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Do you want to contribute to meaningful conversations about art, creativity, and Christian faith? Are you a thoughtful, curious, careful reader? Would you like the opportunity to grow as a writer?
If you answered yes to these three questions, we want to hear from you. The Ink & Letters blog was established in part so that we can review recent books by writers working at the intersection of art and faith. Currently we have books of nonfiction and poetry available for review; future titles may include works of fiction or art books.
If you are interested in writing a review for us, please send an email to email@example.com. Include a brief statement about your interest in this opportunity, your writing experience (including any publication credits or previous experience reviewing books), and your preferred genre.
Named after the double-faced Roman god Janus, who looks backward and forward, the month of January prompts us to both reflect on the previous year and look ahead at what a new year might hold--an effect that's inevitably heightened in a year of presidential transition and seems more fraught than ever this time around.
At Ink & Letters we've looked back at 2016 with gratitude for the wonderful writers and artists who shared their work with us, and for the readers who subscribed and shared the magazine with others. We pause now to acknowledge six outstanding writers whose work we nominated for inclusion in the annual Puschart Prize anthology, which honors and collects "the best of the small presses." Our Pushcart nominees include:
- "The Plaza of Good Success" by John Poch (poem, issue 3)
- "Inflated Worth" by Laurie Jean Cannady (nonfiction, issue 3)
- "Copper" by Joshua M. Hren (fiction, issue 3)
- "In My Defense" by D. G. Geis (poem, issue 4)
- "For When You Cannot Shower" by Marci Rae Johnson (poem, issue 4)
- "Gaze, Shift, Repeat" by Ellen Estilai (nonfiction, issue 4)
We also look ahead to producing two new issues in the coming year, starting with our spring issue, themed "In Black & White." Whatever else 2017 brings, we believe it will also bring art and writing that stirs us to look backward and forward, within and without.
Issue 4 of Ink & Letters is almost ready to go to the printer, and we're thrilled to offer a sneak peek of what you'll find in its pages. We selected the theme "Perspective" for the issue, and our contributors have delivered art and writing that invites us to see the world anew from diverse vantage points. Erin Wilson's whimsical cover art is one example. Here are a few more hints of what's to come:
Twenty-six years after fleeing the Iranian Revolution, a mother returns to Tehran with her daughters in Ellen Estilai's memoir essay "Gaze, Shift, Repeat." Poet D.G. Geis puts an organ grinder's monkey on the witness stand in "In My Defense," a poem whose humor and wordplay lead to surprising questions about human nature. Angela Doll Carlson gets a wakeup call in "Cancer Cures Everything." And we are honored to publish a moving elegy for the late poet Brett Foster, "For When You Cannot Shower," by Marci Rae Johnson.
That's just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. There's also exciting new writing from Alexa Albanese, Johnie Catfish, Charity Gingerich, Linda Flaherty Haltmaier, and Cameron Alexander Lawrence, plus arresting art by Carlos Guana, Allison Kentle, Nick Oxford, Caron L. Warner, and Stephen Whitmore.
To order Ink & Letters issue 4, or to take advantage of our August-only subscription bundle, head over to our shop.
Back in June we created the Ink & Letters Summer Reading List, consisting of books several of our contributors and friends recommend that everyone read. We've also been sharing what books several of them were looking forward to reading themselves. If you need to catch up, here are links to the summer reading selections of poet Juan Morales, activist and essayist D.L. Mayfield, and poet John Poch. Today we're sharing the fourth post in this series.
Laurie Jean Cannady's memoir essay "Inflated Worth" was published in I&L issue 3. Cannady shared four titles from her summer to-read list:
- The Telling by Zoe Zolbrod
- God Is Able by Priscilla Shirer
- Words or Water by Li Yun Alvarado
- The Complete Artist's Way: Creativity as a Spiritual Practice by Julia Cameron
Dr. Laurie Jean Cannady has published articles and essays on poverty in America, community and domestic violence, and women's issues. Her memoir, Crave: Sojourn of a Hungry Soul was named one of the best nonfiction books by black authors in 2015 by The Root online magazine. Dr. Cannady currently resides in central Pennsylvania with her husband and three children. She teaches English at Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania. Follow her on Twitter here.
When we constructed the Ink & Letters Summer Reading List, we asked several of our contributors and friends to recommend books they think everyone should read. We also asked several of them to share what books they were looking forward to reading themselves. In case you missed it, we shared poet Juan Morales's summer reading picks here. Earlier this week we shared the books on activist and author D.L. Mayfield's summer reading list.Today we roll out the third post in this series.
John Poch, whose poems "Horses & Sawhorses" and "The Plaza of Good Success" appeared in I&L issue 3, shared three titles he's reading this summer. Here they are:
Dodgers by Bill Beverly
- Hard Scrabble by John Graves
- The Colossus and Other Poems by Sylvia Plath
John Poch's most recent book, Fix Quiet, won the 2014 New Criterion Poetry Prize.
When we constructed the Ink & Letters Summer Reading List, we asked several of our contributors and friends to recommend books they think everyone should read. We also asked several of them to share what books they were looking forward to reading themselves. In case you missed it, we shared poet Juan Morales's summer reading picks here. Today we roll out the second post in this series.
D.L. Mayfield, author of the forthcoming book of essays Assimilate or Go Home: Notes from a Failed Missionary on Rediscovering Faith (which is already garnering rave reviews and is due out August 16 from HarperOne), included five books on her to-read list this summer. Here they are:
- Still Life by Louise Penny
- No Parking at the End Times by Bryan Bliss
- The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society by Henri Nouwen
- Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon
- Amends: A Novel by Eve Tushnet
D.L. Mayfield lives and writes in Portland, OR with her husband and two small children. Mayfield likes to write about refugees, theology, and downward mobility, among other topics. She has written for places as varied as McSweeneys, Christianity Today, Image Journal, and The Toast.
When we constructed the Ink & Letters Summer Reading List, we asked several of our contributors and friends to recommend books they think everyone should read. We also asked several of them to share what books they were looking forward to reading themselves.
Poet Juan Morales, whose poem "For the Tiled Floor" appeared in I&L issue 3, included seven books on his list of books to read this summer. Here they are:
- Don't Let Me Be Lonely by Claudia Rankine
- The Yearning Feed by Manuel Paul López
- Roll Deep by Major Jackson
- Sorrow of the Warrior Class by Raza Ali Hasan
- Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
- Between Hurricanes by Jennifer Rane Hancock
- Mortal Trash by Kim Addonizio
Juan Morales is the author of the new collection of poetry, The Siren World (Lithic Press) and Friday and the Year That Followed (Bedbug Press). His poems have recently appeared in Poet Lore, Huizache, Origins, Ostrich Review, and are forthcoming from Hayden's Ferry Review, Mas Tequila Review, Pank, and Duende. He is a CantoMundo Fellow, the Editor of Pilgrimage Magazine, and an Associate Professor of English at Colorado State University-Pueblo, where he directs the Creative Writing Program and curates the SoCo Reading Series.
Summer is a season of SWIMMING pools, fireworks, suntans and sunburns. It's also a time to catch up with old friends and good books.
Need some help putting your summer reading list together? We asked several friends and contributors to I&L to provide a few recommendations.
- Redeployment by Phil Klay // recommended by Andrew Armond
- Citizen by Claudia Rankine // recommended by Laurie Jean Cannady
- The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber // recommended by D.L. Mayfield
- Wanted: A Spiritual Pursuit Through Jail, Among Outlaws, and Across Borders by Chris Hoke // recommended by D.L. Mayfield
- A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James // recommended by Juan Morales
- Bastards of the Reagan Era by Reginald Dwayne Betts // recommended by Juan Morales
- The Odyssey // recommended by John Poch
- Questions of Travel by Elizabeth Bishop // recommended by John Poch
- Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living by Krista Tippett // recommended by Glenn Sanders
Below, read why each of these books were especially recommended:
I’m recommending the book Redeployment by Phil Klay. This is a collection of 12 short stories written in 12 different voices, but each of which speaks to a soldier’s experience in the Iraq War. Klay himself is a combat veteran, a Marine who served in Anbar province during the 2007-2008 Surge. This book won the National Book Award for Fiction in 2014.
My previous experience with war literature was mainly through teaching Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried every year in a Western Civ class. O’Brien, of course, is a masterful writer, not just a soldier recording memories, who tells stories in an artful way that recreates the emotional landscape of what it was like to be a soldier in Vietnam.
What O’Brien did for Vietnam, Phil Klay does for Iraq. Every page of this book is layered, textured, and brutal narrative. Klay writes not only of the moral ambiguity of war, the extreme fatigue and confusion, but also recreates the incredibly disorienting and often violent experience of returning home in prose that is spare and haunting. Take this example:
“So here’s an experience. Your wife takes you shopping in Wilmington. Last time you walked down a city street, your Marine on point went down the side of the road, checking ahead and scanning the roofs across from him. The Marine behind him checks the windows on the top levels of the buildings, the Marine behind him gets the windows a little lower, and so on down until your guys have the street level covered, and the Marine in back has the rear. In a city there’s a million places they can kill you from. It freaks you out at first. But you go through like you were trained, and it works.
“In Wilmington, you don’t have a squad, you don’t have a battle buddy, you don’t even have a weapon. You startle 10 times checking for it and it’s not there. You’re safe, so your alertness should be at white, but it’s not.
“Instead, you’re stuck in an American Eagle Outfitters. Your wife gives you some clothes to try on and you walk into the tiny dressing room. You close the door, and you don’t want to open it again.”
One of the most striking chapters in the book is a first-person account written from an Army Chaplain’s perspective. It’s an amazing piece of work, hitting on the theological, practical, moral, and political ambiguities of war. There is a character in that chapter, Rodriguez, who is struggling with the fact that he’s killed a civilian, or at least someone he thinks might have been a civilian—it’s really hard to tell. Rodriguez is a Catholic, and he comes to the priest with his concern about hell. The Chaplain writes in his journal:
“I had at least thought there would be nobility in war. I know it exists. There are so many stories, and some of them have to be true. But I see mostly normal men, trying to do good, beaten down by horror, by their inability to quell their own rages, by their masculine posturing and their so-called hardness, their desire to be tougher, and therefore crueler, than their circumstance. And yet, I have this sense that this place is holier than back home. Gluttonous, fat, oversexed, overconsuming, materialist home, where we’re too lazy to see our own faults. At least here, Rodriguez has the decency to worry about hell. The moon is unspeakably beautiful tonight. Ramadi is not. Strange that people live in such a place.”
I think it’s really important for us to read war literature. I think it’s a civic duty for those of us who haven’t or will not serve: we need to understand what goes on in the wars we fight overseas, and we need to understand what soldiers undergo, both the literal battles and the emotional battles fought back home. This is a book that’s incredibly foul-mouthed, emotional, difficult, funny, horrifying, and cleansing, and it is thus a humanizing and spiritual experience to read.
Andrew Armond, PhD, is a chaplain and religion teacher at the Episcopal School of Acadiana.
Laurie Jean Cannady
Claudia Rankine's Citizen is a must-read, especially in our current political and social climate. It's a stunningly lyrical, "can't put it down" book. Yet, I have had to put it down, often, because the reality of our current situation, penned eloquently by Rankine, is so difficult to digest, it must be consumed slowly and with much reflection.
Laurie Jean Cannady, PhD, is a Professor of English at Lock Haven University. Her memoir Crave: Sojourn of a Hungry Soul was named one of the best nonfiction books by black authors in 2015 by The Root online magazine.
The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber—part sci-fi missionary tale, part literary exploration on marriage and vocation, this novel is beautifully written and will make you think about both the ethics of conversion and the implications of the collapse of the world as we know it.
Wanted: A Spiritual Pursuit Through Jail, Among Outlaws, and Across Borders by Chris Hoke—A gorgeously written work of literary non-fiction on what it means to connect with the people most ostracized in our world—convicted felons—and the pleasures and despair of discovering God in their midst.
D.L. Mayfield is the author of Assimilate Or Go Home: Notes from a Failed Missionary on Rediscovering Faith (available August 16th from HarperOne).
A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James is powerful book that weaves together politics, poverty, violence, and a multitude of memorable voices that tell the story of Jamaica.
Bastards of the Reagan Era by Reginald Dwayne Betts inspires serious thoughts in the discussion of injustice, incarceration, and racism in our country through movingly honest poems.
Juan Morales' second poetry collection, The Siren World, was selected as one of "2015 Latino Books: 8 Must-Reads from Indispensable Small Presses" on NBC News.
The Odyssey: This poem has been around for 3,000 or so years for a reason. It speaks to the depths of who we are as civilized and broken and spiritual beings. If you haven’t read it, you have a monstrous gap in your education.
Elizabeth Bishop’s Questions of Travel: As you take a vacation this summer, near or far, this book can help you navigate what it is to be a traveler who deep down longs for home. The second section, Elsewhere, is a look back at Bishop’s childhood, among other things.
John Poch’s most recent book, Fix Quiet, won the 2014 New Criterion Poetry Prize.
I just finished Krista Tippett's Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living. She draws on the four-hundred-plus interviews from her radio shows (Speaking of Faith, On Being) to elaborate on significant trends of thought on the practice of virtue in complex public spheres. She's a major promoter of gentle conversations as important ways to improve our lives together. The book contributes to a "third way" that's building connections and communities in the face of polarizing ideologies and contested resources.
Glenn Sanders, PhD, is a Professor of History at Oklahoma Baptist University.
Book Review: Night Driving by Addie Zierman
by Bethany Blue
Addie Zierman. Night Driving: A Story of Faith in the Dark. Convergent, 2016. 240 pp. $14.99.
How do you know that God is real? “I have felt him,” Addie Zierman says. How do you find him when you can’t feel him anymore? You head south. And Ziermen did.
In her latest book, Night Driving, Addie Zierman chronicles a winter road trip with her two young kids from the bitter winds of Minnesota to the beaches of Florida. This is literally a journey toward the light. It is not only a story of the physical miles, though, but of the soul also. Zierman is a woman who once burned with a “fire” and passion for God but now, at thirty years old and a mother and a wife, she seems to be enveloped in a cold darkness and estrangement from God. For years the harsh Minnesota winters, and just the slow gnawing away of life, have somehow smothered the heat and familiarity with God that she once reveled in.
Despite her evangelical girlhood, years of youth trips and retreats, proudly proclaiming the tag “Jesus Freak,” and once being full of teenage plans to ignite the world in God’s love, Zierman now wonders where this passion has gone. “I can’t seem to shoot the gap between what I thought faith was supposed to be like—look like, feel like—and what it actually is,” Zierman says.
Left with such a longing and an emptiness, Zierman sets out to experience a road trip of exploring, bonding, and reconnecting. If she can’t feel God, she will go find out where he has gone. Maybe she can find him in the glorious rays of a Florida sunrise. Zierman just knows that she must try. But the adventure is plagued with the inevitable road dramas, cramped and messy quarters, and every possible mishap that can be expected when you travel with small kids. She endures two weeks of being on “Kid Time.” But the driving—that may have been just what she needed, time to search for God from within.
The book is structured in a diary style measuring the trip as small journeys from stop to stop, each feeling like a story itself. Zierman reveals a great deal of herself through her interactions with the people that we meet with her along the way. These friends all have grown into their faith and created their own spiritual paths. In comparison, Zierman is even more clearly faced with doubting that she is even on any spiritual path at all.
“Did I allow this to happen? Did I miss some important turn on my faith journey?” Zierman asks herself, and asks God.
But as her pilgrimage progresses, she begins to embrace her waning faith as being as natural as the phases of the moon. Maybe faith was not always supposed to feel like you were on fire for God. Maybe faith was just always knowing that he was still there when the flames die down.
Full of entertaining events and contemporary references to McDonald’s and iPhones, Night Driving is a chronicle of a modern mother’s reach to feel the light of God when she has slipped, over the years, into darkness. It is a universal story of discovering how to feel God, whether in the warmth of the Florida sunrise in the midst of your most passionate times, or to still feel him in the chilly winds of a mundane Minnesota winter.
At Ink & Letters we are dedicated to print as a medium for excellent art and writing: it’s right there in our name. Imagine the bitter, chemical, slightly burnt-smelling odor of fresh ink on paper, and the solid, durable little bricks of metal type in a printing press. We love the physicality of those things, and we love the weight of a lovingly-made print journal in our hands. But we’re not total luddites, either, and we know that digital media are essential for connecting with our (present and future) readers, contributors, and friends. We’ve been active—or at least present—on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for a while, to help us do just that. But we’re happy to begin, with this post, our new Ink & Letters blog. (There’s no actual ink involved, of course, so feel free to suggest a catchy, more appropriate title.)
So what can you expect to find in this digital space? We’ll share news about the journal and about our fantastic contributors. We may link to art and writing we find notable, thought-provoking, or buzzworthy. Occasionally, we’ll post book reviews. (Hint: check back soon for a review of Addie Zierman’s memoir Night Driving, an excerpt of which appears in our current issue.) We may post interviews with contributors or artists and writers we admire. In short: we want to cultivate conversations with others working at the intersection of art, creativity, and faith. We hope you’ll be part of those conversations, or at least drop by once in a while to eavesdrop.