, January 20, 2022

New Artist Watch Feature at Escape Into Life


Marcin Owczarek, The Last Bus to Paradise, 2021
Mixed Media Photography
26" x 39" or 40" x 60"
Copyright © Marcin Owczarek
Opening my 2022 Artist Watch columns at the international online arts magazine Escape Into Life, I am particularly pleased to introduce today Marcin Owczarek.
Marcin, who currently lives and works in Belgium and is represented by Angela King Gallery, New Orleans, Louisiana, has long been fascinated by the effects and influence of new technologies, especially mechanization and standardization, and what they mean for our connections to and relationships with animals, nature, and each other. Using symbols, allusions, allegories, and metaphors, Marcin addresses in his surreal but profoundly poetic and philosophical artworks such important issues as animal rights, wildlife conservation, climate change, and environmental destruction. Each of his works sets us up to reflect upon and search for deeper meanings to life.

For today's Artist Watch, I showcase eight of Marcin's spectacular artworks, including his seminal "In Search of Utopia". In addition, I provide Marcin's Artist Statement, a brief biographical profile, and Website and social media links.