Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Poets and Poems: Paul Willis and "Losing Streak"

Free verse has reigned supreme in poetry for more than a century. It’s difficult for my contemporary mind to experience a formal, more traditional poem (the kind written for at least 3,000 years) as either “that’s how they used to write poems” or “this is going to be a humorous poem.” Rhyming poems seem to lend themselves to humor (think limericks), irony, or even popular songs. 

Yet I know full well that contemporary formalist poetry lives and flourishes; it’s even considered something of a movement. Simply read Dana Gioia, Mark Jarman, Brad Leithauser, or Mary Jo Salter, to mention only a few formalist poets. And Losing Streak, the new poetry collection by Paul Willis, falls comfortably into that category of formalism.

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

Some Tuesday Readings


Emily Dickinson was no recluse – Claire Lowdon at The Spectator.


Robert Frost’s accidental late start – Henry Oliver at The Common Reader.


Watching My Children Play in a Graveyard – poem by Shaun Duncan at Society of Classical Poets.


Rain on Us (A Sunday Psalm) – Jerry Barret at Gerald the Writer.


Three Poets Painting with Agnes Martin’s Brush – Heidi Seaborn at The Adroit Journal.


At Six Months – poem by Pia Purpura at Every Day Poems.

Monday, April 29, 2024

“T.S. Eliot: Culture and Anarchy” by James Matthew Wilson

From the beginning of his poetry and writing career, T.S. Eliot was considered of a similar mind as the poet and cultural critic Matthew Arnold (1822-1888). One of Arnold’s best-known works was Culture and Anarchy (1869), in which he presented culture (and poetry) as the replacement for religion as the bulwark against anarchy.  

However associated they may have been, Eliot spent a great deal of time and effort correcting what he saw as Arnold’s misunderstandings, especially about religion and the idea of culture substituting for it. The poet wasn’t so much in the business of substitution as he or she was in recovering the idea that it wasn’t only the natural that composed the world; it was also the supernatural, and it was the supernatural that had been lost.


In the 46-page essay (with 16 pages of notes) T.S. Eliot: Culture and Anarchy, poet and professor James Matthew Wilson explores the similarities and differences between Arnold and Eliot, explains where Eliot sought to correct what he saw as Arnold’s errors, and in the process provides an excellent introduction to Eliot, his poetry, and the thought that lies behind it. Wilson focuses on Eliot’s major poems – The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, the poem that made Eliot famous; The Waste Land, which solidified his poetic reputation; The Hollow Men; and Four Quartets, which likely played a major role in Eliot being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.


James Matthew Wilson

Wilson, the Cullen Foundation chair in English Literature and the founding director of the MFA program at University of St. Thomas in Houston, is both a poet and a poetry critic. His poems and articles are published in such magazines and journals as The New CriterionFront Porch RepublicHudson ReviewRaintown ReviewThe Weekly StandardDappled Things, and other literary and political publications. Her serves as poet-in-residence of the Benedict XVI Institute, scholar-in-residence of Aquinas College, editor of Colosseum Books, and poetry editor of Modern Age Magazine

He’s published 14 books, including his first full-length poetry collection, Some Permanent ThingsThe Catholic Imagination in Modern American Poetry (2014); The Fortunes of Poetry in an Age of Unmaking (2015); and The Vision of the Soul: Truth, Goodness, and Beauty in the Western Tradition (2017). The Hanging God: Poems was published in 2018. 

The publisher of Wilson’s monograph, Wiseblood Books, has published several of these essays in affordable editions. The essays cover a variety of authors and topics under the general heading of faith, culture, and literature.


James Matthew Wilson and The Hanging God.


James Matthew Wilson and Some Permanent Things.


James Matthew Wilson and The Strangeness of the Good.


Some Monday Readings


It Didn’t End with Lee’s Surrender at Appomattox, Part 1 and Part II – Tonya McQuade at Emerging Civil War.


George Ticknor: The autocrat of Park Street – Michael Connolly at The Imaginative Conservative. 


Bookish Diversions: The Puzzle of Publishing – Joel Miller at Miller’s Book Review.


Things Worth Remembering: Allan Bloom on the “Charmed Years of College” – Douglas Murray at The Free Press.


The London Data Store – A London Inheritance.

Sunday, April 28, 2024

The kind of Salem

After Hebrews 7:11-28

A few, fleeting references:

a blessing, a tithe, a king.

He was a king, not

a priest, and yet a priest,

who gave his name

to an order, an order

of one king, one priest,

one man, one man who

lived and died, one man

who gave his name

to one king, one priest,

one man who lived and

died and lived and lives

forever. It is the order

we are called to, the order

of Melchizedek.


Photograph by Pro Church Media via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Some Sunday Readings


Expectation – poem by Sarah Spradlin at Rabbit Room Poetry.


Song of the Week: “I Know That My Redeemer Lives” – C. Christopher Smith at The Conversational Life.


The Prophets: RenĂ© Girard – Cynthia Haven at The Free Press.


In Memoriam: Janet Reid. Literary Agent

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Saturday Good Reads - April 27, 2024

In 1874, a group of friends, fellow painters all, decided to hold an exhibition for their work, which wasn’t exactly accepted by the art world’s mandarins at the time. They didn’t know what to call themselves; a writer, Emile Zola, associated with them, suggested the name “the Actualists.” It didn’t stick. A critic, intending an insult, called them another name. This time it stuck, or the painters embraced it. Michael Prodger at The Critic Magazine considers the first exhibition of the Impressionists held 150 years ago on April 15, 1874. 

Hilary Cass, a highly regarded British pediatrician, was asked by the National Health Service in England to review gender care, following a scandal involving the NHS’s medical hospital that performed such care (it’s been suspended). Her report, based on extensive review of studies, practices, and other data, was not favorable. As The Free Press reported, the UK mistreated kids with gender dysphoria for years. The reaction from gender care supporters was not unexpected. A few members of Parliament called the review inaccurate and “unforgivable.” Cass herself discovered she can no longer travel on public transport in London. Helen Saxby at The Critic Magazine asks where is so much gender confusion coming from? Rebecca McLaughlin at The Gospel Coalition gives a succinct summary of the Cass study. And Scotland has now also suspended treatments for children.


There’s a new term in town – reverse gaslighting. This is when authorities attempt to convince you that what you know is crazy is actual normal. Roger Kimball at The Spectator describes it.


More Good Reads




The Jews Who Didn’t Leave Egypt – Alana Newhouse at Table Magazine.


Camping Out at Columbia’s Communist Coachella – Olivia Reingold at The Free Press.


Behind the mask: Why the new US campus protestors cover their faces – David Weigel at Semafor.


British Stuff


And Did Those Feet? In search of the English Soul – Paul Kingsnorth at The Abbey of Misrule. 


The enigma of Englishness – Luca Johnson at The Critic Magazine.


American Stuff


Webster’s Dictionary 1828: Annotated – Liz Tracey at JSTOR Daily.


The Last Witness to the Shot Heard Round the World – John Kaag at Time Magazine.


Writing and Literature


Writer, Treat Your Words as Offerings – Kathryn Butler at Story Warren.


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


A Pair of Moles: Robert Penn Warren & William Styron – Robert Cheeks at The Imaginative Conservative.


Life and Culture


The Intifada Comes to America: Now What? – Frank Miele at Real Clear Politics.


Kids Are Giving Up on Elite Colleges – and Heading South – Eric Spitznagel at The Free Press. 


Toxic: How the search for the origins of COVID-19 turned politically poisonous – Dave Kang and Maria Cheng at Associated Press.




Climate Anxiety Paralyzes. Gospel Hope Propels – Andrew Spencer at The Gospel Coalition. 


Devotions and the professional life – Thomas Kidd at Thomas Kidd’s Substack.


“Why All the TVs? The Death of Attention and Our Loss of Ability to Listen” – Bryan Schneider at Gentle Reformation. 


News Media


The Rise of Independent Journalism – Alison Hill at Writer’s Digest.




Love (III), poem by George Herbert – Sally Thomas at Poems Ancient and Modern.


I Believe – Phil Wickham

Painting: Woman Reading, oil on canvas (1885) by Childe Hassam (1859-1935).

Friday, April 26, 2024

The oath

After Hebrews 6:13-20

The promise was

accompanied by

an oath, to know

that it was true,

and real, and it

would happen.


The oath bridged 

the promise and

the moment, 

because we are

frail, inclined 

to impatience and

the demands 

of now.


The oath reminded

of what had been 

promised before

and delivered. 

The oath means

the promise will

not be forsaken. 


Photograph by Cytonn Photography via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Some Friday Readings


Of Death and Resurrection – poem by William Strode at Kingdom Poets (D.S. Martin). 


When I Don’t Love My Body – Lara D’Entremont at A Faithful Imagination. 


Slow Happiness – Seth Lewis.


Optimistic Denominationalism – Tim Challies.


Poems to Listen By: Buoyancies – 1: Casting Off – Laurie Klein at Tweetspeak Poetry.

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Joseph and the Grace of Forgiveness

The entire spring issue of Cultivating Oaks is devoted to the theme of grace. Published are stories by Lancia Smith, Malcolm Guite, Annie Nardone, Junius Johnson, Adam Nettesheim, Amy Malskeit, Steven Garber, Corey Latta, Tom Darin Liskey, Nicole Howe, Amelia Freidline, Lara D’Entremont, and several others. 

For me, reading a very familiar Bible story – the account of Joseph in the Book of Genesis – led me in an unexpected direction of grace. You can read the story, “Joseph and the Grace of Forgiveness,” at Cultivating Oaks Press. 


Photograph by Michael Olsen via Unsplash. Used with permission.

"Looking Good Dead" by Stephen Puleston

Detective Inspector Ian Drake of the North Wales Police Service is back from his honeymoon in Tenerife. And his first day in the office, he gets a murder case tossed in his lap. 

A well-heeled local businesswoman is found hanged in her clothing shop, one of the many businesses she operates. She’s dressed in 1930s clothes; she and her husband were known for hosting charitable fundraisers with 1930s themes. As Drake and team soon discover, they were also known for histing “spinoff parties,” also known as mate-swapping or swinger parties. 


Drake discovers a long list of suspects. The husband has a motive, as does at least two now-divorced participants in the spinoff parties. And the killer seems to be relishing the attention to the case and helps it along by sending photographs of the dead woman to news media. A second murder occurs, and this time the killer takes photographs of the police at the crime scene, sending them to the personal attention of DI Drake.


Stephen Puleston

Looking Good Dead
 is the 12th novel in the DI Ian Drake mystery series by Welsh author Stephen Puleston. It’s a well-plotted story about a police detective with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Drake has progressed since the first novel, when his OCD was threatening his marriage to a doctor (and would eventually lead to his divorce). He’s being helped greatly by the woman who’s become his new wife.


What I hadn’t previously noticed was that Puleston has written the Drake stories in such a way that the OCD is literally part of the narrative. Descriptions of characters are very detailed and precise, as are the descriptions of how Drake and his team travel to different locations, with precise highway designations, speeds, roadway obstacles, bridges, and tunnels. It’s as if Drake himself is overseeing the writing to make sure it meets his expectations.


Puleston publishes two series of Welsh police detective stories. Detective Inspector Ian Drake is with the North Wales Police Service, and Detective Inspector John Marco is with the South Wales Police Service. The author originally trained and practiced as a; solicitor/lawyer. He also attended the University of London. He lives in Wales, very close to where his fictional hero lives and works.




My review of Written in Blood.


My review of A Time to Kill.


My review of Another Good Killing.


My review of Brass in Pocket.


My review of Worse than Dead.


My review of Against the Tide.


My review of Devil’s Kitchen.


My review of Dead Smart.


My review of Speechless.


My review of A Cold Dark Heart.


My review of A Cold Dark Heart.


My review of Dead and Gone by Stephen Puleston.


My review of Time to Die by Stephen Puleston.


My review of Stone Cold Dead by Stephen Puleston.


Some Thursday Readings


The Heyday of Pulp Fiction – Keith Roysdon at CrimeReads.


Rejected by a Robot: You Aren’t the Writer These Droids Are Looking For – David Murray at Writing Boots.


Tradition and the Truth That Anchors Us – Michael De Sapio at The Imaginative Conservative.


Looking Back at the End of Blue & Gray – Sean Michael Chick at Emerging Civil War.

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

The Things That Shape Our Writing

I read last week that Netflix has attempted to do what I thought was impossible – turn One Hundred Years of Solitude into a 16-episode television series. 

I first read One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez when I was in college in the early 1970s. It had been translated into English and published in the U.S., and I bought the paperback edition at the LSU Union Bookstore. It might have been near exam time; I had a habit of buying riveting novels at exam time, when I should have been studying.

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

Some Wednesday Readings


A Note to a Writer on Writing into the Dark – Harvey Stanbrough at Harvey’s (Almost) Daily Journal.


Remembering the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, 81 Years Later – David Unsworth at Fox News.


Whodunnit? The Strange Case of Shakespeare’s Will – Joseph Pearce at The Imaginative Conservative. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Poets and Poems: Jen Karetnick and "Inheritance with a High Error Rate"

I’ve read several of Jen Karetnick’s poetry collections over the years, and I’ve come to expect an expert eye for image and metaphor. With five poetry collections, poems published in a host of literary journals and magazines, and several prizes for her work, you would expect her to know how to use words and language. Yet she always manages to go beyond the expected, with images that intrigue, challenge, sometimes jar the mind.


Her latest collection, Inheritance with a High Error Rate, does not disappoint. Whether she’s writing about a deceased brother, the symphony of a tropical storm, selling a waterfront home in Miami or 10 things you don’t know about the city, or being followed by @Death on X (formerly Twitter), she surprises and delights with how she makes sense out of marrying two very different ideas or words together.

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

Some Tuesday Readings


Be Mindful – poem by Paul Wittenberger at Paul’s Substack.


Poetry Prompt: How Does Your Garden Grow? – L.L. Barkat at Tweetspeak Poetry.


Sonnet 98 by William Shakespeare – Sally Thomas at Poems Ancient and Modern.

Monday, April 22, 2024

“In That Sleep of Death” by Jonathan Dunsky

I can’t make up my mind here. Is In that Sleep of Death, the latest Adam Lapid story by Israeli author Jonathan Dunsky, a mystery or a literary novel? The obvious answer is that it’s some of both. 

It’s 1952. Lapid is a private investigator based in Tel Aviv. He has a painful past – a police detective in Hungary who, with his wife mother, and two daughters, was sent to Auschwitz in 1944 for the crime of being Jewish. He is the family’s only survivor. 


For a time after the war, he hunted former Nazis in Europe, quietly and effectively exacting justice. He emigrated to Israel in time for the 1948 War of Independence, in which he was seriously wounded after a heroic action to save his unit from Egyptian gunners. Now he’s a private detective; he bears no great regard for the police, as it was the Hungarian police who herded his family into a boxcar.


Sometimes, after nightmares leave him unable to sleep, Lapid wanders the streets of Tel Aviv. And so one night he sees a fellow night wanderer and feels a kinship, even though the two never speak. It’s Lapid who finds the man’s body and calls it in anonymously to the police, and it’s Lapid who takes on his own investigation after the police come up short. And his investigation takes him into the stories of pre-war Jewish Poland, the Holocaust, and contemporary frauds. And it make be taking him into unexpected romance.


Jonathan Dunsky

Dunsky is best known for his Adam Lapid mystery stories, with eight published: Ten Years GoneThe Dead Sister, The Auschwitz ViolinistA Debt of Death, A Deadly Act, The Auschwitz DetectiveA Death in Jerusalem, and now In That Sleep of Death. He’s also published 
The Favor: A Tale of Friendship and MurderFamily TiesTommy’s Touch: A Fantasy Love Story; the short story “The Unlucky Woman,” and other works. He was born in Israel, served four years in the Israeli Army, lived in Europe for several years, and currently lives in Israel with his family. He has worked in various high-tech firms and operated his own search optimization business.


In That Sleep of Death is a fine mystery, but it’s also something I hadn’t noticed before in Dunsky’s books – it’s something of a literary novel as well. It has a Kafkaesque beginning, the wandering of empty nighttime streets. It has the overall feel of a literary novel, and yet it’s clearly a detective mystery, not unlike the novels of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. Dunsky has produced a good story, an intriguing mystery, and a solid literary effort.




My review of Ten Years Gone by Jonathan Dunsky.


My review of The Unlucky Woman by Jonathan Dunsky.


My review of The Dead Sister by Jonathan Dunsky.


My review of The Auschwitz Violinist by Jonathan Dunsky.


My review of A Debt of Death by Jonathan Dunsky.


My review of A Deadly Act by Jonathan Dunsky.


My review of Grandma Rachel’s Ghosts by Jonathan Dunsky.


My review of The Auschwitz Detective by Jonathan Dunsky.


My review of A Death in Jerusalem by Jonathan Dunsky.


Some Monday Readings


The Rise of the Cyber City – Walter Russell Mead at Tablet Magazine.


Post Office Tower and Tower Tavern – A London Inheritance.


Charles Spurgeon’s Londoners – Spitalfields Life.


Things Worth Remembering: ‘We Will Fight with Stones in Our Hands’ – Douglas Murray at The Free Press on Golda Meir’s speech in 1948.

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Why trust?

After Hebrews 6:13-20


Why trust, you ask,

why believe that

a promise made

eons ago will be

delivered? Time passes,

cries made in pain

seem met with



I tell you this:

the promise will come,

the promise is coming.

It was made

with an oath; 

it was made with

perfect character;

it was made with

the sacrifice

of the son. 

Photograph by Jannis Lucas via Unsplash. Used with permission

Some Sunday Readings


Debunking Four Retirement Myths – Kristin Brown at the Institute for Faith, Work, & Economics. 


Poetry: The Spiritual Terrain of David Middleton – James Matthew Wilson at The Catholic World Report.


Rome Is Not Our Home: Live Counterculturally During Election Season – Pete Nicholas at The Gospel Coalition.


Saturday, April 20, 2024

Saturday Good Reads - April 20, 2024

I’m sure the people at National Public Radio feel like they’ve had better weeks. After business editor Uri Berliner’s essay in The Free Press last week, NPR CEO Katherine Maher suspended him for five days without pay. Then Berliner resigned. The conservative and independent press took a look at Maher and her history on social media, including what was called her “guide to the holidays.” Stephen Miller at The Spectator asked where all of Berliner’s defenders in the news media might be, while Matt Taibbi at Racket News took both The New York Times and NPR to task for burying the story’s lede. And Jonathan Turley at The Hill asked the biggest question overall (in my humble opinion): Should NPR rely on listeners rather than taxpayers like you? 

Boeing’s woes continue, with another whistleblower testifying about safety problems with the 777 and the 787 Dreamliner (like what we usually fly when we go to London). Maureen Tkacik at The American Prospect took a look at the revised statement by the whistleblower found dead of an alleged self-inflicted gunshot wound. And she describes what Boeing did to the guys who remember how to build a plane. And I keep thinking, this is Boeing!


Netflix has done what I thought was impossible: created a movie version of One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. You can watch the trailer here


More Good Reads




How Did the War Begin? With Iran’s Appeasers in Washington – Michael Oren at The Free Press.


Leonard Cohen: Hippie Troubadour and Forgotten Reactionary – Simon Lewson at The Walrus reviews Who by Fire by Matti Friedman. 


Passover 5784, reliving ancient history – David Horowitz at The Times of Israel.


Life and Culture


Inside the disinformation industry – Freddie Sayers at UnHerd.




James Matthew Wilson on Bookmaking – Let Go the Goat. 


Wobbly, I am – John Kerrigan at London Review of Books on The Letters of Seamus Heaney, edited by Christopher Reid.


“Break, Break, Break,” poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson – Joseph Bottum at Poems Ancient and Modern.


Writing and Literature


Anthony Horowitz on Giving Himself a Role in His Latest Mystery – John Valeri at Crime Reads.


Think AI Is Bad for Authors? The Worst is Yet to Come – Mike Trigg at Writer’s Digest


Faith and Russian Literature – Gary Saul Morson at First Things Magazine.


Eugene Vodolazkin on the Puppeteering of History – Joshua Hren at Church Life Journal.




It’s Okay to Be a Two-Talent Christian – Tim Challies.


Your Faith is Secondhand – T.M. Suffield at Nuakh.


American Stuff


Taps: How a Medal of Honor Recipient Gave America Its Most Famous Military Bugle Call Ever – Stephen Ruiz at Military.com. 


British Stuff


In the Roof of St. Paul’s – Spitalfields Life. 


Sancte Michael – Gregorian Chant by Gloriae Dei Cantores

Painting: Reading the Standard, oil on canvas by Charles Spencelayh (1865-1958).