Author: Alex Joyner

  • Giving Hopkins a Chance to Name the World

    Giving Hopkins a Chance to Name the World

    When I read a Gerard Manley Hopkins poem to a group, I generally start by saying, “Don’t worry about getting it all on first hearing. Just let the words flow over you and see how you feel.” That’s how I started on him, though tremendously helped by a book in the Augsburg Fortress 40 Day […]

  • Returning to Dakota

    Returning to Dakota

    “As when I was a child, I want to remain in the open, becoming something other than human under the sky. (178)” –Kathleen Norris, Dakota Returning to Kathleen Norris’s Dakota: A Spiritual Geography almost three decades after it was written, I tried to decide what made it so powerful for me when I was a […]

  • Going West With Wiman

    Going West With Wiman

    A few more words for Christian Wiman. As if my words for Joy, (an edited collection of poems), and He Held Radical Light, (a memoir), and Survival is a Style, (a personal collection of poems), have not been enough to convince you that he’s a writer worth savoring. Seeking more I went back to his […]

  • “Everything That Seems Empty is Full of Angels”: Remembering the Great Plains

    “Everything That Seems Empty is Full of Angels”: Remembering the Great Plains

    As it turns out, the Plains have been essential not only for my own growth as a writer, they have formed me spiritually. I would even say they have made me a human being. —Kathleen Norris, Dakota: A Spiritual Geography (11) Kathleen Norris’s now-classic Dakota became a touchstone for me when I read it 25 […]

  • Finding the Music of the World

    Finding the Music of the World

    “Take away the words to the song and hope will take up humming;” I’m not sure how the Rev. Paul Escamilla wrote those words on his manuscript before delivering them in a sermon some some weeks ago. There’s usually a little poetry in sermons, even if you’re not aiming for that old sermon structure of […]

  • Dispatch from the Age of Idolatry

    Dispatch from the Age of Idolatry

    We live in the Age of Idolatry. If you want the bill of particulars, I’ve got it, but it does no good to rehearse the many ways that we have discovered gods who are not God since few of us will own up to such heresy. Idolators are always the other guys. And if I […]

  • Spare Me the Anvil: Tempered Resilience in a Time of Adaptive Change

    Spare Me the Anvil: Tempered Resilience in a Time of Adaptive Change

    If a writer finds a compelling analogy that propels large numbers of pastors to rethink their practice in helpful and creative ways once in their career, I imagine it must be gratifying and sufficient. To do it twice is well-nigh unthinkable. Tod Bolisinger is still on analogy number 1. Bolsinger’s last book, Canoeing the Mountains: […]

  • #1 and a Recap: The Heartlands Best Reads of 2020

    #1 and a Recap: The Heartlands Best Reads of 2020

    Topping this year’s list of Best Reads is Yaa Gyasi’s sophomore novel, Transcendent Kingdom. It’s a book about race, the South, the immigrant experience, science, family, and faith. It captures a lot of the interests of this web site and it’s flat great writing. You can read the full review by clicking the link but […]

  • #2-Survival is a Style-Heartlands 2020 Best Reads

    #2-Survival is a Style-Heartlands 2020 Best Reads

    Like Jesmyn Ward at #3, Christian Wiman is a three-time visitor to the annual Best Reads list, having been here in 2018 for his exquisite memoir, He Held Radical Light: The Art of Faith, The Faith of Art, and in 2019 as editor of the collection, Joy: 100 Poems. In 2020 Wiman published a solo […]

  • #3-Men We Reaped-Heartlands 2020 Best Reads

    #3-Men We Reaped-Heartlands 2020 Best Reads

    OK. I’ve gushed over Jesmyn Ward enough in the past three years. Her novel Sing, Unburied, Sing made the Best Reads list in 2017. Salvage the Bones, her Hurricane Katrina novel, was on the list last year and is on my all-time Top Ten. So, it’s not surprising that this Mississippi writer finds her way […]