in verse #68 : bad poetry versus good

Valerie and I have been travelling through Canada, crossing the border at the Port of Roosville, north of Eureka, Montana, and driving through Kootenay, Banff and Jasper National Parks for most of a week. On our last day in Jasper, we stopped at two waterfalls, Sunwapta Falls on the Sunwapta River, and Athabasca Falls on the Athabasca River. The Sunwapta is fed by the Athabasca Glacier[i] , and eventually flows into the Athabasca, which is fed by the Columbia Glacier[ii]. Both glaciers are part of the now much diminished Columbia Icefield in the park[iii].

The falls are fascinating because both rivers, which are wide, swift, cold and turbulent, squeeze through rock crevasses which seem far too narrow to admit the volume of water passing through them. At Sunwapta, for example, the massive rock-flour river plunges through a gorge maybe 15 feet wide, at least 30 feet below a bridge spanning the gorge. DSC04833

This is a picture of the head of Sunwapta falls, and it is impressive enough that a river that wide and turbulent is plunging into this gorge. It could be a very wide but shallow river. This, however, is the wide part of the gorge, and it was impossible for me to determine how deeply the river has cut into the rock. But the next photograph is the narrow part of the gorge: Continue Reading →

Reality and Desire: Musings of a Mormon Druid

Born Again DruidBack in 1984, I hitched a ride with a bunch of other BYU students and a professor or two to Worldcon, which was being held in Anaheim that year, right across the parking lot from Disneyland. A starving student, I didn’t have much money for souvenirs, but I had to buy something. After all, it was my first convention! So I got a bright yellow pin with the words “Born Again Druid,” and happily wore it all around the BYU campus after I got back. Because, you know, I was a tree-hugger from way back (being from Oregon and all), and so it was entirely appropriate. Right?

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Being a Restorationist Writer, and the Quest for the Infinite—13

Beauty and Holiness: Merrill Bradshaw

 Merrill Bradshaw set forth a philosophy of art in four statements: “The Articles of Faith—Composer’s Commentary” (BYU Studies, 3, Nos. 3 and 4 [1961], 73 – 85]); “Reflections on the Nature of Mormon Art” (BYU Studies, 9, No. 1 [1968], 25 – 32); Spirit and Music: Letters to a Young Mormon Composer (Brigham Young University Publications, 1976); and Merrill_Bradshaw“Music and the Spirit,” in Arts and Inspiration, Steven P. Sondrup, ed. (BYU Press, 1980). Brother Bradshaw picked up and developed themes first sounded by Elder Orson F. Whitney, primarily the existence of some connection between the arts and the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the contribution of the artist to the establishment and the life of Zion. Although he was primarily interested in music, most of what he said can be applied to literary art with the necessary adjustments.
**Brother Bradshaw first defined music as “movement in sound when it embodies the inner gestures of the human spirit” (Letters, p. 2), and then continued: “Our task as composers is to find the ‘hidden fire’ or the expressive contours of our spiritual impulses and embody them in sound…. The process consists of relating your sensitivity for sound to your sensitivity for the spirit” (Letters, p. 2). Continue Reading →

On Writing, Mom-ing and Critics: An interview with Danette Hansen

What do you write? Tell me about your published fiction, and your current work-in-progress (if you don’t mind.)

CoincidenceI have two historical novels published; one under the title Coincidence. With a strong Christian tone, the past and the present resemble each other in my tender WWII mystery where Annaliese risks her future career in her search for answers. It has a deep family history theme. Here is a quote taken from the story, “It’s the legacy our loved ones leave behind that is important, not how many years they actually lived on the earth.” The book is set in the Netherlands where my husband’s grandfather is from which gave it a personal feel as I wrote. Continue Reading →

Manifesting, Maybe

Here’s the thing about fiction: whether you are reading it or writing it, it blasts you out of this world into another one, and you can’t remain convinced, once you’ve encountered that, that any world is the one true thing. I wonder, incidentally, what “the thing about music” is, or “the thing about dance.” They have to do respectively with time and movement, I know that, but because I don’t compose either of those art forms, I’m not sure they do what fiction (reading or writing) does to me, which is this: It makes me pretty sure there’s no “one true” anything.

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Interview with AML Religious Non-Fiction Award winner Brant A. Gardner


Brant Gardner

Brant A. Gardner won the 2015 AML Award for Religious Non-Fiction for Traditions of the Fathers: The Book of Mormon as History (Greg Kofford Books). Laura Harris Hales recently interviewed Gardner for an upcoming episode of the LDS Perspectives Podcast, which will debut Sept. 22. While the podcast episode will focus on the content of Gardner’s work, she also asked a few questions about his style and writing process, to be used here at the AML blog. Here is a selection of their conversation, edited slightly for print.

LHH: You won Best Religious Non-Fiction book for 2015, well deserved, I must say. They had three questions for you as an author. First, how would you describe your style of writing?

Gardner_Traditions_cover_1024x1024BG: That is very hard to answer, because I am not sure how to describe it, other than to describe the kinds of things I’m trying to do as an author. I’m trying to write for later high school/college age. As for my style, I tend to let my sources speak more directly than a lot of people do, with a lot more quotations. Modern style wants to hide [quotations] in the text, or put all of the quotations in the footnotes, while I bring them out. There is controversial enough information that I don’t want to hide my work. I want people to know what the sources are, and know the reason why I am drawing that particular conclusion. There is enough reason for people to wonder about these topics, they shouldn’t wonder about how I have interpreted the data I am using. So that is one difference in how I approach things. Continue Reading →

Danites, Polygamy, and Blood Atonement–Oh My: The Mormon Origins of Genre Fiction and Why It Matters Today

Back to Mormonism. Why shouldn’t somebody be able to shoot somebody else because their freedom of religion says that God has spoken to them and that they can shoot somebody dead.”

                    —Libertarian Presidential Candidate Gary Johnson


Gary Johnson raised more than a few eyebrows two weeks ago when he used Mormonism as an example of the limits of religious freedom—seeming to suggest that Mormons wanted to shoot people because God said it was OK. In a follow-up published in the Deseret News, Johnson walked his comment pack partially, and not entirely convincingly, by stating that he “cited the experience of Mormons as a case-in-point where religious persecution resulted in violent episodes right here in America.”

Whether Johnson was really saying that Mormons shoot people in the name of God, or that other people shoot Mormons in the name of God (or even that God shoots people in the name of Mormons), is really anyone’s guess. Either way, though, it is telling that a presidential candidate in 2016 who wants to make a point about violence committed in the name of religion immediately thinks about Mormons. This is, I would like to argue, is a fundamentally a literary problem. Continue Reading →

Call a book club a book club

For many years, the second Wednesday of each month was a lifeline for me. It was the one night  when I’d get a babysitter, put on lipstick and pants with buttons, and leave the house for book club. For several years, I even organized the informal ward book club, where I was responsible for how we picked books, who hosted and led discussions, and (most importantly), who brought the treats.

When I started teaching Mormon Lit, I got in front of the class the first day and said something along the lines of, “In this class we will read great books, we will share ideas, and we’ll have a lot of fun. I’m here to give some background information and facilitate discussion, but you’re going to do most of the talking. In fact, I think it will be a lot like a book club.” I thought I was making a great case for not dropping the class, but I saw about half of the eyes of my students glaze over immediately. I’d lost all of the guys.

And then I realized my error.

Guys don’t do book club.

Book clubIn the last few years, I’ve thought about the gendered nature of the American book club quite a bit. In all my years of book clubbing, there was only one time when I guy came to the discussion (a husband who was a huge fan of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and asked his wife if he could come along, and who proceeded to look pained and miserable all night long). At the time, I thought it might be because every meeting of the club regulars (mostly Mormon women in their 20s and early 30s) inevitably devolved into a discussion about the horrors of childbirth. I’m pretty sure that The Road had no connections whatsoever to childbirth, but we managed to steer the discussion in that direction anyway. In fact, one of the reasons that I’m no longer a regular book clubber is because I was frustrated that I put a lot of effort into reading a book (or, more often, rereading something I’d already read before), and like the good former English major I was, marking it up and writing questions in the margins, to come to a meeting, talk about the book for ten minutes, have a fight about whether or not we should read books with sex and the f-word, and spend the rest of the night talking about cracked nipples and potty training. I guess I can see why most guys wouldn’t be into that. Continue Reading →

On Not Writing about Mormonism

Irreantum2011coverYears back I wrote an essay called “Of Gods and Waterfalls” that was published in Irreantum, but I also submitted it to a non-Mormon venue. The only Mormon part was one line, toward the end, where I say something about not knowing what it means in Mormon theology to become a god. The original version, the version I submitted to a non-LDS journal, did not contain the line. Did I throw in the line to “Mormonize” the essay sufficiently to meet the requirements of the contest (literature that speaks to the Mormon experience and all that)? I was ready to conclude thus, but, in fact, looking at my freewriting for the piece, I see it did contain references to the LDS theology of deification. So I honestly can’t remember if I de-Mormonized the piece for the non-Mormon venue or if my original intent was to have the reference to Mormonism.  In any case, I’ve wondered about my tendency  to do this—to have a Mormon and non-Mormon version of things. Either way, the essay doesn’t have much to do with Mormonism. Continue Reading →

Harrell, “Writing Ourselves: Essays on Creativity, Craft, and Mormonism” (reviewed by Tyler Chadwick)


JHarrell_-_Writing_Ourselves_desk_cover_largeTitle: Writing Ourselves: Essays on Creativity, Craft, and Mormonism
Author: Jack Harrell
Publisher: Greg Kofford Books, Draper, UT
Genre: Writing and Style Guide, Literary Criticism
Year Published: 2016

Reviewed by Tyler Chadwick for the Association for Mormon Letters

Notes Toward a Mormon Theology of the Word: A Working Response to Jack Harrell’s Writing Ourselves.

See Tyler’s full AML review here.

Also see a conversation about the first part of Tyler’s review at A Motley Vision.

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