Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Poets and Poems:Lola Haskins and "Homelight"

A phrase kept recurring as I read Homelight: Poems, the new collection by poet Lola Haskins. The phrase is “looking slant.” 

It has many meanings, like taking or presenting a particular view or approach, or representing a particular political or philosophical position, or understanding something from a particular vantage point. 


Applied to these 48 poems (or 60, if you add the grouped poems), “looking slant” is not so much articulating a specific worldview or philosophy but instead casting a very different eye in very different ways. And it sneaks up on you. You think you’re experiencing a poem just like you experienced the one you just read, and then Haskins subtly shifts gears. She has a focused eye for what she writes about, but it’s a focus that changes with each subject and each poem. 

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

Some Tuesday Readings


“Plato’s Pumpkins” and “All Hallows’ Rune” – poems by Leland James at Society of Classical Poets.


Days of the Dead – poem by Michael Dickel at The Wombwell Rainbow (Paul Brookes).


A Guide to Reading Ghost Stories with Russell Kirk – Robert Woods at The Imaginative Conservative.


Can You Halloween Haiku? – Tweetspeak Poetry.


Review: Watership Down, the Graphic Novel – Carolyn Leiloglou at Story Warren.

Monday, October 30, 2023

"Fragile Objects: Short Stories" by Katy Carl

The stories of Flannery O’Connor kept coming to mind as I read Fragile Objects: Short Stories by Katy Carl. But it was O’Connor without the edge of dark humor. Contemporary life has changed since the 1950s and 1960s, and Carl is an author who’s exploring it. Her stories are sometimes bleak, but they always contain an element of hope. 

What the stories have in common is that, in almost all of them, the perspective is that of a young woman or a child. Each narrator has some kind of conflict which serves as the story’s heart. The resolution of those conflicts is never what the reader might expect it to be. And each offers hope, although it’s well-disguised in some cases.


In the title story, “Fragile Objects,” a man takes his young son to see his mother, the boy’s grandmother. The woman is having mental issues, and what begins as a visit is going t end as something else entirely.


“Pantheon” is the story of a young woman, raised in a strict environment, who breaks free but finds herself in another kind of environment, ostensibly loose but with its own strict code of behavior. “Company Men” is about the mindset of the ordained church leaders when rumors begin to surface about a priest and children. 

“Hail Thee, Festival” is the story of one of those ubiquitous school fundraising efforts, this one a carnival. All seems to be going well, until a very loud woman begins to condemn the effort. “Omnes Habitantes in Hoc Habitaculo” describes how a dominating matriarch, accompanied by other dead relatives, reaches from beyond the grave and tells a young girl what to do. “The convert” is the story of a new believer, who risks the ridicule of his friends to begin taking instruction in the church, only to find no priests available to instruct.


Katy Carl

“Allie” and ‘Jack” are related stories about a young woman who makes her office and her home relationship work, but both begin to go awry. She discovers she’s pregnant when Jack leaves. In “Sequatchie Valley,” the longest story in the collection, a young couple (the woman a bit more ambivalent) decide to engage in organic farming. They buy a farm and move in with their two young children. Then day-to-day reality hits, and the young woman finds herself increasingly unable to cope. 


”Battleground States” tells the story of two women who make three promises to each other – never accept exploitation, never become oppressors, and no evil men. And then one texts the other with a simple message: “I broke rule three.” “Awards Day” is about what happens when a girl who deserves an award, and has worked for it, believes she won’t get it for all the wrong reasons. But she receives an award she doesn’t expect.


Another story, “Solo,” is so short that to describe it is to give it away.


Carl is the editor in chief of Dappled Things Magazine. Her stories and articles have appeared in numerous literary publications, and she previously published the novel As Earth Without Water (2021). She was chosen as Wiseblood Books first writer in residence in 2020, and she is pursuing an MFA degree in creative writing at the University of St. Thomas in Houston., whose founding faculty were James Matthew Wilson and Joshua Hren. 


The stories of Fragile Objects read like an ongoing discussion of contemporary life, with its fractured relationships and broken dreams. But is always grace, and there is always hope.


Some Monday Readings


Why Are Rural Kids More Upwardly Mobile? – Robert VerBruggen at the Institute for Family Studies.


Worth Every Ruble: Katz’s ‘Brothers Karamazov’ – John Stamps at Miller’s Book Review.


Things Wirth Remembering: The Delights and Frights of Halloween – Douglas Murray at The Free Press.


The journey of Dorothy Sayers – from classical education to murder mysteries and back – Terry Mattingly at Get Religion. 

Sunday, October 29, 2023

The stranger on the road

After Luke 24:13-35

They walked along the road,

talking of all that had passed,

when a stranger came along,

asking them of what they

talked. Amazed that anyone

wouldn’t have heard, they

told him of the arrest, 

the trial, the beatings,

the execution, the burial,

the body’s disappearance,

the report that the executed

man lived. Walking alongside

them, he listened, offering no

comment. He agreed to join

them at table and eat, and as

they sat, he broke bread, not

unlike the last time he’d

broken bread with them,

and suddenly they know. 

Their eyes opened,

and they knew.


Photograph by Perry C via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Some Sunday Readings


Suffering and Solace: Edgar Allan Poe’s Catholic Imagination – LuElla D’Amico at Church Life Journal.


Goodnight Crow – poem by Megan Willome at Everyday Poems.


The Definitive Guide to Christian Denominations – Steven Wedgeworth at Logos.


The Ten Most Beautiful Symphonies – Stephen Klugewicz at The Imaginative Conservative.


I See the Hostages in My Children’s Faces – Nani Beraha at The Free Press.

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Saturday Good Reads - Oct. 28, 2023

Louisa May Alcott is known for her works of fiction like Little Women, but she was also an essayist. Liz Rosenberg at Literary Hub writes about Alcott’s forgotten essays, including one long one about her work at a Civil War Hospital for wounded soldiers.  

Our legacy news media seem bent on reaching a state of irrelevance. It took a week, but The New York Times finally addressed the story that it likely hoped was true but was nothing but Hamas propaganda – the supposed bombing of the Gaza hospital that never happened. Had it been true, it would have fit the media narrative perfectly and turned Israel into the equivalent of Hamas. However, I suppose we should be grateful that the Times owned up to it, finally. Many others didn't. And the new media keeps wringing its hand over the plummeting in trust by the American public.


We all believed anti-Semitism was the crime of the 20th century, but we had gotten beyond that. As it turns out, it’s alive and well in our elite universities, the news media (The New York Times hires a fan of Hitler as its freelance writer in Gaza), and Congress, including one of the representatives from St. Louis. Julia Duin at Get Religion writes about what Jews worldwide are experiencing right now, like it’s the 1930s all over again. Michael Oren at The Free Press says this isn't about Israel anti-Zionism; it's a war against the Jews


More Good Reads




The Question Your Kids Shouldn’t Be Asking – Melisa Edgington at Your Mom Has a Blog.


Why Are People So Fascinated with ‘Lost” Books of the Bible? – Michael Kruger at Canon Fodder. 


What Did You Plan to Be Hated For? – Rhys Laverty at The New Albion.


British Stuff


The curious priorities of the police – Sarah Phillimore and Twelve things more arrestable than calling for jihad – Ben Sixsmith – at The Spectator.


Why I joined the October Declaration – Toby Guise at The Critic Magazine.




The Word – Jeffrey Essmann at Society of Classical Poets. 


A poet converted by her own writing – Lynn Domina at The Christian Century.


Writing and Literature


Bookish Believers – Katelyn Ho at Story Warren.


Y’all Want to see a Death of the Author Body? – Lincoln Michel at Counter Craft.




What liberals still don’t get about Trump supporters – John MacArthur at The Spectator.




The Mortal Danger of ‘Yes-Buttery’ – Rod Dreher. 


Qatar’s War for Young American Minds – Eli Lake at The Free Press.


Dear Eddy – Phil Craig at The Critic Magazine.


American Stuff


From Pony Express Hero to Civil War Casualty: Remembering Johnny Fry – Tonya McQuade at Emerging Civil War. 


9 Civil War Movies with Glaring Historical Inaccuracies – Liamba Ngenda at Screen Rant. 


Civil War Art: Veterans in the Fields – Sarah Kay Bierle at Emerging Civil War.


I Worship You – James KE

Painting: Woman Reading in an Interior, oil on canvas by Carl Vilhelm Holsoe (1863-1935)

Friday, October 27, 2023

Remembrance and betrayal

After Luke 22:12-23

It is here, the final 

Passover meal he

knows they will

share together. His

words confuse; he

speaks of imminent

suffering. He takes

a cup, calling

the wine his blood,

telling them to divide

it among themselves

and drink it. He takes

the unleavened bread,

breaking it, and calls

it his body. And they

are to drink the wine

and eat the bread

in remembrance. And

there’s more: He tells

them that the one who

betrays him sits 

at the table, one

who has eaten

the bread and

drunk the cup.


Photograph by Valentina Fischer at Unsplash. Used with permission.

Some Friday Readings 


The Colosseum – Br. Roland Wakefield at The Imaginative Conservative.


Sin – two poems by Gwenallt at Kingdom Poets (D.S. Martin).


America’s professor: the afterlife of C.S. Lewis – David Davis at The Spectator.


Glorifying War? Reflections on Hollywood’s 1951 Adaptation of The Red Badge of Courage – Heath Anderson at Emerging Civil War.


Fogs & Smogs of Old London – Spitalfields Life.


My Old Friend is Ripping Down Posters of Kidnapped Children – Candace Mittel Kahn at The Free Press.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

"Grimm Up North" by David Gatward

DCI Harry Grimm tends to drive his superintendent with the Bristol police a bit crazy. He knows his stuff, her gets results, but a lot of people seemed to get beaten up in the process. It doesn’t help that he’s still looking for his father; 20 years before, the man violently abused Grimm’s younger brother and killed his mother. He was never caught. 

Grimm carries his military service in the parachute crops with him, courtesy of an unexpected explosive device that left his face permanently scarred. So scarred, in fact, that his appearance scares suspects, villains, and witnesses alike.


After an almost-bungled sting (Grimm came very close to it being his last operation), his superintendent packs him off to a small town in the Yorkshire Dales. Officially, he’s being loaned (or seconded) to the police force there. It’s Herriott country, he tells himself, and he knows he’ll soon be bored to tears. Except he’s hardly there any time at all when a local teenager disappears. Runaways aren’t that uncommon, of course, but this followed a major scene at church when the girl supposedly received a text from her boyfriend.


It may be Herriott country, and you may have to navigate the sheep herds in the lanes, but crime doesn’t take a holiday in the Dales. A murder follows the girl’s disappearance, and now it’s all hands on deck before it gets worse.


David Gatward

Grimm Up North
 is the first of 15 published novels (and one upcoming one) in the DCI Harry Grimm series by British writer David Gatward. It’s a fast-paced read with an unusual hero and leavened with just the right amount of humor. I read the book as a trial, unsure whether I’d like it nor not, and I liked it so much that I immediately ordered the second, Best Served Cold


In addition to the DCI Harry Grimm series, Gatward has published children’s and teen fiction, taught creative writing sessions, worked as an editor, started a small publishing firm, and returned to writing when the COVID pandemic arrived. He grew up in the Cotswolds and Yorkshire in England (including the town for the setting of Grimm Up North), and he’s also lived in Lincolnshire and the Lake District.


It's always an unexpected pleasure to discover a new mystery series, and if the first is any indication, I will be kept busy and entertained with the next 15.

Some Thursday Readings


Halloween Revisited – Steven Wedgeworth at Ad Fontes.


Civil War Art: Fort Fisher Watercolors of John W. Grattan – Neil Chatelain at Emerging Civil War. 


Up the road – poem and artwork by Sonja Benskin Mesher.


Meeting the Masses – The Secret Author at The Critic Magazine.


Wednesday, October 25, 2023

"Lee's Miserables" by J. Tracy Power

As the Civil War dragged on, Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, like Lee himself, came to symbolize the South’s hopes and dreams. Ultimately, Lee and his army symbolized the Confederacy itself, which partially explains why so many want Confederate monuments removed.  

The soldiers in that army were fiercely loyal to their commander, but they also referred to themselves as “Lee’s Miserables.” Army conditions continued to deteriorate in the last year of the war, with growing shortages of food rations, medicine, uniforms, and more. A constantly hungry army will not fight as well as one that has at least minimum sustenance. And food was a signal factor in the rising numbers of desertions.


In 1998, J. Tracy Power published Lee’s Miserables: Life in the Army of Northern Virginia from the Wilderness to Appomattox. It may be almost 25 years old, but the work is still up-to-date, and it is so largely because Power told a very different kind of story that most Civil War histories up to that point.

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

Some Wednesday Readings


The Day the Delusions Died – Konstantin Kisin at The Free Press. 


Book Chat: We Fought at Gettysburg by Carolyn Ivanoff – Chris Mackowski at Emerging Civil War.


Media Confidence in U.S. Matches 2016 Record Low – Megan Brenan at Gallup News.


The War in the Low Country, Part 1: The Pocatalico Raid – Bert Dunkerly at Emerging Civil War.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Poets and Poems: Jordan Pérez and “Santa Tarantula”

I’ve seen some creative and arresting titles for poetry collections, but Santa Tarantula by Jordan Pérez may have just topped them all. 

Santa Tarantula. Saint Tarantula. 


My one personal experience with tarantulas (seeing one in movies like Home Alone doesn’t count) was in West Texas in 1975. I was in the parking lot of an oil pumping station, surrounded by miles of, well, West Texas. A tarantula about the size of my palm scurried less than a foot in front of me. I did what any self-respecting city slicker would do. I froze. And I stifled the yell in my throat. 


Despite all the myths surrounding these large, hairy spiders, their venom is not deadly. It can cause allergic reactions, but the innate fear many people have is due to the idea itself of spiders (not to mention very large ones) (and the one I encountered was very large). When I see a poetry title like Santa Tarantula, I have to wonder what’s inside.

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

Some Tuesday Readings


Things Worth Remembering: The Sweet Glee of Schadenfreude – Douglas Murray at The Free Press.


Samuel Taylor Coleridge: a birthday sonnet, and a book – Malcolm Guite.


Poetry Prompt: Surprising Straw – Tweetspeak Poetry.


In Search of Roman London – Spitalfields Life.

Monday, October 23, 2023

“The Relics of Thomas Becket” by John Butler

This is a story about dates. 

The first date is 1170. Thomas Becket was about 50 years old when either a careless or calculated remark by Henry II led to the archbishop’s death at the hands of Henry’s henchmen. Becket was killed in a side chapel of Canterbury Cathedral, marked today by a rather striking wall sculpture and memorial. 


In 1220, the second date, the remains of Becket were moved from a grave in the cathedral’s crypt to a shrine behind the choir on the church’s main level. There it sat, venerated by likely hundreds of thousands of pilgrims (like those in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales) for more than 300 years.


The spot where Becket died

The third date is 1538 and the English Reformation. Another King Henry, this time Henry VIII, authorizes his right-hand man Thomas Cromwell to dissolve the monasteries and abbeys, destroy designated churches, gather the wealth for the crown, and get rid of all those shrines containing alleged bones and related items designed to separate pilgrims from their money. Included on that list was the shrine of Thomas Becket. The shrine was destroyed; the bones it contained (including what was likely a faked skull) were burnt, Or pulverized. Or dispersed among other graves. Or something. (Accounts vary widely.) Whatever happened, the relic bones of the saint disappeared.


Fast forward to the next date, 1888. A group of Canterbury officials exhume a grave in the cathedral’s crypt, have the bones examined, and determine that they are likely the bones of Becket. The bones are reburied and the grave resealed. In 1949, the bones are exhumed a second time and examined using the then-current state of forensic science. And they were most emphatically determined to be not the bones of Becket. Instead, scientists could see that the bones had once been buried in the ground and mixed with animal bones.


So, were the bones of Thomas Becket indeed destroyed or dispersed in 1538?


In The Relics of Thomas Becket: A True-Life Mystery, John Butler sifts through all of the accounts, reports, theories, investigation files, and other materials to attempt to answer that question. The short answer is, no one knows what really happened to the bones. But there’s enough reports and speculation to suggest that the cathedral’s monks in 1538 knew what was going to happen to the shrine, and like at other cathedrals, hid the saint’s bones in some other part of the cathedral. It had happened with other significant saints in other English Cathedrals, so why not Canterbury. 


It's a fascinating read about a story for which we will most likely never know the ending. Butler writes in an engaging, straightforward style, avoiding the melodrama that the story naturally evokes. Instead, he lays out his case for the bone’s secreted somewhere else in the cathedral, most likely another grave. The evidence for their destruction at the hands of Cromwell and his agents is too riddled with inconsistencies and conflicting reports. 


Butler is an emeritus professor at the University of Kent and an expert of the history of Canterbury Cathedral. He previously published The Quest for Becket’s Bones (1995) and The Red Dean of Canterbury (2011). 


Today, a simply candle marks the spot behind Canterbury’s choir where the original shrine sat. Somehow, it’s the best kind of memorial.


Top photograph: The site in Canterbury Cathedral where Archbishop Thomas Becket was struck down. 

A candle marks where the shrine stood

Some Monday Readings


Video Analysis Shows Gaza Hospital Hit by Failed Rocket Meant for Israel – Wall Street Journal


Stories our libraries tell us, if we listen – Joel Miller at Miller’s Book Review.


Missing the Manhattan Project – Ari Schulman at The New Atlantis.


New Harriet and Dred Scott Memorial, Calvary Cemetery – Chris Naffziger at St. Louis Patina.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

The tax collector

After Luke 19:1-10

Is there any man

more hated or despised

than the tax collector?

This one, with joy

in his heart, is so excited

to see him that he climbs

 a tree, the crowds are

so great. The tax collector’s

joy doubles when he calls

to him, telling him he’s

coming to his house.

The righteous ones 

grumble; to stay and

dine with sinners is

beyond reprehensible.

The man smiles; he

knows who has gained

salvation this day.


Photograph by Hunters Race at Unsplash Used with permission.

Some Sunday Readings


The Last Word in the Book of Ruth – Mitch Chase at Biblical Theology.


When You Feel Like a Failure – Barbara at Stray Thoughts.


Art Proves We’re More Than Dust in the Wind – Terry Glaspey at The Gospel Coalition.


The Dangers of Alone: Five Questions for Single Men – Marshall Segal at Desiring God.

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Saturday Good Reads - Oct. 21, 2023

It was not a good week for the news media. After moaning and groaning about the flood of misinformation and fake news on social media, our legacy media proved they were more than capable of stepping up to the challenge. The New York Times, the Washington Post, Reuter’s, etc., followed the Hamas line and reported that the Israelis bombed a hospital in Gaza. Except the Israelis didn’t; it was a misfired Islamic Jihad rocket. Except it didn’t hit the hospital; it was the adjacent parking lot. And no one tried to verify the claimed number of deaths. And that photo of the bombing published by The New York Times? It wasn’t.  

A simple mistake, you might think, made in the rush to publish news in the internet age. And then you remember the Covington kids. And Russian collusion with the Steele dossier. And the burial of the Hunter Biden laptop story (aka “Russian disinformation”). And the outrage over the Jan. 6 invasion of the Capitol while turning a blind eye to / celebrating the destruction and riots following the death of George Floyd. And you realize that the news media is no longer in the business of publishing news. Instead, it’s all about narrative, and how something called “moral clarity” trumps objectivity, fairness, and simple common sense. 


Nellie Bowles at The Free Press has a depressing summary of the week’s Mideast news coverage: TGIF: Guilty Until Proven Innocent. Terry Mattingly, at the Get Religion blog, raises a bigger question: who can we trust to provide accurate information about what's happening?


News Media


Why editors in legacy newsrooms struggle with calling members of Hamas ‘terrorists’ – Clemente Lisi at Get Religion.


The Israel-Hamas conflict and the failure of the information war – Fred Skulthorp at The Critic Magazine


The media accuracy crisis around Israel mirrors how it got BLM wrong – Stephen Miller at The Spectator.


The Stories –and Stakes–of the War in Israel – Bari Weiss at The Free Press.


The New York Times Takes Another L – Matt Taibbi at Racket News.




Reading “Ulysses” in Autumn – Carla Galdo at Dappled Things.


Too Close – Yehonatan Geffen at Alphabet Soup.


Better Angels – Kelly Belmonte at All Nine.


The Battle of Bunker Hill in Epic Poetry – Andrew Benson Brown at Society of Classical Poets. 


Inside of the Painting – Seth Lewis.


Louise Glück: The poet who taught me to write books – Meghan O’Rourke at The Yale Review.


Writing and Literature


Remembering Sheldon Vanauken – David Hartman at The Imaginative Conservative.


The Old Curiosity Bookshop – Joseph Epstein at Commentary.


A Murder or Poets: Or, the Inescapable Connection Between Crime Fiction and Poetry – Paul Munier at CrimeReads. 


Life and Culture


Map-Burning – Joseph Orso at Front Porch Republic.


The Awful Humanity of Russell Kirk – Bradley Birzer at The Imaginative Conservative.




Imperfections That Grow Character – Lara d’Entremont.


The Arts as Sources of Epiphany – Michael De Sapio at The Imaginative Conservative.


The Mission Field We Don’t Think About – Michael Niebauer at The Gospel Coalition.


Old Nick’s Offer: Temptation in the wilderness of everyday – Paul Kingsnorth at The Abbey of Misrule.


The Grace of My Bipolarity – Anonymous at Church Life Journal.


American Stuff


The Wheeling Horse Hospital – Christy Perry Tuohey at Emerging Civil Wat.


The Sound of Silence – Gregorian


Painting: Portrait of 
Vsevolof Mikhailovich Garshin, oil on canvas by Ilya Repin (1844-1930).

Friday, October 20, 2023

The place of honor

After Luke 14:7-11

How easy it is

to lose the place

of honor to someone

more distinguished,

more accomplished,

more talented,

more recognized,

wealthier, better

looking, more 

anything. So easy.

So do not seek,

he says, the place

of honor, so easy

to lose, but seek

a lower place,

and be content.

And be surprised

if you are called

to the place

of honor.


Photograph by Thomas William via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Some Friday Readings


My Brother in Galilee – poem by Brian Yapko at Society of Classical Poets.


The Fairy Tale Reversal – Isabel Chenot at Story Warren.


Oh, Love – poem by Thomas á Kempis at Kingdom Poets (D.S. Martin).


Prayers Make a Difference – Mari-Anna Stålnacke at Flowing Faith.


Be a Man, Go to Church – Anne Kennedy at Demotivations with Anne.


Unveiled, They Appear – poem by David Hollywood at Society of Classical Poets.