I was reading The Alfred Smurthwaite family, a family history self-written and self-published, and came across this gem of youthful enthusiasm:
Rooty toot toot, Rooty toot toot
We are the boys from the Institute!
We don’t smoke and we don’t chew
And we don’t go with the girls that do
(Whispered in a quasi-pious voice)[i]
That last line appears to be a characterization of the style of the singer, rather than a fifth line of the song. I’m not sure what a “quasi-pious voice” is, whether it means a jocular self-mocking voice, or a voice halfway between the pious and the profane. But my interest in this song is the rhythm of the first line, and its contrast with another poem. The rhythm is militant, not suppliant (and there was no indication of what kind of institute was meant, whether military or religious). It matches the rhythm of the third and fourth lines of the following ditty:
Rented a tent, a tent, a tent;
Rented a tent, a tent, a tent.
Rented a tent!
Rented a tent!
Rented a, rented a tent.
*****— Snare Drum on Mars[ii]
The attribution is part of the savage jocularity of the source, Continue Reading →
I was asked to be the secretary of the Association for Mormon Letters last year. There had not been anyone filling that post for a few years, and there were no records that were passed down to me. I felt a responsibility to try to get the organization back in touch with its records, so while in Utah for the AML Conference, I discovered that there are three major deposits of organization records. They are:
- Association for Mormon Letters Records, 1975-1983. Utah Historical Society. Utah State History: MSS B 47, Box 1. Deposited by Lavina Fielding Anderson and Linda Hatcher.
- Association for Mormon Letters Records. 20th Century Western and Mormon Manuscripts; L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University. MSS 2205/1. 4 boxes, containing 25 folders. Records for the years 1979-2000, including the AML Newsletters, correspondence, incorporating documents and bylaws, board minutes, and emails. Deposited by John Bennion.
- Records in the possession of Darlene Young, covering the years 2004-2012.
I visited the BYU Library, and copied many of the documents in that collection. In August I plan to visit the Utah Historical Society and access those records. Darlene showed me her records, and she says she plans on organizing them for archiving.
Based on these records, as well as other sources, I am going to do a series of posts about the history of AML. I will start with the founding in 1976, and its earliest years. The Utah Historical Society achieves should have the best records on this period, so this post may be altered after I read them. There is enough information available, however, to at least make a start of it.
The Founding of AML
Although Mormon literature goes back to the start of the movement, serious study of Mormon literature was beginning in the decade before AML was created. Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought was founded in 1966, and it provided the first stable independent platform for Mormon literary work and criticism. Sunstone magazine joined Dialogue in 1974, and it published Mormon plays, as well as short stories and poetry. Also, in 1974 the first Mormon literature anthology, A Believing People, was produced by BYU professors Richard Cracroft and Neal Lambert for the BYU Mormon Literature course. 
Maureen Ursenbach Beecher (1935-), a scholar then working at the LDS Historical Department in Salt Lake City, sketched the start of AML in an introduction to the first Proceedings of the Association for Mormon Letters, which appeared in Dialogue in 1978. Continue Reading →
So, having all read the poem, tell me what is verse in Marianne Moore’s poem “Poetry”? And what is poetic about it? She must have asked herself the same question, because when she reprinted the poem in her Complete poems, she revised it thus:
I, too, dislike it.
**Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one discovers in
**it after all, a place for the genuine.[i]
The revisions emphasize concision.
But at what cost? What is lost? Well, for one, two of the most famous phrases in Moore’s corpus, if not the corpus of 20th-century poetry: “beyond all this fiddle” and “imaginary gardens with real toads in them”.
The only structural element I can find in the original poem, the one published in 1920, is in the Continue Reading →
June is a month to celebrate–give thanks for–prophetic religion. And not just because June is the month when Spencer W. Kimball chose to mark the U.S. Bison Ten Eel not with a patriotic panegyric about the joys of living in a free country, but with a stern warning about “The False Gods We Worship“:
We train a man in the art of war and call him a patriot, thus, in the manner of Satan’s counterfeit of true patriotism, perverting the Savior’s teaching:
“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
“That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:44–45.)
Two years later, the second Friday in June, I spent the morning with some other missionaries out at the Martin Harris Farm, cutting grass and getting it ready for the horde of Pageant visitors next month. When we came back to the Hill Cumorah for lunch, Jennie (foreman Ralph’s 9-year-old daughter) ran out of the quonset hut behind the hill, excited, Continue Reading →
I did not contribute a post from “in verse” to Dawning of a Brighter Day for two simple reasons, and one complex one. The first simple reason is that I had spinal fusion surgery on the 29th of March to correct pinched nerves. I was therefore in the hospital, cut off from my usual sources of information, when Jonathan Langford died on the 31st of March. I had posted late in March, on Monday the 26th (although the entry is date-stamped Tuesday the 27th at 01:37) because that entry was a hard one for me to finish.
I was not released from the hospital until April 6th, due to complications. And I couldn’t really sit at the computer for a week or so after, and then only in short spurts. So I didn’t know that Jonathan Langford had died until I noticed that I had received no reminder from him in April to post punctually on the 27th. I liked receiving his kind reminders and composing clever replies, such as “I’m on it like white on snow,” to which his replies, when he made them, were never less than pleasant, no matter how much scorn I deserved.
Continue Reading →
It has been two months since my last month in review, and a lot has happened. The AML and Storymakers conferences were held, the upcoming Mormon Arts Center Festival was announced, and the Mormon Lit Blitz stories were announced. Mormon literature, the kind that is actually about Mormons, had a huge boost when By Common Consent announced a new publishing house with a strong literary bent, and the New York-based Mormon Artists Group published its first work of fiction, Luisa Perkins’ Prayers in Bath. Other new novels include Richard Paul Evans’ tale of redemption The Broken Road, Rosalyn Eves’ YA fantasy Blood Rose Rebellion, Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham’s middle grade graphic novel/memoir Real Friends, and The Duke of Bannerman Prep, Katie A. Nelson’s YA reworking of The Great Gatsby. Please send news and announcements to mormonlit AT gmail DOT com.
Awards and News
The AML Conference was held on April 21-22 at Utah Valley University and Writ & Vision. The AML Awards were presented, Orson Scott Card was presented with the Smith-Pettit Foundation Award for Outstanding Contribution to Mormon Letters, and Susan Elizabeth Howe was presented with a AML Lifetime Achievement Award. Both authors were able to attend the awards ceremony and panel discussions of their works. Phyllis Barber presented the keystone address. A Gofundme fundraiser was held for AML, which raised $2685. One of the uses AML will put the money towards is the restart of our literary journal Irreantum. A committee of interested volunteers are currently working on how to restart the journal as an online magazine, hopefully before the end of this year. If you are interested in participating in the process, please contact Andrew at mormonlit AT gmail DOT com. Continue Reading →
Thank you to everyone who contributed to this year’s Association for Mormon Letters fundraiser. We were able to raise $2,635, exceeding our goal of $2,000. Your generous contributions will help us maintain this website and fund future AML conferences and projects soon to be announced.
If you would like to contribute to AML, the GoFundMe campaign is still open and accepting donations!
Last month we talked about the differences between Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s baptism narratives. Matthew and Luke record a brief sermon from John beginning, “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” But they introduce the words differently.
5 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judæa, and all the region round about Jordan,
6 And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
What do we make of the conjunction in verse 7? But typically denotes an exception in English, an exception to what has just been said, but every time I listen to the King James Bible I notice a lot of passages where speakers 400 years after 1611 would use and instead of but. So I wanted to find out what the Greek conjunction connotes. My search for an online version of Strong’s Concordance and a lexicon led me to Bible Study Tools, which has lexicons, translations and commentaries. (It’s a useful site, but I had to play around with it for about an hour before I could figure out how to find what I wanted. See my comment on last month’s post for an account of my visit–though an easier way to get to the interlinear Bible is through the Read menu.)
Continue Reading →
RECONCILING FICTION AND TRUTH
by Phyllis Barber
Keynote Address for the Association of Mormon Letters, April 21, 2017, at Writ & Vision, Provo, Utah
Words are the wings both intellect and imagination fly on. Music, dance, visual arts, crafts of all kinds, all are central to human development and well-being, and no skill is ever useless learning; but to train the mind to take off from immediate reality and return to it with new understanding and new strength, nothing quite equals poem and story. -Ursula K. LeGuin
A note of warning: there will be many questions in this paper. Most are questions I’ve asked myself, but hopefully, some will resonate with you. But be prepared for questions! The main one that comes to mind when thinking about this paper—“Reconciling Fiction and Truth”—is this: There are history books galore, more published every day. There are lesson manuals. There are Sunday School discussions every week. Mormons give careful, unremitting attention to Truth with a capital T, dotting every “i” and crossing every “t” it seems, discussing scriptures endlessly, but is our culture, and are we, comfortable with the creation of art?
Yes, of course, most of us would say. There’s the Harris Fine Arts Center. The Springville Art Museum. The Church History Museum with its vast collection of Mormon art. And look at LDS Authors on the Internet—our best-selling writers. Most would say the Mormon culture is in good shape, nothing to worry or think about. However, I’m always one to ask questions, chief among them: (1) What is the role of fiction and truth? and (2) Do we believe that art has value? Continue Reading →