In this Dialogue podcast Patrick Mason discusses "Religion, Violence, and Peace: A Latter Day Saint View." From the Miller Eccles website: For more than a decade, the bestselling book on Mormonism has been Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven. Krakauer suggests that Mormonism offers an excellent case study for telling “a story of violent faith.” It is true that Mormonism — like virtually every other religious tradition — has a history of violence, both perpetrated and received. How do we understand the propensity of religious believers to commit violence, and how do we harness the power of religion in the service of peace and justice? Looking at a number of case studies, but focusing especially on Mormonism, this presentation will consider the complicated relationship of religion, violence, and peace, and offer suggestions as to how Mormonism might trade its violent past for a more peaceful future.
Resisting Interpretation Lisa Bickmore. Ephemerist. Sante Fe, N.Mex: Red Mountain Press, 2017. 74 pp. Paper: $18.95. Reviewed by Bert Fuller. Appeared in Dialogue, Spring 2018. Ephemerist, n.: (1) after the Greek word for day, a journal keeper; (2) a collector of ephemera (see archivist); (3) an inventor of ephemera (see capitalist); (4) a devotee of ephemera (see nudist); (5) one who privileges ephemera (see nepotist); (6) a scientist whose subject is ephemera (see mycologist). What follows is a lecture on three samples from a known ephemerist.
“Let’s Get Lost”Bickmore resists interpretation. She draws you in, leaves you tingling or still, and sets your mind wandering. No conclusions, no closures to the verse, except her Emersonian epigraph that “Dream delivers us to dream, and there is no end to illusion.” “Let’s Get Lost” opens with the crack of billiards on a November night in rural Vermont. Bickmore is by herself, “so I could have the loneliness I craved.” Late in the poem she reveals that she had been there twenty years before with her children and “the man who was my husband.” Presumably the husband is no more, yet the spot remains where they had shared dinner over a fire. “I am lost,” she writes, “at the mouth of the canyon / closed with a gate.” The closed gate says: “Enough. . . with emphasis.” The poem centers on the fact (call it “fiction” if you like) that for Bickmore to “get lost” means going to a place you’ve already been, not somewhere entirely strange. This space between familiar and unknown is where losing oneself is possible, and, if I may make a suggestion without elaborating at length, it is the space that the whole of literature traverses. It is the twilight of consciousness between waking and sleep, and in pieces like “Let’s Get Lost” Bickmore excels at its articulation.
Opening Invisible Doors: Considering Heavenly Mother Rachel Hunt Steenblik. Mother’s Milk: Poems in Search of Heavenly Mother. Illustrated by Ashley Mae Hoiland. Salt Lake City: By Common Consent Press, 2017. Paper: $9.95. Reviewed by Kristen Eliason. Appeared in Dialogue, Spring 2018. Mother’s Milk: Poems in Search of Heavenly Mother is a collection of poems written by Rachel Hunt Steenblik and illustrated by Ashley Mae Hoiland. Divided into four sections and armed with nearly thirty pages of notes, the work of this book appears to be two-fold: first, to enter into a discoveratory conversation about the nature of Heavenly Mother, and second, an outcropping of the research Steenblik conducted for the scholarly article “‘A Mother There’: A Survey of Historical Teachings about Mother in Heaven.”1 Indeed, the epigraph from Kierkegaard sets the stage for what the reader expects to be a deep poetic dive into the nature of a Heavenly Mother and the relationship between the deity and the writer. However, the following 200+ short poems (often three to a page) accomplish little more than cursory observations of a feminine divine. The poem, “Sometimes” muses:
Sometimes I just need my Mama.
(Sometimes it is hard for Her to be so needed.) (18)
As the Savor: The Poetry of R. A. Christmas R. A. Christmas. Saviors on Mt. Disneyland: New and Collected Poems. Self-published, Lulu, 2017. 180 pp. Paper: $20.00. Reviewed by Dennis Clark. Appeared in Dialogue, Spring 2018. If you have never read a poem by Bob Christmas, this book is your chance to catch up. Take it. If you have read poems by Bob Christmas, this book is your chance to enjoy yourself all over again. Plunge in. If you have no interest in reading poems by Bob Christmas, it’s only because you haven’t yet read any. This review is your introduction. I like reading poems by Bob Christmas. This is not because they are pretty, fluffy, light-filled evocations of young love, true faith, or the beauty of nature. You do not inhale fresh mountain air through these poems. Reading a Christmas poem is more akin to changing a flat tire on your Ford Fairlane in the grit of the shoulder of I-15 as eighteen-wheelers and giant RVs whizz by just past your butt, and you have to breathe their exhaust. But the experience is exhilarating, and you are glad to escape alive with your aesthetic sensibilities intact. And when you continue down the road, it’s with a greater appreciation of the journey.
A Philosophical Portrait in Pieces Steven L. Peck. Gilda Trillim: Shepherdess of Rats. Winchester, UK: Roundfire Books, 2017. 272 pp. Paper: $21.95. Reviewed by Rachel Kirkwood. Appeared in Dialogue, Spring 2018. It has now been months since I rst made the acquaintance of Gilda Trillim, but even now I must admit that I do not completely understand her. However, I do not view this as a failure of the novel that bears her name, nor of my comprehension of it. For Steven L. Peck’s Gilda Trillim: Shepherdess of Rats—a generic chimera that is part character study, part academic satire, and part philosophical treatise—is not your average book club fare. In it we are presented not with a storyline or even literary characters in their conventional form, but with an “Academic Work Disguised as a Novel Disguised as an Academic Work”—an amateur source biography on Trillim compiled by fictional graduate student Kattrim Mender. As we sift through the letters, journal entries, gossip columns, magazine articles, novel excerpts, and interviews collected here, a rough image of Trillim emerges but never solidifies. Each vignette reveals a different side of this enigmatic gure: one moment she is a Western girl from a potato farm in Idaho, the next she is an avant-garde poet, the next a professional badminton player, the next a supplicant studying at a Soviet monastery, and still later a POW in Vietnam. Just when you think you may have finally pinned down her character, she takes an unexpected turn. Her life is less easily described than listed, a constellation of competing experiences and character traits that inhere within one body-shaped ecosystem.
Our Artistic Potential The Mormon Arts Center. The Kimball Challenge at Fifty: Mormon Arts Center Essays. New York: The Mormon Arts Center, 2017. 156 pp. Paper: $16.95. Reviewed by Jacob Bender. Appeared in Dialogue, Spring 2018. The occasion for this slim new volume of essays is the fiftieth anniversary of Spencer W. Kimball’s “Education for Eternity” talk, delivered to Brigham Young University faculty at the commencement of fall semester 1967. Although the majority of the talk centered on bringing “the Spirit of the Master” into the classroom, it was Kimball’s concluding remarks—which, according to Richard Bushman, were spoken almost as an afterthought—that proved to have the most influential afterlife: “Could there be among us embryo poets and novelists like Goethe?” Kimball asked. “Can there never be another Michelangelo?” He went on to ask if we could produce Wagners, Bachs, and Shakespeares of our own, or an oratorio even better than Handel’s Messiah. Kimball’s questions were interpreted by many as a sort of artistic call to arms for Zion to rise up and not only match but exceed the world in the realms of aesthetic achievement. It was not the first time a General Authority had waxed rhapsodic on our artistic potential. We had been hearing since the nineteenth century that, with our greater light and knowledge, “We will yet have Miltons and Shakespeares of our own”—though we always felt a slight twinge of disappointment whenever we learned that this prophecy hadn’t been uttered by Brigham Young or John Taylor, but Orson F. Whitney, one of the lesser-known apostles; there was always this quiet, nagging fear that the prophecy was false and our faith was vain. But lo, Kimball did become a full-fledged prophet, seer, and revelator, and so his words carried all the more heft and authority. Hence, when this portion of the talk was later reprinted in a 1977 Ensign article (the afterthought was now the centerpiece), Kimball’s challenge became imbued with the power of a prophetic pronouncement. The Church’s artists felt not only challenged, not only encouraged, but called to their work.
Book Review: Sandra Clark Jergensen and Shelah Mastny Miner, eds. Seasons of Change: Stories of Transition
Gender Structures within Seasons of Change: Stories of Transition Sandra Clark Jergensen and Shelah Mastny Miner, eds. Seasons of Change: Stories of Transition. El Cerrito, Calif.: Peculiar Press, 2017. 264 pp. Paper: $19.99. Reviewed by Mei Li Inouye. Appeared in Dialogue, Spring 2018. Aptly titled, Seasons of Change: Stories of Transition is a well-curated collection of prose and poetry featuring a specific demographic of Mormon women who read and contribute to the literary journal and blog Segullah. Eleven thoughtfully arranged categories containing fifty-eight voices capture a diversity of experiences that occasionally touch on issues of class, sexual orientation, ability, race, and ethnicity,(1) but primarily plumb the life and death observations and gendered experiences of a middle-class swath of well-educated, able-bodied, heteronormative, married women from different age groups and North American geographies (their rare references to race or ethnicity also suggest racial homogeneity among them). A unique ethnographic case study for analyzing the boundaries, values, and negotiations of this specific demographic of Mormon women, this collection makes a valuable contribution in its exploration of what it means to be such a Mormon woman and how such women negotiate the gendered structures and roles containing them.
5 hours 23 minutes ago