Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Poets and Poems: Sydell Rosenberg & Amy Losak and “Wing Strokes Haiku”

Sometimes, the back story can be important, especially in poetry. 

In 1968, Sydell Rosenberg was one of the founding members of the Haiku Society of America, designed to promote the writing and appreciation of haiku in English. The haiku form of poetry emerged in 17th century Japan, and its basic element – three lines arranged in 5, 7, and 5 syllables, respectively. It was originally called a hokku; the term “haiku” wasn;t used until the 19th century. And the theme of the haiku – about one of the seasons – had to be strictly observed. The poet with whom haiku is most closely associated is Basho (1644-1694).


Rosenberg was an active member of the Haiku Society of America, which sponsors annual competitions for haiku, renku, senryu, and haibun forms of poetry. It holds an annual conference and publishes the literary journal Frogpond.

To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.

Monday, March 20, 2023

"The Wolf in Their Pockets" by Chris Martin

When pastors or priest look out at their congregations each Sunday, do they think about how the social internet has changed the people in front of them? For that matter, do they think about how the social internet has changed themselves? 

Chris Martin has some answers to those questions, and it’s not welcome news. In The Wolf in Their Pockets: 13 Ways the Social Internet Threatens the People You Lead, he methodically examines all the ways the internet affects people, from the perspective of what it means for church leadership. And it’s not much of a reach to say that what he says applies to anyone in a position of leadership – including business, government, non-profits, and education.


Martin works at Moody Publishers as a content marketing editor and a consultant in social media, marketing, and communications. He has a deep background in social media and digital content strategy. He perhaps best known for his blog, Terms of Service (and his book of the same title) where he writes thoughtfully and with great insight about topics as diverse as the metaverse, TikTok, Wordle, and the impact of social media on society and culture.


The Wolf in Their Pockets begins with a summary of how social media changes us. We usually find ourselves in either uncritical embrace or passive ignorance, he writes. He argues for the need to move to something of a middle position, what he calls “international engagement,” in which we engage thoughtfully and carefully.


Chris Martin

The chapters that follow explain how that intentional engagement might happen, and how church leaders can facilitate that. Dethrone entertainment. Recover purpose. Build friendships (and not virtual ones). Reorder priorities. Foster discernment. Seek humility. And more.


Take the chapter on fostering discernment as an example. When Martin asked a number of church leaders a rather neutral-sounding question, “Can you tell me how you have seen social media affect people at your church?,” the common response was about discernment – and how the lack of it leads people to accept and believe in untruths about current events (also known as fake news). Lest you think this is only affecting conservative churches, it’s equally applicable to more liberal churches as well.


What’s beyond Martin’s purpose here, but perhaps we can convince him to address it on his Substack site, is what happens when the traditional media exacerbate that lack of discernment – when opinion masquerades as news, when significant stories aren’t covered, and when a media narrative quickly emerges and dominates journalists’ understanding. The problem of discernment is not only a problem of social media; social internet sites can explode the problem at warp speed. 


The Wolf in Their Pockets isn’t an all-encompassing treatise of how to address the effects of social media on church congregations (and their leaders). But it is an important first step in how to understand the problem to begin with, and it offers practical advice to help church leaders recognize and deal with the impacts.




Terms of Service: The Real Costs of Social Media by Chris Martin

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Not what you do

After Galatians 3:1-9

It is said

that policy is

what you do,

not what you say.

True enough,

except when it

comes to the hope

we have. It’s not

what we do, not

our works, or deeds, 

no matter how

spectacular they

might be. And it’s

not what we say,

no matter how

eloquent, how

insightful, how


Instead, it’s 

what we believe.

Policy is what

we believe.



Photograph by Kyle Glenn via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Saturday Good Reads - March 18, 2023

In 1964, one of the most famous, or notorious, pieces of British criticism was published in New Statesman. It was entitled “The Menace of Beatlism,” and, yes, it was about the four singers from Liverpool. George Case at Quillette points out that Johnson didn’t really say much about the Beatles; he reserved his gunpowder for the cult of celebrity that politicians and the Beatles’ handlers were trying to exploit. In a very strange way, Johnson saw what was coming.  

Alexander Larman at The Spectator wonders about why we know relatively little about the life of J.R.R. Tolkien. The last family-sanctioned biography was by Humphrey Carpenter in 1977. Other biographers have tried to gain the cooperation of the family but failed. Carpenter was the last biographer to be given access to Tolkien’s papers.


One of the most unsettling things I’ve read in the New Testament is the diet of John the Baptist – locusts and wild honey. Perhaps it’s the idea of crunching down on large bugs and wondering where that honey came from that leaves me feeling queasy. Mitch Chase at Biblical Theology, however, says there’s an Old Testament connection, and it provides a different perspective on John’s purpose and ministry. 


More Good Reads


American Stuff


A Most Sincere and Active Friend: Thomas Shipley is the most famous abolitionist you've never heard of – Elliott Drago at The Jack Miller Center.


American Refugee Camp in Civil War Kentucky Destroyed: Camp Nelson Catastrophe – Patrick Young at The Reconstruction Era.




The Burning Bush – Graham Pardun at Sabbath Empire.


Life and Culture


The coming fight over the government’s surveillance powers – Peter Van Buren at The Spectator.


Writing and Literature


Writing in the South – About Southern Women – Kristen Bird at CrimeReads.


Deconstructing with Silas Marner – Elizabeth Stice at Mere Orthodoxy.


William Golding and the curse of the dream – Samuel Mace at The Critic Magazine.


The Death and Immortality of Mortal Men in “The Lord of the Rings” – Jacqueline Wilson at Mere Orthodoxy. 


Life and Culture


Who will stand against progress? – Paul Kingsnorth at UnHerd.


The Church. The State. And a Holy War – Heather Robinson at The Free Press.




Reclaiming the Culture – Greg Doles at Chasing Light.


50 Thoughts on Preaching – Jared Wilson at For the Church.




The costs of war: Providing military assistance to Ukraine may be the right thing to do, but it’s not cheap – Phillippe Lemoine at The Critic Magazine.


The Puzzle of Putin's Popularity – Gulnaz Sharafutdinova at Church Life Journal.


Yevgeny Prigozhin: are the Wagner Group founder’s days numbered? – Mark Galeotti at The Spectator.


Orange Blossom Special – Rhonda Vincent & The Rage

 Painting: Portrait of the Singer Felia Litvinne, oil on canvas by Alexei Harlamov (1868-1925)

Friday, March 17, 2023

Looking for the Poetry in Vermeer, a Blockbuster of an Art Exhibition

The hottest ticket on the planet right now isn’t a Taylor Swift concert or the March Madness Final 4. It’s the Vermeer exhibition in Amsterdam

The Rijksmuseum has gathered together 28 of the 37 known Vermeers (four are lost; one was stolen in 1990) into one exhibition (Feb. 10 – June 4). Never have so many of the Dutch painter’s works been gathered together in one place.


But don’t buy your plane tickets for Amsterdam. The exhibition is sold out. And don’t rush to the museum’s online gift shop or Amazon to buy the English-language edition of the catalog; it’s sold out as well; Amazon is taking pre-orders for a new edition available in May. (The museum does has the French and Dutch editions available, however.)

To continue reading, please see me post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.

Painting: A View of Delft, oil on canvas, by Johannes Vermeer.

The promise

After Galatians 2:15-21

We embrace the law,

its familiar lines and

contours providing 

comfort and assurance

in a world often gone

mad. And yet our hope,

our inheritance, is not

by law but by a promise,

the promise made

to the offspring. Yet

the law does not 

contradict the promise,

nor does it codify

the promise. Rather,

it points.


Photograph by Kaleb Tapp via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

"She" by Pete Brassett

Detective Inspector James Munro works in London. He was a few months from retirement from the police force in Scotland when his wife was killed by arson in their home – revenge from a villain Munro had apprehended. Unable to stay in Scotland and setting his retirement plans aside, he headed south. 

He’s been assigned a new detective sergeant, D.S. Charlotte West. His experience is matched only by her inexperience, and yet they find ways to work together on a particularly challenging case.


A man has gone missing. He worked at a local pub, and he never missed a day. But now he’s been gone a week, without a word. 


Munro and West look into it, and even visit his home. But there are precious few leads, other than he’d been seen with a petite woman in a cardigan and knitted cap. 


Pete Brassett

Munro often works by instinct; in fact, he comes to rely on it. He and West return to the man’s home, and this time they find him – chopped into pieces and hidden behind a false panel. Now it’s a murder investigation, one that gets complicated by a second body being found.


She by Pete Brassett is the first in the Munro & West mystery series, and the author lets the reader know early on what’s happening. That’s because chapters alternate between the investigation and the musings of one of the killers involved. Far from giving the story away, Brassett makes it more terrifying, building up suspense through the very end of the book.


Brassett, a native Scot, has published 10 novels in the Munro and West series, as well as a number of general fiction and mystery titles. 


She is a psychological mystery, unsettling as it climbs inside the mind of a killer who looks at brutal serial deaths without remorse, all the while knowing that the murders are flat-out wrong.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

“Contemners and Serpents: The James Wilson Family Civil War Correspondence”

James and Eliza Wilson were Presbyterian missionaries to India, including what is now Pakistan, from 1834 to 1852. Their five children, four sons and a daughter, were born there. Both James and Eliza were from Pennsylvania, and most of their families were in Ohio and Indiana. Eliza’s sister married a man who became a successful planter in Georgia and occupied a place at the top of the social hierarchy there. 

When they left for mission service, partisan feeling in the United States could run high – for example, the 1824 presidential election between John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson was bitterly contested and controversial. But what had not yet emerged was what would become the defining, and intractably dividing, issue of the 1850s and 1860s – slavery. When they returned in 1852, the United States seemed a very different place, one that was increasingly not united. 

To continue reading, please see my post today at Dancing Priest.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

An Updated Look at Keats's Odes

You never quite know what you’re going to get yourself into these days with literary criticism.  

I should say up front that I belong to an old school of literature. I was not an English major, but I sat with them through two semesters of English Lit in college, while 99.999 percent of the other students took the general, mainly American, required literature courses. My two-volume Norton Anthology of English Literature, now more than half a century old, sits on a bookshelf, complete with my underlines and marginal scribblings still there. I still use it my Norton as a reference, and I may ask to have it buried with me when the time comes. I even have my textbook from high school senior English, and I still use it as a reference.


My mid-term exam in second semester English lit was three pages of lines and phrases from the poetry of John Keats, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Percy Shelly and George Lord Byron – and I had to identify the author of each line or fragment. Some of the English majors flunked the exam. No one got an A. I was downright thrilled to get a B-. 

To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.

Monday, March 13, 2023

“The Signal and Selected Stories” by Vsevolod Garshin

Perhaps it was the fact that he died young. Or perhaps it was because he never published any famous novels, or even unfamous ones. But Vsevolod Garshin (1855-1888) may be the most famous Russian writer I never heard of. 

Garshin’s entire literary output consists of art exhibition reviews published in newspapers and 20 short stories published in one volume. The stories may be few in number, but they are wonderful works of experience, empathy, and observation. They’ve been published together as The Signal and Selected Stories.


I started reading Garshin’s stories without knowing anything about the author except that he died at 33. By the time I reached the second story, entitled “Four Days” and one of the author’s best known works, I knew he’d been a military veteran and had fought in a war. He had indeed; it was the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78, which involved several Eastern European countries and Russia against the Ottoman Empire. (The European countries were fighting against Ottoman oppression; Russia was hoping to regain territory it had lost in the Crimean War (1853-1856). 


“Four Days” may be the short Russian answer from the Russo-Turkish War to Erick Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front about World War I. A Russian soldier lies seriously wounded, forgotten by his comrades. And he lies next to a dead Turkish soldier, whose supplies keep the Russian alive and whose presence keeps the Russian from losing his mind. And what transpires is an understanding that two young men, trying to do their duty, were caught up in a terrible conflict.


Vsevolod Garshin

“The title story, “The Signal,” concerns the life of railroad signalmen. These were the men who, living near the rail lines, signaled open or busy lines to train engineers. One young signalman becomes disenchanted and angry with his treatment by the supervisor, and he decides to do something drastic in retaliation.


Other stories concern young men waiting to be called up for military service; love stories; stories of frustrated love, where a young man to get the attention of a nurse he’s infatuated with becomes deathly ill; and other things. Several of the stories remind me of the short stories of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who often wrote about military themes. Written 70 and 80 years after Garshin, Solzhenitsyn’s stories often have the same sense of fate and surprise twists at the end.


Garshin died of injuries from an attempted suicide; he threw himself down a flight of stone stairs. He had previously had mental problems. And yet his stories are clearheaded, straightforward narratives. He knew war, and he knew people, and it’s unfortunate that he died so young and with a small if insightful body of work.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

The table story

After Galatians 2:11-14

We come together at the table,

the common table, shared

by all, the table where

diversity becomes unity,

sharing bread and wine

together in oneness.


And yet, even then.


They arrive to join

the meal, and they see

the inherent contradiction,

the uncleanness, of their

unity, because tradition

and old religious laws

refute this sharing,

deny this togetherness,

reject this unity.


Those who know better,

know the old has been

set aside, separate 

themselves as of old,

fearful of the condemnation

of men, fearful of losing

their reputation and

position. Even though

they know they are free,

they shackle themselves,

once again.


Photograph by Mona Masoumi via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Saturday Good Reads - March 11, 2023

The movie “Jesus Revolution” was expected to gross about $5 million. At last report, it had exceeded $30 million, a bit more than five of the movies nominated for best picture at the Oscars – combined. Alexander Larman at The Spectator says the that it may well indicate that Christian movies have found their niche

It’s been hard to look anywhere on social media or the news media and not see a story about artificial intelligence (AI), and how Microsoft has integrated into ChapGPT. Some of the best commentary I’ve seen, interestingly enough, is from people of faith. Clint Archer at The Cripplegate says AI is here, and we’re seeing its precocious adolescence. Jeremy Pierre at The Gospel Coalition asks whether students should use AI for writing assignments.


I’m old enough to remember what happened when Daniel Ellsberg leaked what came to be called the Pentagon Papers; in fact, I was in journalism school. And there have been a number of spectacular disclosures since then – Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, and Wikileaks, to mention some fairly recent ones. Historically, the news media applauded and supported such disclosures. Then came two voluntary disclosures: Elon Musk and the Twitter files, and Tucker Carlson and the Jan. 6 videotapes. Both of those ran afoul of the prevailing media narrative (and there is a prevailing media narrative). Freddy Gray at The Spectator says that Tucker Carlson’s biggest crime was doing good journalism.


More Good Reads


British Stuff


St. Clement Danes – A Historic Strand Landmark – A London Inheritance.




Things Worth Remembering: W. H. Auden’s Poignant Embrace – Douglas Murray at The Free Press.


Crucifixion – Anna Akhmatova at Kingdom Poets (D.S. Martin).


Lean on Him – Warren Bonham at Society of Classical Poets.


Life and Culture


Thomas Jefferson and the Smoothening of the American Mind – Douglas Murray at The Spectator.


Unpopular, Polarizing, and Ineffective: Affirmative action’s days may finally be numbered – Jason Riley at CityJournal. 


Cornmeal and Butter: On the Significance of Temperature – Ethan Mannon at Front Porch Republic.


American Stuff


A Different Fight: The Insurance Writings of General Gustavus Woodson Smith – Karl Miller at Emerging Civil War.


The Women’s Tea Parties – Bert Dunkerly at Emerging Revolutionary War Era.


Writing and Literature


Blurred Lines: When a Novel’s Author Is Also Its Narrator – William Landay at CrimeReads. 


In defense of narrative history: Stories make scholarship human – Charlotte Gauthier at The Critic.


Every Friday Nite is Kiddies Nite – a previously unpublished short story by Tennessee Williams at Conjunctions. 




Love Is – Vanessa Le at Gentle Reformation.


News Media


Elon Musk Outlines His Vision for Twitter at Morgan Stanley Tech Conference – Andrew Hutchinson at Social Media Today. 


May It Be (Enya / Lord of the Rings) – Voces8

Painting: In the Library, oil on canvas  by Johann Hamza (1850-1927).

Friday, March 10, 2023

Even the best among us

After Galatians 2:11-14

An age-old story,

this surrender to temptation,

and yet not the most obvious

sin, but the one to which 

even the best among us

are susceptible, the sin

of hypocrisy. Because

we need, and often crave,

the approval of others,

their acceptance, or

because of what we

consider to our place

or position to be, we

deny the truth. We want

that acceptance, or we

fear the consequences

of confessing and 

upholding what we know

is true, even when we

have the experience

of recognition of our sins,

we stumble into the same

again. And each of us

hears our own rooster

crow three times.


Photograph by Jehyun Sung via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Thursday, March 9, 2023

"Murder in the Church" by Roy Lewis

It seems that Northumberland planning officer Arnold Langdon just can’t stay out of trouble. 

He agrees to undertake some research for a university professor, determining if a Cluniac monastery might have existed in the area. His supervisor (bearing only the name of “Senior Planning Officer”) assigns him a hornet’s nest of a project – local farmers upset that a group of Gypsies has been allowed to camp on the commons. Another planning petition involves a group seeking to use a local church, and the group may or may not have a Satanic orientation. And while checking the church, Arnold discovers the body of an older Gypsy man, who appears to have been died in a ritualistic stabbing. 


Violence seems to be dogging Arnold everywhere he turns; it will soon follow him to his own home and result in the discovery of yet another body. Having a hobby like studying medieval architecture and building materials can be a dangerous thing.


Roy Lewis

Murder in the Church
 is the fifth Arnold Landon mystery by British writer Roy Lewis, and a fine, intriguing mystery it is. A planning official is not your typical mystery detective, but his mild, unassuming manner masks a mystery-solving mind. Landon mut have been a favorite character for the author, as he’s written some 22 novels featuring him.


Lewis is the author of some 60 other mysteries, novels, and short story collections. His Inspector Crow series includes A Lover Too ManyMurder in the MineThe Woods MurderError of Judgment, and Murder for Money, among others. The Eric Ward series, of which The Sedleigh Hall Murder is the first (and originally published as A Certain Blindness in 1981), includes 17 novels. Lewis lives in northern England.  





Murder in the Barn by Roy Lewis.


Murder in the Manor by Roy Lewis.


Murder in the Farmhouse by Roy Lewis.


Murder in the Stableyard by Roy Lewis.


Error in Judgment by Roy Lewis.

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

When Research for Your Historical Novel Changes Your Understanding

For more than a year, I’ve been researching / writing/ researching / writing a historical novel set during the American Civil War. It’s loosely based on the experiences of my great-grandfather, but the more I write and research, the looser it becomes. 

I thought I knew the basic story of the war. What I soon learned is that, for a very long time, historians focused on the war in the East, which specifically meant Virginia, Maryland, Georgia, and Gettysburg in Pennsylvania. But in the last two of three decades, the war in the West – in particular, Tennessee and Mississippi – has come to be recognized as almost as significant as that in the East.


It was certainly significant for both sides of my family. My father’s family experienced the Battle of Shiloh and Grierson’s Raid (the basis for the 1959 movie The Horse Soldiers, starring John Wayne). My mother’s family experienced the Union occupation of New Orleans (starting in 1862), both the Creole French and German immigrant sides of the family. 

To continue reading, please see my post today at the American Christian Fiction Writers blog.

Photograph: John Clem, who "enlisted" in the Union army at age 9 in 1861 and became a soldier at age 12.


Tuesday, March 7, 2023

In Praise of Small Museums

It’s Libraries & Museums Month at Tweetspeak Poetry, and we’re looking at a whole world of art, books, buildings and architecture, artifacts, and the things we populate our cultural institutions with. 

My wife and I traveled to England five times in the 2010s. We’d been once before, back in 1983. Much had changed; for one thing, the food had vastly improved. And we did all the sights that you do – the Tower, Buckingham Palace, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, the British Museum, the Imperial War Museum, the Royal Academy of Arts, Windsor Castle, and all the other places you must visit if you’ve never seen them before.


But a city like London is also filled with small museums, and they tend to be the ones most tourists overlook. Admission is reasonably priced, and guides or docents are quite knowledgeable about the site and the idea or person it’s built around. I have three particular favorites, and I’ve returned to them again and again on succeeding trips.

To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.

Photograph: The Charles Dickens House Museum in London.

Monday, March 6, 2023

“A Roman Shadow” by H L Marsay

Detective Chief Inspector John Shadow and his sergeant Jimmy Chang are asked to visit a museum in York dedicated to Roman antiquities. Someone seems to have stolen valuable Roman coins and replaced them with fakes. The museum staff isn’t sure when this might have happened; it could have been anytime during the previous eight months. 

Sgt. Chang also seems to be acting weirdly, and Shadow is half afraid he’s getting ready to dump his girlfriend, the coroner the police prefer over the chief coroner. Added to the mix is a missing Chinese tourist, a young girl who had joined a tour of Britain late and who now seems to have disappeared. And this is in top of a previously reported missing Chinese girl. What’s even stranger is that both girls have the same passport name.


Shadow suspects that all these crimes – the theft of the coins, the missing girls – may be linked. A reseller of chocolates may be involved. Someone at the museum may be involved. But everyone, including Shadow, thinks Shadow is off on this suspicion.


H L Marsay

A Roman Shadow
 is the fourth mystery novel in the DCI John Shadow series by British author H L Marsay. It has all the hallmarks of its predecessors, a well-written mystery, a curmudgeonly chief detective, plenty of references to restaurants in York (Shadow, who lives on a boat, dines out for most meals), an overly enthusiastic detective sergeant, and a way of tying a number of disparate narrative streams together.


Marsay is the author of six mystery novels in the DCI John Shadow series. Set in York, the characteristic features of each of the stories are a curmudgeonly DCI, his irrepressibly cheerful sergeant, a culinary tour of the city restaurants, cafĂ©, and pubs (some of which actually exist), and an introduction to York’s colorful history and present. A member of the Crime Writers Association, she lives with her family in the city of York in England.





A Long Shadow by H L Marsay.


A Viking’s Shadow by H L Marsay.


A Ghostly Shadow by H L Marsay.