Sunday, March 31, 2024

The one who escaped

After Matthew 28:1-20

The one who escaped

the life from before,

the one who wiped

his feet with her hair,

the one scorned and

reviled, is the one

who goes to the tomb

that day. The earth 

shakes with a roar;

she stops and holds

on to her companion.

The guards at the tomb

are terrified, trembling

in fear, frozen like

statues at what they

all can see: the one

in glowing white. 

Like so many times

before, the angel

says do not be afraid.

The one you seek is

not here. The one

you seek has risen.

See the empty shroud.

Go, tell.


The one who escaped

the life before sees,

and believes, and runs

to obey. As they run,

another stops them,

and greets them, and

says do not be afraid,

go and tell them

to find me in Galilee.


Photograph by Pisit Heng via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Some Sunday Readings


How eggs became the symbol of Easter – Jane Stannus at The Spectator.


Kierkegaard on Easter Weekend – Rod Dreher at Rod Dreher’s Diary.


Britain will not be a “Christian country” without Christians – Ben Sixsmith at The Critic Magazine.


Who Believes in Easter Anymore? – poem by James Tweedie at Society of Classical Poets.

A Sonnet for Easter Dawn - Malcolm Guite.

Things Worth Remembering: John Donne's Sermon on the Resurrection of the Body and the Immortality of the Soul - Douglas Murray at The Free Press. 

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Saturday Good Reads - March 30, 2024

We’ve seen the news reports and social media videos – climate change activists or pro-Palestinian protestors attacking pieces of artwork – Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” and DaVinci’s “Mona Lisa,” to mention two. Then there was the slashing attack on the Cambridge University portrait of Sir David Balfour, author of the Balfour Declaration on Israel, the painting being attacked by a young woman wearing a $1,400 designer backpack (the protest of privilege). An editorial at New Criterion puts the Balfour attack into perspective

John Spencer at Newsweek points out something that no one covering the war in Gaza and Israel has previously reported – Israel has created a new standard for urban warfare. Susan Feigenbaum, of the University of Missouri-St. Louis, wrote an op-ed column about the casualty numbers reported by the Gaza  (Hamas) Health Authority and repeated without question by the news media: the number don’t add up.


If you visit Scotland after April 1 (and this is no April Fools joke), you better be very, very careful as to what you say, or even what you may see in the theater. David Robertson at The Wee Flea explains


If you’d like to see media bias in action, read what might have been a rather useful article in Axios: Shards of glass: Inside media’s 12 splintering realities. Consider how the authors label each group, and which “shards” have the more flattering labels.


More Good Reads


Israel / Gaza


An Insider’s Guide to the Most Important Story on Earth – Matti Friedman at Tablet Magazine (2014). Mattis Friedman’s stories for The Free Press are here.


The United Nations’s ceasefire call will only strengthen Hamas – Limor Simhony Philpott at The Spectator


Why the Oldest Hatred Persists – Michael Mandelbaum at American Purpose.


American Stuff


RFK’s Tribute to a Slain Hero – Douglas Murray at The Free Press.


The Odyssey of Claggett Fitzhugh – Kevin Pawlak at Emerging Civil War.


Life and Culture


If you watched certain YouTube videos, investigators demanded your data from Google – Chase DiBenedetto at Mashable.


Inside the New Wave of Old-School Education – Julia Steinberg at The Free Press.


Banning the Blockers – Bernard Lane at Quillette.


Twilight of the Wonks – Walter Russell Mead at Tablet Magazine.


The Case Against the Abortion Pill – Rachel Roth Aldhizer at First Things Magazine.




The Dead Sea Scrolls, the Book of Esther, and the Argument from Silence – Michael Kruger at Canon Fodder.


William Wilberforce and England’s forgotten saints – Beatrice Scudeler at The Spectator.


Resentment Between Men and Women in the Church: 4 Observations – Samuel D. James at Digital Liturgies.


A Really Real God – David Bannon at Front Porch Republic.


News Media  

Why is the Same Misleading Language about Youth Gender Medicine Copies and Pasted into Dozens of article? -- Jesse Signal at Singal-Minded. 



“When I Have Fears” by John Keats – Sally Thomas at Poems Ancient and Modern.


Both Sides Now – Joni Mitchell (filmed live in 2000)

Painting: Three Women in Church, oil on mahogany wood (1882) by Wilhelm Leibl (1844-1900).

Friday, March 29, 2024

He leads the humble

After Psalm 25:9, 119:81

He leads the humble

in doing what is right,

and teaches the humble

his way.


The soul of the humble

longs for his salvation;

the soul of the humble

hopes in his word.


He leads the humble,

in the way they should go.

He leads the humble

from the cross. 


Photograph by Arno Smit via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Some Friday Readings


The Cross – poem by George Herbert at Kingdom Poets (D.S. Martin).


The End of Religious Liberty – Jason Duesing at For the Church.


Two Poems for Holy Week –Jody L. Collins at Poetry & Made Things.


Good Friday at St. Bartholomew’s – Spitalfields Life.


Covenant Prayer – sonnet by Michael Stalcup at Rabbit Room Poetry.


Fairy Tales and Holy Week – Daniel McInerry at The Imaginative Conservative.


Love Song – poem by Paul Wittenberger.


And Ran Away Naked, sonnet by Maryann Corbett – Sally Thomas at Poems Ancient and Modern.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Some Thursday Readings

Words, words, words: On the Bard’s 400-hundred-year legacy – Amit Majmudar at New Criterion

Memory – poem by G.K. Chesterton at The Imaginative Conservative. 


That crayon – artwork by Sonja Benskin Mesher. 


Casey at the Bat” by Ernest Thayer – Joseph Bottum at Poems Ancient and Modern.


When Life Betrays You, Only Love Remains – Joel Miller at Miller’s Book review on The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder.


Afghan Terror’s Return – Jeffrey Gedmin at American Purpose.


Rogue Prosecutors and the Rise of Crime – Cully Stimson at Imprimis / Hillsdale College.


Redcar Collector, a Dark Teeside short story by Glenn McGoldrick, is free today on Amazon.


Painting: The Chandos portrait of William Shakespeare, circa 1600-1610, attributed to John Taylor

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

When Your Characters Take Over the Story

The title for this post is something of a “Well, duh” kind of title. For a story to work well, it’s the characters who have to take over and knock the author from his perch.


I’ve been reading Writing Better Fiction by Harvey Stanbrough, and he says that he almost called his book Writing Better Character-Driven Fiction, until he realized it was rather redundant. “All good fiction is character-driven,” he writes. He’s not big on outlines, plotting, character sketches, erecting signposts, or anything else that might smack of planning. Instead, he says, “like real life,” he says, “authentic fiction is not planned. Like real life, authentic fiction unfolds naturally.”


Stanbrough has an acronym for this – WITD, or “Writing into the Dark.”

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

Some Wednesday Readings


American Civil War: prize-winning new book reveals plight of underage soldiers – The National Tribune (Australia). My review of Of Age can be found here.


Booknotes: The War That Made America: Essays Inspired by the Scholarship of Gary W. Gallagher – Civil War Books and Authors. 


Our Banner in the Sky – Jon Tracey at Emerging Civil War.


“Imagine Mountains,” a poem on the 150th anniversary of Robert Frost’s birth – Carey Jobe at Society of Classical Poets.


224 Feet of Fencing – Brian Miller at A South Roane Agrarian. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Poets and Poems: Robert Schultz and "Into the New World"

I’m not sure how to describe Robert Schultz. Poet. Novelist. Photographer. Artist. All of the above.  

He’s written one novel, The Madhouse Nudes, the story of an artist who, in painting women, is trying to seem them truly. He’s co-authored an art book, War Memoranda: Photography, Walt Whitman, and Memorials, which also became an exhibition, and We Were Pirates: a Torpedoman’s Pacific War with James Shell . He’s written four poetry collections. His most recent work is Specimens of the Plague Year: notes and art, the “plague year” being 2020, the year of COVID. He’s also helped translate Wonderland: New & Selected Poems by Sarwat Zahra. 

What I’ve first turned to is one of his poetry collections, Into the New World (2020). In a word, it’s stunning. 

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

Some Tuesday Readings


Don’t Let the Old Man In – Garry Rodgers at Dying Words.


Waiting on Spring – poem by Jerry Barrett at Gerald the Writer.


Among the missing, among the dead: black poetry in America – William Logan at New Criterion.


How an Author Can Prevent Burnout – L.L. Barkat at Tweetspeak Poetry.


Sugaring, poem by Raymond Holden – Sally Thomas at Poems Ancient and Modern.


Monday, March 25, 2024

“In the Shadow of St. Paul’s Cathedral” by Margaret Willes

The first time I was in St. Paul’s Churchyard was May of 1983. My wife and I had traveled to London to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. On a Sunday afternoon, she was resting in our hotel room, and I’d hopped a tube train to visit the newly opened Museum of London before walking around St. Paul’s a few blocks to the south. At 3 p.m., I was standing in front of St. Paul’s when the church bells began to peal. It was one of those “just stop and listen moments.” 

Last fall, we were once again in the churchyard, visiting the Temple Bar exhibition just to the north of the church, and then a few days later we toured the cathedral itself. We walked around the churchyard, visited a gift and souvenir shop, and took our “standing in front of the cathedral” tourist photos. We knew the basic history of the cathedral – Sir Christopher Wren rebuilt the church followed its destruction in the Great Fire of 1666. And we knew that the area around the church had been heavily bombed during World War II; the church itself took one major hit but was protected by the firewatchers stationed on the roof and nearby.


But the area around the church has a long and momentous history, as writer Margaret Willes details in In the Shadow of St. Paul’s Cathedral: The Churchyard that Shaped London. The history of the area is inevitably linked to the history of the church, but also to much more.


In medieval times, the yard was host to speeches and sermons. The Reformation, Counter-Reformation and New Reformation were argued and fought here. The yard witnessed a few executions. Once the printing press was invented, printers set up shop in this area, mostly printing religious tracts and documents. They eventually evolved into book printers and publishers, both in St. Paul’s Churchyard and nearby Paternoster Row. Publishers branched out into selling books directly to the public, becoming the cradle and center of Britain’s book publishing industry.


Willes tells this fascinating history well. The chapters on the Great Fire (and how printers thought they could secure their stocks inside the church itself) and the rebuilding by Wren are especially good. She provides detail in just the right amounts. The people come alive, and their stories become the stories of the churchyard. 


Margaret Willes

Willes is the former publisher at the National Trust who now writes books on cultural and botanical history. Her works include Liberty over London BridgeThe Curious World of Samuel Pepys & John EvelynThe Gardens of the British Working ClassThe Making of the English GardenerReading Matters Five Centuries of Discovering BooksThe Domestic Herbal, and Scenes from a Georgian Life.


The story of St. Paul’s Churchyard ends when the thriving society and industry around it ended – with the blitz of World War II. Other than the cathedral itself, much of the surrounding area was destroyed. But as Willes tells it, what had been there was a wonder.




Margaret Willes on The Shadow of St. Paul’s Cathedral – interview with Aspect of History.


In the Shadow of St. Paul’s Cathedral – Margaret Willes (1666) – podcast at Travels Through Time. 


Top photograph: The interior dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral


Some Monday Readings


What New York Times Columnist Paul Krugman Gets Wrong about Rural America – Wendell Berry at Barn Raiser.


“We Are Wrong” – a poem on Israel by Michael Vanyukov at Society of Classical Poets.


Why Did West Point Remove ‘Duty, Honor, Country’ From Its Mission Statement? – John Lucas at The Federalist.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

He entered the city

After Psalm 25:9, 119:81

He entered the city

on a beast of peace,

not as a conquering hero

but a servant,

a servant who would



He entered the city

to sings and rejoicing,

to waving of palms,

to cloaks laid on his path. 

The people sang hosanna

to the servant who would



He smiled as he rode

his beast of peace.

He smiled to see

rejoicing, to hear

the voices cheering

and singing his way



He smiled because

he knew their hearts,

the hearts soon to call

for his death. And

he loved them anyway.

He loved them because.


Photograph by Benjamin Recinos via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Some Sunday Readings


Queen Esther’s Lot: A Poem for Purim – Margaret Coats at Society of Classical Poets.


Four Marks of True Revival – J.T. Reeves and Douglas Sweeney at Desiring God.


Feminine Emotionalism and the Evangelical Conscience – G. Shane Morris at the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. 

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Saturday Good Reads - March 23, 2024

I used to read the literary magazine Guernica but stopped for an unremembered reason (probably being overwhelmed with too many subscriptions). But I enjoyed it; it had some well-written and interesting stories and articles. This past week, the magazine found itself caught in a political ringer. A moving story about Oct. 7 in Israel and what happened was published. Volunteer editors resigned, and the literary world went nuts. Naturally, the editors caved and withdrew it. And apologized. Oddly, the story is archived on Guernica’s site (at least for now).  

I first read the story in my hometown newspaper: According to the annual survey of the American Library Association, the number of book challenges skyrocketed in 2023. Well, not exactly. What happened is that the number of challenges slightly declined (affecting less than one percent of the nation’s libraries), but the ALA redefined how it reported the numbers. Naturally, no newspaper or other legacy medium questioned the report.


There was a time, as recently as a decade ago, when I believed I could generally count on the reporting by the Associated Press, even if newspapers and television news seemed to be binging on preconceived narratives. That changed, and AP has seemed to be going out of its way to make up for lost time. I think I began to notice this when I’d see reports of changes in AP’s Style Guide for reporters, which is what I trained on way back when. And now the stories, or at least the ones used by my hometown newspaper, and opinion pieces masquerading as news reports, and sometimes not even bothering to masquerade. This week, two chains, Gannett (as in USA Today and other newspapers) and McClatchy, announced they were dropping AP, not for content reasons, but likely because of fundamentally changed business models. 


If you write on Substack, and a lot of writers have flocked to it, you’d do well to pay attention to the recent change in terms of service. And you may find your writing is not welcome, if you espouse particular viewpoints. 


More Good Reads




Tucson hospital, waiting room – James Matthew Wilson at New Criterion.


The Exeter Book: The WandererThe Seafarer, and Hail Earendel! – Cody Ilardo at Power & Glory. 


Joseph – G.K. Chesterton at The Imaginative Conservative. 


“Early in the Morning” by Robert Hillyer – Joseph Bottum at Poems Ancient and Modern.


Life concrete – Franco Amati at Garbage Notes.


Life and Culture


How Revolution Happens – and How to Stop It – Tucker Carlson at Modern Age.


Why Government is Always the Most Dangerous Source of Misinformation – Matt Taibbi at Racket News. 


Performative Offense – Samuel D. James at Digital Liturgies. 


The Coddling of the American Undergraduate – Rita Koganzon at The Hedgehog Review.




The Exemplary Art of Anne Marie Vallotton – Andrew Roycroft at Thinking Pastorally. 


Writing and Literature


The Virtue of Slow Writers – Lauren Alwan at The Millions.


News Media 


Google’s Woke AI Wasn’t a Mistake. We Know. We Were There – Francesca Block and Olivia Rheingold at The Free Press.


YouTube now requires creators to disclose when realistic content was made with AI – Aisha Malik at Tech Crunch.


If a Millennial is Born, and No One Records It on Their Phone, Do They Really Exist? – Samuel D. James at Digital Liturgies. 


The depressed press – Ben Domenech at The Spectator.


British Stuff


The Dioramas of Petticoat Lane – Spitalfields Life. 


The Audience Choir – Jacob Collier

Painting: Reading Priest, oil on canvas by Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1918).

Friday, March 22, 2024

They heard the word

fter Hebrews 4:1-13 

They heard the word,

the same word, but

it fell as seeds

in stony ground.

To hear and not need

is to be denied rest.


They saw the example;

they saw the evidence

of all the works, but

the seeds washed away

with the flooding water.

To see and not heed

is to be denied rest.


They watched as some

entered into rest from

their works, and they

hardened their hearts.

To watch and to know

and not heed is to be

denied rest.


To enter into rest

requires striving,

as the word lives,

sharp, piercing, 

identifying, knowing,

exposing. Without

striving, there is no



Photograph by Dogukan Sahin via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Some Friday Readings


She Says You Get What You Get – poem by Susan Cowger at Kingdom Poets.


All the Colors Of – poem by Adam Whipple at Rabbit Room Poetry.


Heroes of the Old West – Joseph Pearce at The Imaginative Conservative.


Eisenhower’s Grief – David Bannon at Front Porch Republic.


Letting Go – poem by David Whyte. 

Thursday, March 21, 2024

"The Maine Cottage" by Nicholas Rogers

James McNally is a former Marine who’s been working as a war photographer. He has plenty of work, unfortunately – Afghanistan, Iraq, other parts of the Middle East. But he’s been caught in a roadside IED explosion; several of the mend he was with were killed, and Jim nearly lost his leg. 

Even now, many months later, his leg is scarred and smaller than it should be. Walking is painful, but the doctors have told him that, the more he walks, the less painful it will become over time. He numbers the pain with prescription drugs and alcohol as he spends time recovering. And recovery is happening in a coastal cottage in Maine.


He has company. A former wat photographer turned fashion photographer is doing a nearby photo shoot with several models. A young Marine who serves in the Marine equivalent of the Navy Seals is on leave and preparing to return for his fourth deployment. 


Nicholas Rogers

The Maine Cottage
 by Nicholas Rogers looked at one point that it would sink into an endless round of parties with friends and fashion models, former Marines sharing (or not sharing) old stories and their experiences, and the women who might, or might not stand by them. And then it shifts, and the story develops into a discussion about war, war photography, how war changes people, and how participants deal with both physical and mental injuries. 


If you’ve had no war experiences of your own, you simply sit and read, knowing that what you’re seeing on the page is true and real, told through a fictional story.


Rogers has previously published two novels, 29th Street South and Tides of War. A former Marine himself, he spent 26 years as a firefighter, paramedic, and city emergency manager. After he retired, he became a consultant on weapons of mass destruction. He lives with his family in Florida.


The Maine Cottage is a sobering read. And a good story.


Some Thursday Readings


The singularity of speech – Wilfred M. McClay at New Criterion on the distinction between free speech & free expression.


The Backlist: Jonathan Kellerman on Returning to Margaret Millar and Ross Macdonald – Polly Stewart and MacDonald versus Macdonald by Rom Corbett, both at CrimeReads. 


Year of the Monarch: Butterfly Dreams – Laura Boggess at Tweetspeak Poetry.

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Literary and Other Kinds of Fiction

Wiseblood Books, which leans in the direction of being a Catholic publisher, has been issuing a series of novels and poetry collections that that interesting, thought-provoking, and broader than the idea of “Catholic publisher” might imply. Its novelists and poets include Dana Gioia, Marly Youmans, James Matthew Wilson, Samuel Hazo, Charles Hughes, Katy Carl, Sally Thomas, Glenn Arbery, R.R. Reno, and others.


What these writers have in common is that they write perceptively and unapologetically about faith, although it’s usually not that obvious. The fiction is serious, literary fiction; the poetry is just as serious, and just as literary. Both compare favorably to anything produced by mainstream, “secular” publishers. Wiseblood’s books aren’t out to score political points and tick the boxes of the latest social and cultural mania to seize the imaginations of what passes for America’s literary elites. 

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

Top photograph by Aman Upadhyay via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Some Wednesday Readings


Docuseries on the Nephilim to be released: Giants from the Bible, proof in the Golan Heights? – Walla! at Jerusalem Post.


Hospital Barge at Cerisy, poem by Wilfred Owen – Sally Thomas and Amit Majmudr at Poems Ancient and Modern.


The Arts Have Been Captured – Meghan Daum at The Unspeakable.


The Poignant Tale Behind a Celebrated Civil War Sketch – George Skoch at History.Net. 


The First Amendment Takes a Beating in the Supreme Court – Matt Taibbi at Racket News. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Poetry Becomes Theater: “The Last Days of Troy” by Simon Armitage

Britain’s poet laureate Simon Armitage has long been interested in myth and legend. He’s published retellings of Sir Gawain and the Green KnightThe Death of King ArthurThe Odyssey, and The Iliad, and he’s reached into the mists of medieval England to translate two famous poems, The Owl and the Nightingale and Pearl. What all of these works have in common is that they were originally created in poetry, the common language of myth.  

A few years ago, before he became poet laureate, his work with The Iliad led to the creation of a play, The Last Days of Troy. It was first performed at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester before moving to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London. Other productions have followed.


It’s a gripping piece of theater. It’s a griping piece of writing in general. Armitage doesn’t “improve upon” Homer; it’s more that he illuminates the great Greek story for a contemporary audience. 

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

Some Tuesday Readings


Another Day – poem by Jerry Barrett at Gerald the Writer.


Poetry Prompt: I’m in Charge of Celebrations – L.L. Barkat at Tweetspeak Poetry. 


A forgotten writer of Pere Lachaise – Anthony Daniels at New Criterion on Enrique Gomez Carillo. 


“March,” poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox – Joseph Bottum at Poems Ancient and Modern.

Monday, March 18, 2024

"Lovers at the Museum" by Isabel Allende

A night watchman at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, makes a startling discovery – a young man and woman are asleep in one of the galleries. They’re discovered in front of a metal sculpture entitled “Rising Sea” by the Ghanaian artist El Anatsui. The young man is naked; the young woman is wearing an elaborate bridal gown.  

Inspector Larramendi of the Bilbao police is one the case, except he’s not sure exactly what the case is about. No one knows how the lovers got through the locked doors; the couple say the door was open. They claim they were in the museum throughout the night and never saw a guard. The would-be bride had fled her wedding ceremony, sobbing. She found a young stranger, and the got exceedingly drunk. They both independently claim the museum had suddenly appeared in front of them, like a magician’s trick. 


They suspect the museum might be enchanted. Inspector Larramedi, the “Hound of Bilbao,” is inclined to agree. 


Isabel Allende

Lovers at the Museum
is a new short story by the acclaimed writer Isabel Allende, and the reader will be forgiven for thinking he or she has taken a step into magic realism. This might happen in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Macondo or the Lima of Mario Vargas Llosa (in fact, I was reminded of the telenovelas of Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter). The Guggenheim in Bilbao is a real museum, whose architectural style might be called “anti-architecture” or “melted metal.” The sculpture cited in the story is a real metal sculpture, and the inspector can be forgiven for at first thinking it’s a large curtain. 


Allende has previously published The House of the Spirits and some 25 other books. Born in Peru, raised in Chile, and now living in California, she founded a charitable foundation after her daughter died in 1996. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2014, and the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters in 2018. 


Some Monday Readings


What’s American Fiction Without the Short Story? – Lincoln Michel at Counter Craft.


The Farm Woman Speaks – Gracy Olmstead at Plough Quarterly on the novels of George Eliot.


Have the Liberal Arts Gone Conservative? – Emma Green at The New Yorker.


The Prophets: D.A. Henderson – Joe Nocera at The Free Press on how not to fight pandemics.