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Literature


Veni Creator – Czelaw Milosz

Come, Holy Spirit,
bending or not bending the grasses,
appearing or not above our heads in a tongue of flame,
at hay harvest or when they plough in the orchards or when snow
covers crippled firs in the Sierra Nevada.
I am only a man: I need visible signs.
I tire easily, building the stairway of abstraction.
Many a time I asked, you know it well, that the statue in church
lifts its hand, only once, just once, for me.
But I understand that signs must be human,
therefore call one man, anywhere on earth,
not me—after all I have some decency—
and allow me, when I look at him, to marvel at you.
An Extravagant Inversion of Values

An Extravagant Inversion of Values

As we’ve highlighted before, Emmanuel Carrère’s new book (novel? memoir? biography?) on St. Paul and the early Christians often reads like a diary fused with historical fiction. Carrère, well-known in France for his unique non-fiction storytelling, believes that the only way he can really communicate a subject is by looking as honestly as possible at himself. In this book, then, that means capturing the New Testament through his own relationship with and (un-)belief in its God. A powerfully honest and captivating reimagining of both the nature of belief and the radical message Paul carried, this passage gives a glimpse of…

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Riding Bikes with the Mitford Sisters, Six Feet Under.

Riding Bikes with the Mitford Sisters, Six Feet Under.

The training wheels came off at the cemetery.

That sounds incredibly macabre,  like a snippet from an Edward Gorey book, but the reality is much more prosaic. With the cemetery a couple houses down from where I grew up on a busy state route, it was the safest place to learn to ride.

My great-grandfather, grandfather, most of my great-uncles, as well as my father and his siblings all helped take care of the cemetery at some point in their lives. One of my first summer jobs was helping my great uncle mow around the gravestones. The cemetery wasn’t a scary place to…

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A Talk with Friedrich Nietzsche – Adam Zagajewski

Most highly respected Professor Nietzsche,
sometimes I seem to see you
on a sanatorium terrace at dawn
with fog descending and song bursting
the throats of the birds.

Not tall, head like a bullet,
you compose a new book
and a strange energy hovers around you.
Your thoughts parade
like enormous armies.

You know now that Anne Frank died,
and her classmates and friends, boys, girls,
and friends of her friends, and cousins
and friends of her cousins.

What are words, I want to ask you, what
is clarity and why do words keep burning
a century later, though the earth
weighs so much?

Clearly nothing links enlightenment
and the dark pain of cruelty.
At least two kingdoms exist,
if not more.

But if there’s no God and no force
welds elements in repulsion,
then what are words really, and from whence
does their inner light come?

And from where does joy come, and where
does nothingness go? Where is forgiveness?
Why do the incidental dreams vanish at dawn and the
great ones keep growing?

(Translated by Renata Gorczynski)

An Ode to Print: The Mockingbird Magazine

An Ode to Print: The Mockingbird Magazine

A quick Google search will show that researchers have studied and continue to study the differences that exist between print and digital reading experiences. There are pros and cons of both mediums, and it looks like neither format will disappear anytime soon.

I love the physicality of real paper and definitely connect with Ferris Jabr’s words here from a 2013 Scientific American article “The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus Screens”:

In most cases, paper books have more obvious topography than onscreen text. An open paperback presents a reader with two clearly defined domains—the left and right…

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Goodbye to All That

Goodbye to All That

In a little more than a week’s time, I’m planning to move to a new city. I don’t know where I’m going to live, or what exactly I’m going to do, but I’m moving nonetheless. It’s one of those big life decisions that people my age have to make, however prepared we do or don’t feel to make them. We’re an indecisive bunch what can I say. In my case, I’ve already put off the move for a year—sticking around my college town, encroaching a little on the goodwill of people at my church. And it’s been an amazing time….

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NOW AVAILABLE! The Very Persistent Pirate: Mockingbird’s First Children’s Book

Mockingbird’s first children’s book, The Very Persistent Pirate, is available now! Pre-ordered copies are currently being whisked to a mailbox near you. If you haven’t bought your copy yet, you can do so here.

The Very Persistent Pirate is a beautifully illustrated book for sinners and saints of all ages. It tells the spirited story of what happens when a sneaky little kid and his monkey steal a pirate’s treasure…

Order The Very Persistent Pirate today!

Twenty Years Later, What Does Harry Potter Mean to You?

Twenty Years Later, What Does Harry Potter Mean to You?

Last week marked the twentieth anniversary of the first Harry Potter book, which was released on June 26, 1997. The Internet went ablaze with tributes and toasts to this series which changed the imagination and the vernacular—and, some argue, the entire worldview—of a generation.

I like the Harry Potter books as much as the next person, which is to say, a lot. So I need not go into too much detail about the wonderful wizarding world therein.

Political columnist Ross Douthat, however, recently stirred the pot over at The New York Times, drawing out a lively debate about what the Potter books mean for us…

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"The Asymmetry of Time" by Gerry LaFemina

“The Asymmetry of Time” by Gerry LaFemina

The following is a new poem by Gerry LaFemina; he was kind enough to let us post it here. His most recent collection, Little Heretic, is available now; look for his forthcoming collection, The Story of Ash, in early 2018.

The Asymmetry of Time

Down the hill from the schoolyard where seventh grade boys
squander each recess imagining their first kiss—a vision
that scares & excites them equally, they can even point out

the classmate who co-stars in these fantasies, & how they look
askance, embarrassed, when they’re caught almost staring—&
further, beyond the closed mills & the blue-collar bar

where the old timers rerun familiar stories, replaying
heroic roles standing up to…

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Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and the Motherhood Cure

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and the Motherhood Cure

I’ve recently started reading the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books to my 6-year-old. I picked them up because I remembered reading them when I was in elementary school, and because we could all use a little bit of Mrs. Piggle Wiggle in our lives. If you’re not familiar with the books, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle was created in the 1940s by Betty MacDonald. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle lives in an upside-down house, she might have pirate treasure buried in her back yard, and she loves children. She soon acquires a reputation in the neighborhood for being able to “cure” common childhood “ailments”: not flu…

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The "Centre Point" of Paradox

The “Centre Point” of Paradox

I suffer from what psychologytoday.com calls ‘polarized thinking’ (self-diagnosed). This is a way of seeing the world in ‘either/or’ terms. When I judge something — which happens, let’s face it, all the time — it’s either this or that, good or bad, right or wrong. It’s not some of this and some of that — and certainly not all of both. Though it often means being harsh to myself and others, thinking in a polarized way helps me simplify the more complex aspects of the world, while staying comfortably seated in my judge’s chambers.

For example: if I hit a green…

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Gregory Boyle’s Touchstone Image of God

Another great excerpt from Gregory Boyle’s Tattoos on the Heart, about the Jesuit priest’s twenty years as director of Homeboy Industries in LA. Seriously, if we wouldn’t get in trouble for copying the entire book on the site, we’d do it.

God can get tiny, if we’re not careful. I’m certain we all have an image of God that becomes the touchstone, the controlling principle, to which we return when we stray.

My touchstone image of God comes by way of my friend and spiritual director, Bill Cain, S.J. Years ago, he took a break from his own ministry to care for his father as he died of cancer. His father had become a frail man, dependent on Bill to do everything for him. Though he was physically not what he had been, and the disease was wasting him away, his mind remained alert and lively. In the role reversal common to adult children who care for their dying parents, Bill would put his father to bed and then read him to sleep, exactly as his father had done for him in childhood. Bill would read from some novel, and his father would lie there, staring at his son, smiling. Bill was exhausted from the day’s care and work and would plead with his dad, “Look, here’s the idea. I read to you. You fall asleep.” Bill’s father would impishly apologize and dutifully close his eyes. But this wouldn’t last long. Soon enough, Bill’s father would pop one eye open and smile at his son. Bill would catch him and whine, “Now, come on.” The father would, again, oblige, until he couldn’t anymore, and the other eye would open to catch a glimpse of his son. This went on and on, and after his father’s death, Bill that this evening ritual was really a story of a father who just couldn’t take his eyes off his kid. How much more so God? Anthony De Mello writes, “Behold the One beholding you, and smiling.”…What’s true of Jesus is true for us, and so this voice breaks through the clouds and comes straight at us. “You are my Beloved, in whom I am wonderfully pleased.” There is not much “tiny” in that.

“Behold the One beholding you and smiling.” It is precisely because we have such an overactive disapproval gland ourselves that we tend to create God in our own image. It is truly hard for us to see the truth that disapproval does not seem to be part of God’s DNA. God is just too busy loving us to have any time left for disappointment.