POETRY: In Praise Of Coldness by Jane Hirshfield

August 8, 2018

“If you wish to move your reader,” Chekhov wrote, “you must write more coldly.” Herakleitos recommended, “A dry soul is best.” And so at the center of many great works is found a preserving dispassion, like the vanishing point of quattrocento perspective, or the tiny packets of desiccant enclosed in a box of new shoes or seeds. But still the vanishing point is not the painting, the silica is not the blossoming plant. Chekhov, dying, read the timetables of trains. To what more earthly thing could he have been faithful?— Scent of rocking distances, smoke of blue trees out the window, hampers of bread, picked cabbage, boiled meat. Scent of the knowable journey. Neither a person entirely broken nor one [...]

WRITING: Ransom (Part 2) by Pat Schneider

January 17, 2018

From How The Light Gets In One of the great things about working with memory in writing is the way you get to be in two or more times at once.  The far past, the near past, and the present brush against each other and even overlap.  Madeleine L’Engle said, “I am still every age that I have been.”  As I wrote, the lines of the old hymn, they sang again in my mind – slow, tender, full of the inflection of Missouri country folk.  I was a child swinging my legs below the edge of the porch in the twilight.  At the same time I was this woman that I am now, looking back at the little girl and growing in understanding of the woman she has become.  That work of going into silent, closed places of memory and writing through it again is [...]

WRITING: Ransom (Part 1) by Pat Schneider

January 10, 2018

From How The Light Gets In There’s Ransom in a Voice (Emily Dickinson) Nothing can save you / except writing (Charles Bukowski) The life you save may be your own. (Flannery O’Connor) The child watches.  The child learns.  Blackberries hang heavy and ripe on thorny vines at the edge of the field.  They seem to stream in the humid summer air.  The child has a small bucket made from a tin can.  She picks berries one by one and drops them into the can.  She carefully examines each berry to make sure there are no triangular gray bugs on the ones she puts into her mouth. She wants to be saved.  She doesn’t exactly know what that means, but she has heard about it, and she wants it. *** I am afraid to write the story that is at the [...]

WRITING: Prayer by Pat Schneider

December 20, 2017

From How The Light Gets In …finally to unfold again as if never before is to be the prayer. (Mark Nepo) The first time I returned to Pacific School of Religion (PSR), seven years after I had been a graduate student there, it was to write and direct their centennial play.  My beloved theology professor, Dr. Hugh Vernon White, had lost his wife to Parkinson’s disease.  The lectures of this gentle, aging man had fallen on my ears like poetry, and I had wished he were the father I’d never had.  When I returned to PSR, I invited him to my apartment for coffee and asked, “Dr. White, now that your wife has died, what can you tell me about death?”  He bent over his cup, his white hair a gentle aura around his head, and thought about [...]

WRITING: There Is A Spirit by Pat Schneider

December 14, 2017

From How The Light Gets In …a Spirit is manifest in the Laws of the Universe. (Albert Einstein) Einstein says there is “a Spirit manifest in the Laws of the Universe.”  By “the Laws” I assume he means everywhere – within us as well as out there where “the morning stars sing together,” as an ancient poet said.  If there is a Spirit, do the morning stars sing together inside us, too?  And can we sing to the Spirit?  Can we communicate with it?  Does it communicate with us?  Is it “manifest” only in universal “Laws,” or does it meet us personally?  Can we pray?  Are we heard?  Does it answer?  Do we hear? There is a tale of a rabbi who was famous for his great prayers.  One day, after a particularly [...]

WRITING: Introduction—What Has No Name by Pat Schneider

December 6, 2017

From How The Light Gets In Beyond the name there lies what has no name (Jorge Luis Borges) Those colors which have no name are the real foundation of everything. (Vincent van Gogh) I sit writing these words in an old library in Berkeley, California.  Around me, Gothic windows let in California sunlight, and if I were to walk outside, the Golden Gate Bridge would be visible in the distance.  Pacific School of Religion is a founding member of the Graduate Theological Union, a consortium of theological schools that share a common library for several Protestant, Roman Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and other centers of study, offering traditional histories of theology and also curricula that include Black studies, Gay and Lesbian [...]

STORIES: The Greatest Nature Essay Ever by Brian Doyle

July 21, 2014

From Orion . . . would begin with an image so startling and lovely and wondrous that you would stop riffling through the rest of the mail, take your jacket off, sit down at the table, adjust your spectacles, tell the dog to lie down, tell the kids to make their own sandwiches for heavenssake, that’s why God gave you hands, and read straight through the piece, marveling that you had indeed seen or smelled or heard it articulated that way, and you think, Man, this is why I read nature essays, to be startled and moved like that, wow. The next two paragraphs would smoothly and gently move you into a story, seemingly a small story, a light tale, easily accessed, something personal but not self-indulgent or self-absorbed on the [...]