Sunday, June 30, 2013

Writers, can we agree that every religion seeks God?

I am on a new journey to learn more about religions otherwise foreign to me. Recognizing my limitations, I humbly make this attempt to express where I am now and to seek other writers along this pathway. 

Through different ways and histories, cultural and otherwise...religions claim to 'seek God.' This is something we share. "Seek My face," God has said in Hebrew scriptures (for example, Psalm 27:8).  

Literature is full of cultural and religious beliefs colliding due to blindness about  key  similarities. For example, in The Last Mughal (I am half-way at over 400 pages), the destruction of the Mughal dynasty in Delhi, India, 1857, is connected to belief as much as to political and power conflicts. They are inherently interwoven, and the emperor's court aimed to be tolerant of Christian presence. At least at the beginning and compelled to allow their presence.     

Followers saw their Delhi Mughal as being close to or second to 'God, the Almighty.' Yet, did this mean that the Mughal would have closed his mind against conversation about 'the Son of God'? I cannot help wondering about his reaction, if he had heard of Jesus as the Lord via a friend's discourse rather than a foreigner's conquering presence.

John 3:16* is truth without labels. It must have been familiar to British Christians occupying India in the 19th century. In that scripture, God shows that He is reaching out to everyone, regardless; and cultural and religious identities are not mentioned.  

Jesus said (John 3:16), "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes on Him shall be saved" (italics added). God speaks in love to 'the world,' of His 'only begotten Son.' The receiving audience is the world; the subject and gift is the Son. The Son is not mentioned with cultural, traditional, religious, or national connections. The Son is 'culture-free' in God's broad scope for the world. Jesus speaks for God without judging other "belief systems," as they are called today. See John 3:17     

India, 19th century, included intellectual, literate, productive, artful, and wealthy persons and groups that, at first, accepted or allowed the presence of British military and East India Company ('the Company') workers. These were prominently allied with Christian faith. British families lived in homes designed to please them; they worshiped at churches built according to Indian or British design. Yet, British military leaders that harshly disrespected their hosts' beliefs and culture/way of life refused to consider them even as 'hosts.' An important few preferred to see them as 'the occupied,' or even 'the conquered.' Inevitably, the term 'Christian' and 'cruel conqueror' became synonymous. No wonder. The Mughal Dynasty of Delhi would be killed off cruelly by those identified with 'Christianity.'     

A Muslim friend from India gave my husband and me a copy of The Last Mughal. As Christian and American, I find the story helps to strengthen my desire to know better the beliefs of other religions. I maintain the whole and basics of Christian faith while wanting to know more about those who are neighbors or members of the wider community, in positive ways.  I will know them, I believe, as friends, at least a few. Not knowing any atheists free of argument or anger, I likely will not have dialogue there. Otherwise, the love of Christ compels this desire' to learn about how 'seeking God' has shaped others' beliefs. Seeking those loved of God strengthens my desire to seek Him continually through Christ and His ways. "God so loved the world.... I did not come to judge the world...." 

If you are writing about these themes, I would like to know about your work.

*If the Bible is new to you, there is Old Testament (Hebrew and Aramaic, originally) and New Testament (original in Greek). The books have names, e.g. 'Genesis' or 'John' and chapter and verse numbers (e.g., John 3:16; or 3.16).

Saturday, June 29, 2013


MakeBlackOutPoetry (hereis an intriguing artist and writer, very different from our usual expectations of art, writing,or poetry. The call-name is for an artist's work on Instagram, which somehow links with Twitter. You must sign in at Instagram to post comments. 

I provide here one MakeBlackOutPoetry example, where the poet uses an existing page of text for selection of existing words to express different one brief statement or thought.  

Pondering  Are the texts photocopied pages from books, essays, other? Or, are the texts the artist's own, photocopied, reduced into one theme through  blackout, and photocopied again, then photographed? In other words, what is the process? 

This work makes me think of haiku, although it's something else. I would like to see a triptych, three text images with selected words saved, together making one new work.   

Have you ever seen this kind of "ready text" poetry graphic art before? Would you call this poetry? And does this form interest you? Will you try it? 

Twitter @makeblackoutpoetry

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

New Children's Poet Laureate, Kenn Nesbitt

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I'm reminded of how much fun poetry can be by reading an interesting article this week about Kenn Nesbitt. The article appeared in Kid'sPost, which is on the back page of The Washington Post/style (print ed.-6/17/13; online version here). Nesbitt is the newly-appointed Children's Poet Laureate, a two-year honor. 
     "The Green Bird" was my first stab at poetry, age 11.  It was not funny, but I think was a bit wistful and adventurous at the same time. My second effort was much later, when I composed verse about my early childhood's front yard. There, a pond with lily pads (I'm not kidding) hosted soft tadpoles that swam with the goldfish. 
   When my mother, who enjoyed "The Green Bird," heard my later poem (full of memories of June Bugs, Lightning Bugs, jars, friends, and frogs), she commented: "It sounds like we lived in a swamp." I laughed, then frowned, then put the poem away for another day. Boo-hoo
    In my childhood, my mother gently built into me a love of words and books, along with play-construction blocks, scissors, jigsaw puzzles, coloring books, and large crayon boxes with unusual color choices like plum, fuscia, taupe, aquamarine, and teal. Of course I had no clue about color wheels, only "purple, pink, brown, and blue." 
   Much later, my young daughters' afternoon naps in summer gave me free time to memorize poetry or song verses...nothing as complicated as "Lady of Shalott." We practiced fun poems, after the naps, and funny rhyming song-stories. We laughed singing along with Allan Sherman records. The longest poem I learned and tried to lead them to sing about concerned a fox stalking the geese (or chicken house, whatever you prefer). That one took a while to learn, even a few verses. 

Now back to the most recent discovery for me...Kenn Nesbitt, who told The  Post that as a kid he enjoyed "Casey at the Bat." It's over 100 years old! A software professional as an adult, Nesbitt was with friends, including a 4-year-old that did not want to eat her dinner. He said he thought he "'could write a poem about a girl who wouldn't eat her dinner,'..." and thus came "Scrawny Tawny Skinner." It was followed by 50 plus poems for children. His one goal: "'I just want them to laugh...I'm not trying to deliver a message....I want to give them something so funny that they can't not read it.'"
     For you poets out there--and you who might write poetry one day--you might be interested in how Kenn Nesbitt's first book of poems came to be. He simply realized that he had a lot of poems and that perhaps they should get together in a book. 
     I don't know if getting published the first time was as simple as that for Nesbitt, but he found publishing doors opening after that. At age 51 with a lively expression on his photo, he appears to be young at heart. See one of his books in Jean's Easy-Shop Books,  Childhood to Teens section. If you need to pre-order or if copies are out, please let me know so I might help.  

Friday, June 7, 2013

We, the Audience-Builders

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Ken Follett's giant work The Pillars of the Earth (historical fiction) gets my attention every day now, as I plough through this complicated and fascinating story that features, among others, the character of Tom Builder. He's a master stonemason and a natural architect. Tom is poverty-stricken as to earthly goods or security and is wealthy in talent, skill, vision, and willingness to work hard. These qualities have been acquired, developed, and  built over the years, including manhood and feeding a wife and growing family in the 12th century.   
    I thought of Tom this morning when I set out to write about building an audience for a blog. Presently, this blog has a little over 8,000 readings and some much-valued followers. I want the blog to grow in interest for present and future readers. In Pillars of the Earth, Tom Builder is at early stages of restoring a ruined cathedral. That's the work he loves to do, and compared to his task, mind should look easy. Yet, it's got its own challenges. Here, I want to continue to add to the kind of support that can help authors, whether first-time book-writers or writers with one or more books already printed and released. 
     While bloggers are not building cathedrals, we are building skills, vision, and audience. As a blogger, I want to do the best I can at the time, at a particular moment and during the present month and year. Writers must keep writing. Unlike Tom, we do not have to wait for something to burn to the ground to get the attention of those who could use what we do.
     What we have to do is to give readers time to find us and, when they do, to find good quality increasingly consistent for use and enjoyment. Not all readers have equal interest in specific blog postings, or articles. Yet, we can aim to inspire any reader in some way by including what is appealing, uplifting, and interesting, whether a quote, news flash, or example. That's what we do. That's what we enjoy doing.
     Linking ways for an audience to grow and to find us more easily, we can use Twitter and Facebook and other links our readers may use, including LInkedIn, where you can also include links to articles or videos. 
     "How can I improve this blog?" We need to ask this question of our writing every day. Today, I added to the right column of this blog some information about my Twitter accounts, @OpinariPeople and @OpineBookCafe
     This is part of my vision about what you and I as writers are doing in our patch of the wide world.