Journal Discussion

2014

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Sports

October 15, 2014 Vol. 6, No. 4

In this issue, guest edited by Daniel Cruz, writers reflect on sports through essays and poetry.

Introduction
by Daniel Cruz

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Lessons
Lessons
by Todd Davis

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Growing Up Mennonite, Growing Up Hawkeye
by Charles R. "Chip" Frederick, Jr.

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Sports, Me, Title IX and the World Cup
Sports, Me, Title IX and the World Cup
by Melanie Zuercher

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Three Poems by Jesse Nathan
Three Poems by Jesse Nathan
by Jesse Nathan

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Poems by Carl Haarer
Poems by Carl Haarer
by Carl Haarer

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Song Writing

August 1, 2014 Vol. 6, No. 3

Song writers talk about the genesis of a song, their sources of inspiration, and share lyrics and recordings.

Introduction
Introduction
by Ann Hostetler
Lobsang
Lobsang
by Carol Ann Weaver

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Looking for Spiders
Looking for Spiders
by Jessica Smucker

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Colony Collapse Disorder
Colony Collapse Disorder
by Trevor Bechtel

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This is My Home
This is My Home
by Frances Crowhill Miller

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31
31
by Andrew Gerber

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Hurricane
Hurricane
by Emily Rodgers

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Little Pine
Little Pine
by Moral Circus

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Somewhere Near Defiance
Somewhere Near Defiance
by Jeff Gundy

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Big American Man
Big American Man
by David George

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New Voices

April 30, 2014 Vol. 6, No. 2

Poetry and memoir by six writers new to the Journal of CMW, and new resources on Mennonite writers by members of the Mennonite Literature class at Goshen College.

New Voices: In This Issue
New Voices: In This Issue
by Ann Hostetler

In this issue six writers of poetry and memoir take on the theme of Mennonite memory as they reinterpret, express, and critique Mennonite values and stories through their creative work.

When the Roll is Called a Pyonder
When the Roll is Called a Pyonder
by Diana Zimmerman

A Preview of the forthcoming memoir

Me & The Martyrs
Me & The Martyrs
by Kate Yoder

A graphic reflection on discovering the Martyr's Mirror.

Poems by Joseph Gascho
Poems by Joseph Gascho
by Joseph Gascho

Three poems set in Nebraska farm country.

Poems by Anna Ruth
Poems by Anna Ruth
by Anna Ruth

Two poems written in South Korea.

Poems by Heather Derr-Smith
Poems by Heather Derr-Smith
by Heather Derr-Smith

Three poems on nature, violence, and beauty.

Birdsong
Birdsong
by Kate Friesen

With thanks to Jan Beatty

New Resources
New Resources
by Ann Hostetler

Interviews with Mennonite writers and more by the students of the Mennonite Literature class at Goshen College, Fall 2013

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Contemporary Drama

January 15, 2014 Vol. 6, No. 1

In this issue guest editor Lauren Friesen has assembled a collection of contemporary plays by Mennonite writers. He situates their emphasis on non-resistance and peacemaking within the larger context of Western dramatic literature. The issue concludes with an extensive interview with Stephen Shank by Ervin Beck. --AH, CMW Co-editor

Contemporary Plays by Mennonite Writers
Contemporary Plays by Mennonite Writers
by Lauren Friesen

The Quest for Common Ground in Recent Mennonite Plays

Bird Brain
Bird Brain
by Vern Thiessen

Based on the story by Albert Wendt.

How the War Started
How the War Started
by Doug Reed

War's like a fog you can't keep out. It gets in everywhere. And it withers whatever it touches.

Censored
Censored
by Al Schnupp

A play based on the art and life of artist Käthe Kollwitz.

Cry After Midnight
Cry After Midnight
by Talia Pura

Three women, three perspectives, one war.

Passion
Passion
by Robert Hostetter

Scenes adapted from dialogues with peacemakers in Israel-Palestine

Interview with Stephen Shank
Interview with Stephen Shank
by Ervin Beck

Stephen Shank speaks about his beginnings in theater as the child of Mennonite church workers in Belgium, and his return to Belgium for a 30-year career in the theater.

read more from Contemporary Drama

2013

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Humor

October 14, 2013 Vol. 5, No. 4

A sampling of humor in stories, poems, and essays by writers from Mennonite contexts.

Humor: In This Issue
Humor: In This Issue
by Ervin Beck

I grew up in a Mennonite congregation where our pastor-bishop once said from the pulpit, “People ask me why I never smile. The Bible never says that Jesus smiled. It says that ‘Jesus wept.’”

Mennonite Girls
Mennonite Girls
by Bob Johnson

I was raised a Lutheran boy in Middlebury, Indiana, in the 50s and 60s. In those days there were four denominations in town: Lutheran, Methodist, Church of the Brethren and Mennonite. As far as I knew, those were the sum total of Christian denominations in the world, besides the Amish ...

Farm Animals' Desertion: In Which Puss in Boots Learns That the Kota Is Full
Farm Animals' Desertion: In Which Puss in Boots Learns That the Kota Is Full
by Magdalene Redekop

It’s a way of life that is vanishing, people say—in a mournful tone of voice that makes me want to kick something.

Poems by Dallas Wiebe
Poems by Dallas Wiebe
by Dallas Wiebe

Three poems from Monument: Poems on Aging and Dying.

Current Events
Current Events
by Rhoda Janzen

MILEY CYRUS RAUNCHY DANCE!

Fifty Billion Planets
Fifty Billion Planets
by Jeff Gundy

The galaxy is crawling with life. What’s for dinner? - Anonymous

Jonah v. The Admiral
Jonah v. The Admiral
by Paul Enns Wiebe

A selection from Wiebe's novel, The Church of the Comic Spirit.

A Funny Thing Happened to Me on the Way to the Monastery
A Funny Thing Happened to Me on the Way to the Monastery
by Jep Hostetler

Lines from an Old Testament Sabbath Day song, “In old age [the righteous] still produce fruit, still green, still full of sap”(Psalm 92:14), inspired Father Kilian McDonnell, CSB, to write the poem “Retirement Home Chapel.

Poetry Feature: Andrew Kreider
Poetry Feature: Andrew Kreider
by Andrew Kreider

Three poems by Andrew Kreider

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Food & Writing

July 15, 2013 Vol. 5, No. 3

Essays, poems, and stories featuring writing about food in the rich and varied Mennonite tradition.

Food & Writing: In this Issue
Food & Writing: In this Issue
by Ann Hostetler

“I’m going to need some lunch before I can finish the introduction,” I say to my intern, Kate.

Lunch Box Social
Lunch Box Social
by Shirley H. Showalter

A preview from Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World, Showalter's forthcoming memoir.

A Mosaic of Broken Dishes
A Mosaic of Broken Dishes
by Julia Spicher Kasdorf

A summer reading special! Jessica Penner talks about her new novel, Shaken in the Water, history, imagination, and church.

The Drudgery of Cherry Pie
The Drudgery of Cherry Pie
by Rosanna Nafziger Henderson

A reflection on what food means to us by the co-author of The Lost Art of Real Cooking and The Lost Arts of Hearth and Home.

The Sow and Other Poems
The Sow and Other Poems
by Elise Hofer Derstine

Poems from the farming life.

Proverbs, Recipes, and Poems
Proverbs, Recipes, and Poems
by Annetta Miller

Inspired by her life in Tanzania, Annetta Miller shares African perspectives on food and hospitality.

Food Times
Food Times
by Phyllis Pellman Good

A reflection on food by the best-selling author of the Fix It and Forget It cookbook series.

Furlough
Furlough
by Keith Miller

A short story by Keith Miller, author of The Book on Fire and The Book of Flying.

Two Poems About Family
Two Poems About Family
by Karen Yoder

Two poems from a legacy of Mennonite family frugality and careful living.

Keturah's Cards and Lemons
Keturah's Cards and Lemons
by Katie Boyts

Reflections on recipe cards that create a relationship between generations.

Eight Years to Farmer
Eight Years to Farmer
by Ben Hartman

Reflections on choosing to farm sustainably and cultivate a culture of local food in Goshen, Indiana.

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Emerging Writers

April 24, 2013 Vol. 5, No. 2

In this issue we are pleased to introduce eight distinctive new writers to our readers. Seven of these writers appear in our journal for the first time. The issue opens with award-winning poems by two Goshen College students, Kate Stoltzfus and Mary Roth. (Kate’s story “The Bunny Murders” appeared in our College Student issue in November 2011.) Each of these poems articulates the legacy of a grandmother--one who traveled the globe, one who stayed on the farm--and finds unique images for the transmission of heritage.

Selections from our three featured poets also touch on themes of inheritance and history, as well as travel in a contemporary global environment. Jennifer Jantz Estes evokes the values and customs of her Kansas farming heritage and Julie Swarstad Johnson explores the history of iron furnaces and the communities around them in central Pennsylvania, while Sarah Kortemeier, on the other hand, juxtaposes New York post 9/11 with Hiroshima and writes of encounters in Japan and Amsterdam.

The three fiction writers in this issue—Lucy Bryan Green, Greta Holt, and Nate Malenke—explore contemporary values, social class, difference, and the ways in which our aspirations intertwine with violence in urban, rural, and international settings. Lucy Bryan Green’s haunting “The Club” probes themes of affiliation and identity in a series of encounters between a wealthy woman and her personal trainer. Greta Holt’s “Surviving,” set in a beauty salon in Botswana, explores the inequities of culture and class. Nate Malenke’s “Up in the Air, Junior Birdmen” evokes a father’s memory of his sensitive son’s passion for rockets.

Although most of these works do not portray explicitly Mennonite places or characters, they bear the influence or legacy of a faith that seeks to embody itself in relationships of integrity with work, the land and other people, sensitive to inequality and injustice, and desiring to serve a gospel of love and healing. Thus these poems and stories reveal compassionate imaginations alert to the challenge of interpersonal and intercultural understanding, and sensitive to the ironies of our aspirations to live in harmony with others.

--Ann Hostetler, editor

Oracle
Oracle
by Kate Stoltzfus

"Oracle" won first prize in the best free verse poem category from the Indiana Collegiate Press Association's Literary Magazine Competition in April 2013. The poem was published in Red Cents, 2012, the award-winning creative arts journal of the Goshen College English Department.

Elder Song
Elder Song
by Mary Roth

"Elder Song" won second prize in the best free verse poem category from the Indiana Collegiate Press Association's Literary Magazine Competition in April 2013. The poem was published in Red Cents, 2012, the award-winning creative arts journal of the Goshen College English Department.

Five Poems on Travel
Five Poems on Travel
by Sarah Kortemeier

From Ground Zero to Hiroshima, these poems create a network of perceptions, gently holding the globe as a whole while honoring silent spaces.

Two Poems on the Past
Two Poems on the Past
by Jennifer Jantz Estes

These two poems draw on the author's recognition of her heritage within the farming and Mennonite communities of central Kansas.

Three Poems on Place
Three Poems on Place
by Julie Swarstad Johnson

The first two poems below come from Pennsylvania Furnace, a manuscript which explores the history of the iron industry in central Pennsylvania.

The Club
The Club
by Lucy Bryan Green
Surviving
Surviving
by Greta Holt
Up in the Air,  Junior Birdmen
Up in the Air, Junior Birdmen
by Nathan Malenke
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Mennonite Encounters

January 16, 2013 Vol. 5, No. 1

This issue offers four essays that engage the theme of “Mennonite Encounters,” along with a poetry feature. Hope Nisly’s personal essay, “Morning in America,” is a memoir of her time spent working at a homeless shelter in the California of the 1980s. Pat Lehman’s “Who Can Represent the Other” explores both the production and reception of her play, “Heavenly Voices,” based on a documentary film about Mennonite women of color. Sam Manickam’s essay explores Carlos Reygadas’ films Japan and Silent Light, the latter set among the Mennonites in Mexico, with Mennonite novelist Miriam Toews in a lead role. Daniel Shank Cruz calls for readers to look to Mennonite fiction, in particular Miriam Toews' novel The Summer of My Amazing Luck, for a narrative ethics that challenges conventional Mennonite pieties. Both Pat Lehman’s and Daniel Shank Cruz’s essays began as papers at the “Mennonite/s Writing VI: Solos and Harmonies.” Cynthia Yoder, our featured poet, explores the ethics of relationship and identity in five poems about human and interspecies relationships.

--Ann Hostetler, Editor

Morning in America
Morning in America
by Hope Nisly
Who Can Play the "Other"?
Who Can Play the "Other"?
by Pat Lehman
The Other Mexico through the Cinematic Eyes of Carlos Reygadas
The Other Mexico through the Cinematic Eyes of Carlos Reygadas
by Samuel Manickam
Narrative Ethics in Miriam Toew's Summer of My Amazing Luck
by Daniel Cruz
The Heretic and Other Poems
The Heretic and Other Poems
by Cynthia Yoder
read more from Mennonite Encounters

2012

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Visiting Mennonites

November 15, 2012 Vol. 4, No. 6

This issue offers three essays by and about three writers who have spent significant time with Mennonites, and features work by Abigail Carl-Klassen, whose poems about the Mennonites in Texas and Mexico are based on observation and oral histories.

In This Issue
In This Issue
by Ervin Beck
David Foster Wallace Among the Mennonites
David Foster Wallace Among the Mennonites
by Ervin Beck
Literally, Not Quite A Mennonite
Literally, Not Quite A Mennonite
by Ellah Wakatama Allfrey
Me and Mennonites: The Way We Were "The Other"
Me and Mennonites: The Way We Were "The Other"
by Emma LaRocque
Still In The Land and Other Poems
Still In The Land and Other Poems
by Abigail Carl-Klassen

The following poems are based on my experience and observations drawn from living among the Mennonite communities of Seminole Texas in the 1990s and early 2000s and on oral histories I collected from some of my closest friends and their parents, as well as from people who would later become ...

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Documentary Film

September 14, 2012 Vol. 4, No. 5

Documentary Filmmakers write about their work.

In This Issue
In This Issue
by Ervin Beck
Salvation for a Skeptic's Soul
Salvation for a Skeptic's Soul
by Burton Buller
A Passion for Film: My Life as a Filmmaker
A Passion for Film: My Life as a Filmmaker
by David Dueck
Dedicated Observers
Dedicated Observers
by Paul Hunt
There's No Money in Documentary Filmmaking
There's No Money in Documentary Filmmaking
by Dirk Eitzen
Branch Valley Productions
Branch Valley Productions
by Jay Ruth
Burton Buller Filmography
Burton Buller Filmography
by Burton Buller

From 1970 to 2011

David Dueck Filmography
David Dueck Filmography
by David Dueck

From 1973 to 2012

Paul Hunt Filmography
Paul Hunt Filmography
by Paul Hunt

Film Links

Dirk Eitzen Filmography
Dirk Eitzen Filmography
by Dirk Eitzen

From 1985 to 2007

Jay Ruth Filmography
Jay Ruth Filmography
by Jay Ruth

From 1985 to 2012

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Mennonite/s Writing VI

August 4, 2012 Vol. 4, No. 4

A sampler of creative writing from Mennonite/s Writing VI: Solos and Harmonies, held at Eastern Mennonite University March 29-April1, 2012.

In This Issue
In This Issue
by Ann Hostetler
An Inescapable Embrace
An Inescapable Embrace
by Anita Hooley Yoder
Thinking of Certain Teenage Mothers and other poems
Thinking of Certain Teenage Mothers and other poems
by Anita Hooley Yoder

Four poems Anita read at the conference, two of them inspired by Mennonite writers Julia Spicher Kasdof and Jeff Gundy.

Permission and Other Poems
Permission and Other Poems
by Jesse Nathan

"Permission" was inspired by Jesse's experience at Mennonite/s Writing VI; he read the other three poems at the conference. "Report of Heavens" first appeared under the title "Heavens," in a different form in The Mennonite for May 5, 2009.

Silence, Memories, and Elegies
Silence, Memories, and Elegies
by Connie T. Braun

Author's note: In these poems the speaker is generationally, linguistically and culturally removed from her family’s experiences of trauma and displacement. In acting as witness to her grandparents' lives, these poems privilege “words, unspoken”; that is, silence and memory to compose, for the next generation of acculturated (Canadian ...

Latest Letter and other Poems
Latest Letter and other Poems
by Becca J.R. Lachman

These new poems read by Becca at the conference grow out of her ongoing dialogue with her Ohio Mennonite community.

Mungu Ni Pendo
Mungu Ni Pendo
by Maria Lahman

Author's Note: I formed this research poem from in-depth interviews with my nieces, Mica and Noa Yoder. The interviews were about Sept. 11, 2001 and occurred a year after the tragedy. My nieces were 4 and 7 years-old at the time and were walking to school with their mother ...

People Who Understand
People Who Understand
by Kristen Mathies

This short story, read at the conference, was inspired by the author's childhood in Swaziland.

read more from Mennonite/s Writing VI
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Embodiment - The Shenandoah Valley Inkslingers

May 16, 2012 Vol. 4, No. 3

We have chosen the theme Embodiment for the Shenandoah Valley Inkslingers edition of the Journal of the Center for Mennonite Writing. It’s a fitting theme for a Mennonite publication; an outsider reading the Mennonite Confession of Faith might be excused for believing that she now knows who Mennonites are, but those of us who are from, within, or near Mennonite communities know that enormous portions of Mennonite identity are tangible and irreducible: cooking, relief work, farming, bloodlines, schisms, and singing in harmony, to name a few manifestations of this embodied faith and culture.

In Kirsten Eve Beachy’s essay, tending to students’ physical hunger opens her to the possibility of a more visceral approach to teaching. Pam Mandigo’s play deals directly with the body—that is, bodies and the grave-diggers who bury them—and in this excerpt, the character Tom Wheeler’s troubles are embodied as the monster that pursues him. Jessica Penner’s essay about amputation explores disembodiment, and the way the body clings to its wholeness even after her fingers are severed. A myth of incarnation, shared between two characters in sign language, is Tonya Osinkosky’s contribution. Anna Maria Johnson describes how dance gave her permission to inhabit her body and became a way to be present with others in grief. The next essay, by Andrew Jenner, probes the ways the mind limits the flesh as it describes the experience of living inside one particular body. In Chad Gusler’s short story, miraculous signs herald a young writer’s inspiration. The closing piece by Alisha Huber celebrates books as physical containers for words and bodies as containers for the Word.

We are young writers, but when we gather as a body for our rituals of eating, laughing, critiquing, and sharing, we grow into our identities as authors, and we revel in the pleasure of being writers-with-writers. Andrew Jenner has compiled a Q & A with our group that further describes our process and history. -- Kirsten Beachy, May 2012

Lavish Banquets
Lavish Banquets
by Kirsten Beachy

If I had grown in some generous place—

If my hours had opened in ease—

I would make you a lavish banquet.

~Ranier Maria Rilke, trans. Barrows and Macy

Give Us Good
Give Us Good
by Pam Mandigo
Hymn Sing
Hymn Sing
by Jessica Penner
The Gospel According to Juan
The Gospel According to Juan
by Tonya Osinkosky
A Brief Personal History of Dancing
A Brief Personal History of Dancing
by Anna Maria Johnson
Vital Signs
Vital Signs
by Andrew Jenner
Spanish Moss
Spanish Moss
by Chad Gusler
The Holy Book
The Holy Book
by Alisha Huber
Q & A with the Shenandoah Valley Inkslingers
Q & A with the Shenandoah Valley Inkslingers
by Andrew Jenner
read more from Embodiment - The Shenandoah Valley Inkslingers
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New Fiction 2

March 16, 2012 Vol. 4, No. 2

One mission of the Journal of the Center for Mennonite Writing is to offer a forum for the publication of writing by emerging authors whose work has not otherwise gained the attention of many Mennonite readers.

This issue, “New Fiction 2,” extends the work of the “New Fiction” issue of January 2010 by publishing the work of six “new” writers. Only one author, Katherine Arnoldi, has already had a book of stories published, All Things Are Labor, by the University of Massachusetts (2007). In fact, her story published here, “Sewer,” serves as a kind of prequel to that collection, since it depicts the early life of the woman whose voice dominates the first and final narratives in All Things Are Labor.

Kirsten Beachy has become a leader of young Mennonite writers in the eastern United States, especially with her excellent and expeditious work in gathering and editing the contributions to the anthology, Tongue Screws and Testimonies (Herald Press 2010). Her story, “His Wife,” is the most experimental in this issue, since Kirsten writes minimalist, rather than expansive, narratives. As she explains, “Forty gallons of maple sap distills to a gallon of syrup. In my reduced stories, I try to save the essence and let the steam blow away.” Considering the complexities of her story, you may need to read between the lines. Kirsten contributed a memoir on Martyrs Mirror to the “Personal Writing” issue of this journal (September 2009).

Kirsten is also a main organizer of the Mennonite/s Writing conference scheduled for later this month at Eastern Mennonite University. (See the link on the CMW homepage.) In fact, all of the contributors to the issue—except for Matt Kauffman Smith in faraway Oregon—plan to attend the conference, and new writings by Arnoldi and Sears will be featured in public readings. Kirsten’s writing group Inkslingers are also on the program. Selections from their writings will constitute the May 2012 issue of the CMW Journal.

Five of the six stories are told from a woman’s point of view. Chad Gusler even uses the voice of a blunt-speaking woman who is a Mennonite former pastor addressing a Jewish former husband. Kirsten’s story and Jennifer Sears’ chapter for a novel depict cross-cultural situations, from Egypt and Pakistan. It is tempting to assume that some or most of the narratives, especially those told in first-person, come from the authors’ own lives. However, Kirsten has never been to Pakistan and Beth Lehman’s story was inspired by a submerged bicycle that she noticed during her recent years in Indianapolis. The story by Matt Kauffman Smith, who also has a memoir in our January 2012 issue, contributes his sly, laconic humor to an otherwise rather sober issue.

As editor, I am pleased that, without planning, all of these short stories were written by Mennonite writers living and working in the United States. It remains true that, although poetry has been well cultivated by U.S. Mennonites, fiction has remained less well developed among them. Perhaps issues like this will help improve that situation.

I am very sorry that it was not possible to include new fiction by Stephen Raleigh Byler, whose recent serious injuries from an automobile accident made it impossible for him to follow through with our plans. I expect to read a paper on his book, Searching for Intruders: A Novel in Stories, at the upcoming Mennonite/s Writing VI conference at Eastern Mennonite University. In preparing the paper, I also wrote the essay that concludes this issue, “The Mennonite Novel-in-Stories: A Survey.” Besides briefly describing the sub-genre and its history, the essay offers an annotated critical bibliography of collections of short fiction with novelistic tendencies, written by Mennonites. I hope the essay will both enhance our appreciation of writings by Byler, Rudy Wiebe, Armin Wiebe, Sandra Birdsell, Rosemary Nixon and others and lead to further study of their linked short stories.

Sewer
Sewer
by Katherine Arnoldi
His Wife
His Wife
by Kirsten Beachy
Susannna’s Bicycle
Susannna’s Bicycle
by Beth Lehman
The Nighthawk
The Nighthawk
by Chad Gusler
Winnie Weaver Takes a Stand  (and sits down)
Winnie Weaver Takes a Stand (and sits down)
by Matthew Kauffman Smith
From Ghoummaida: Hide and Seek
From Ghoummaida: Hide and Seek
by Jennifer Sears

In the wake of the policies put into place after 9/11, an American belly dancer and her Egyptian boyfriend try to help a young Palestinian flight student illegally cross the Canadian/American border.

The Mennonite Novel-in-Stories: A Survey
The Mennonite Novel-in-Stories: A Survey
by Ervin Beck
read more from New Fiction 2
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Memoir

January 15, 2012 Vol. 4, No. 1

The memoir and creative nonfiction issue for 2012.

In This Issue
In This Issue
by Ann Hostetler
Friendly Confines
Friendly Confines
by Matthew Kauffman Smith
Cain’s Legacy: Marked By Plain Sorrow
Cain’s Legacy: Marked By Plain Sorrow
by Eileen R. Kinch
Are You a Little Dutchman?
Are You a Little Dutchman?
by James C. Juhnke
Jacob and Agnes
Jacob and Agnes
by Loretta Willems
Four Poems
Four Poems
by Peter Miller

Lyric poetry can feel at home among prose memoirs. Both genres are fundamentally autobiographical and, as Ann points out in her introduction to this issue, “privilege the individual point of view.” How something is said is just as important as what is said. The author of lyric may sometimes operate ...

Memoir: A Troubled Genre
Memoir: A Troubled Genre
by J. Daniel Hess
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2011

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College Student Writing 2011

November 16, 2011 Vol. 3, No. 6

In this issue readers will find four personal essays on growing up Mennonite by Goshen College students and a selection of poems from a first year student at Notre Dame University. Also included is a review of the critically-acclaimed drama “The Lamentable Tragedie of Scott Walker,” written by Doug Reed (Goshen College alum 1990), currently in its second run in Madison, Wisconsin.

From the Guest Editor
From the Guest Editor
by Sara Wakefield
Even Gandhi Threw Rocks
Even Gandhi Threw Rocks
by Phil Weaver-Stoesz
The Bunny Murder
The Bunny Murder
by Kate Stoltzfus
Junk Food Conversion
Junk Food Conversion
by Sarah Rich
Sixteen Pacifist Goblins
Sixteen Pacifist Goblins
by Annie Martens
Two Poems
Two Poems
by Vienna Wagner

The poem, "Esther," published here, won a special merit award in The Kenyon Review's Patricia Grodd poetry contest.

Review of The Lamentable Tragedie of Scott Walker by Doug Reed
Review of The Lamentable Tragedie of Scott Walker by Doug Reed
by James C. Juhnke

Based on attendance at the drama September 2 and an interview with the playwright September 4, 2011.

read more from College Student Writing 2011
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The Poetry of Peace

September 11, 2011 Vol. 3, No. 5

On the 10th anniversary of 9/11 we offer an issue co-edited by Jeff Gundy and Ann Hostetler to commemorate a decade of peacemaking and peacbuilding. The poems and essay collected here, with commentary by the writers, express a range of voices attuned to the delicate and complex work of peace as both an interpersonal and cross-cultural endeavor. The issue closes with a meditation on William Stafford, a poet dedicated to peace, in the form of a sermon delivered by Jeff Gundy at First Mennonite Church in Bluffton on 9/11/2011.

The Poetry of Peace
The Poetry of Peace
by Jeff Gundy
Some Notes on Poetry after 9/11
Some Notes on Poetry after 9/11
by Ann Hostetler
Ghazal:  America
Ghazal:  America
by Alicia Ostriker

The prophet Isaiah tells us that some day people "will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." That was about twenty-five hundred years ago, and I'm still waiting. But the ...

Two Poems
Two Poems
by Julia Spicher Kasdorf

"We are against war and the sources of war. We are for poetry and the sources of poetry," says poet and activist Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980) in The Life of Poetry, a strange book of poetics published in 1949 that I return to again and again. Her big idea—that poetry ...

Heat
Heat
by Jean Janzen

In a poetry workshop years ago I was taught to test a poem with three questions: Is it true? Is it beautiful? Does it lead the reader to her own experience? I suggest that these same questions lie within the question: Is this a poem that promotes peace? When a ...

Two Poems
Two Poems
by Yorifumi Yaguchi

During the Second World War, I as a child experienced the air raid by the US airplanes. Since then, I have been huanted by the theme of war and peace. Jesus' "Blessed are the peacemakers" changed ;my life and I have been trying to write from this standpoint.

Three Poems
Three Poems
by Keith Ratzlaff

Like many of my generation of Mennonites, my introduction to “peace poetry” was Peter Ediger’s 1971 The Prophet’s Report on Religion in North America. Ediger’s flat, faux-Whitman lines and Blakean rhetorical stance defined for us what poetry should do. Once in a while I’ve wished my ...

Nickel Mines
Nickel Mines
by Barbara Nickel

Peace is shattered. Years later, a small poem comes unbidden, its music unearthing the unseen, twisting time and space and perspective into an oh of grief, a catalyst for peace--

Three Poems
Three Poems
by John Paul Lederach

A brilliant artist once said blessed are the peacemakers. In Spanish the phrase translates literally as on a good adventure are those who work for peace. In both English and Spanish the words work and make emerge from the Greek poíésis and an etymology that brings us the modern ...

Flowers for Osama
Flowers for Osama
by Michelle Webster-Hein
Touching a New Kingdom
Touching a New Kingdom
by Jeff Gundy

Sermon given at First Mennonite Church, Bluffton, Ohio, 9/11/2011

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Drama

July 15, 2011 Vol. 3, No. 4

July 2011

In this issue
In this issue
by Ervin Beck
Bungalow
Bungalow
by Vern Thiessen
Waiting on the Outside
Waiting on the Outside
by Don Yost
Theatre Review: The Moonlight Sonata of Beethoven Blatz by Armin Wiebe
Theatre Review: The Moonlight Sonata of Beethoven Blatz by Armin Wiebe
by Talia Pura
Hermann Sudermann, Mennonite Playwright and Novelist from the Boundary
Hermann Sudermann, Mennonite Playwright and Novelist from the Boundary
by Lauren Friesen
Hermann Sudermann: A Bibliography
Hermann Sudermann: A Bibliography
by Lauren Friesen
The Merry Pranks of Friedrich Wilhelm Voigt, Mennonite Trickster and Dramatic Hero
The Merry Pranks of Friedrich Wilhelm Voigt, Mennonite Trickster and Dramatic Hero
by Ervin Beck
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Literary Art in Worship

May 16, 2011 Vol. 3, No. 3

In This Issue

For the past few decades, writers from Mennonite contexts have been receiving recognition from the literary world for their poems, stories and plays. But what of the reverse—is there a place for literary art in Mennonite places of worship? What are the possibilities of bringing home the work? Certainly not every literary work belongs in worship, but opening a space for literature in worship can open new possibilities for participation and meaning. In this issue we hear from a literary scholar, a pastor, several poets, and two seminary professors who reflect on the meaning of words in worship.

In the fall of 2004, I went on an east coast reading tour for A Cappella: Mennonite Voices in Poetry with poets Di Brandt and Julia Spicher Kasdorf. One of our readings took place at the 15th Street Friends’ Meetinghouse in Manhattan, graciously hosted by Malinda Berry, a student at Union Theological Seminary at the time. After we each read poems from the anthology, we turned to the audience and invited anyone who had brought poems to an open mic reading. One young woman had just come from a creative writing class. She had not intended to read, but was persuaded to share her reflection on her grandmother’s hands with us. In the flickering candlelight we imagined with her the polished wrinkles, the tender skin of these hands marked by work and care. Afterwards she made the comment, “I didn’t know that poetry could be read in church.” At that moment, I decided that I would direct some of my energy towards bringing back the gift of poetry to the community that had nurtured the poets. I didn’t want to have such talented writers believing that their art could only flourish outside the church. This issue is a fruition of that desire to bring the words back into the space in which we honor the Word and source of creativity.

Sheri Hostetler’s essay, “Poetry as Contemplation,” was written a number of years ago in response to a call for essays from the poets in the anthology A Cappella: Mennonite Voices in Poetry. The final version of the anthology did not include the essays, but the language and phrases of Sheri’s essay stayed with me and I found myself quoting it in several of my own talks and articles. I am pleased that her essay, revised to incorporate her path from poetry to pastoring, has found a home in print in this issue. Sheri is also a fine poet, and in addition to the poems published in A Cappella—some of which have found their way onto Garrison Keillor’s "The Writer’s Almanac"—she has written poetry for worship. Several of these poems, along with a description of the writing prompts that created them, are also published here for the first time. I hope this will inspire more worship teams to include creative writing in their services.

Dallas Wiebe, a seminal voice in Mennonite Literature, known primarily as a novelist and short story writer, turned to poetry at the end of his career and published several startlingly powerful volumes on religious themes: On the Cross (Cascadia 2005) and Monument: Poems on Death and Dying (Sand Hills 2008). Hildi Froese Tiessen’s essay about her experience of incorporating Wiebe’s poetry into worship illustrates the ways in which poetry can serve to open up new possibilities for honesty and connection. Three of Wiebe’s poems, chosen from Monument by Froese Tiessen—who is also one of its publishers—are reprinted in this issue.

Malinda Elizabeth Berry and Rebecca Slough both reflect on the role of literature in worship from theological perspectives. Berry, Director of the M.A. Program at Bethany Seminary in Richmond, Indiana explores the potential she sees for literature to play a role in the regeneration of Anabaptist theology. Aware of the complexity and interpenetration of religious, cultural, and artistic symbols, she concludes with a layered image of the cross as interpreted by Toni Morrison. In her essay, “What Language Shall We Borrow,” Rebecca Slough, Dean of Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana, brings us back to the “Word” and reminds us that in a worship service rooted in scripture, hymns and poems can complement and deepen our reverence for the Word. Her essay offers strategies for renewing our relation to words, and will be of especial value to those who attend to the Word as they select complementary texts for worship.

Finally, A Cappella: Mennonite Voices in Poetry (Univ. of Iowa 2003) remains an excellent source of poems for worship, and many of the writers anthologized in that volume have gone on to publish new books, some of theological interest, such as Jean Janzen’s recent Paper House (Good Books 2010) and Todd Davis’s The Least of These (Univ. of Michigan Press 2010). Cascadia Publishing offers a number of poetry books under their Dreamseeker imprint that are good sources for worship poems, including Cheryl Denise’s I Saw God Dancing, Shari Wagner’s Evening Chore, and Dallas Wiebe’s On the Cross. Other poets whose words often find their way into worship include Wendell Berry, John Donne, T. S. Eliot, Gerard Manley Hopkins, James Weldon Johnson, Mary Oliver, William Wordsworth—just to name a few.

Poetry as Contemplation
Poetry as Contemplation
by Sheri Hostetler
Writing Poetry for Worship
Writing Poetry for Worship
by Sheri Hostetler
The Case of Dallas Wiebe: Literary Art in Worship
The Case of Dallas Wiebe: Literary Art in Worship
by Hildi Froese Tiessen

I was born to be a shepherd. I was trained to be a shepherd and I still want to be what I was destined to be. I want to sit on the ground, watch my flocks by night and wait for the glory of the Lord to come upon me ...

Three Poems for Worship
Three Poems for Worship
by Dallas Wiebe

From Monument: Poems on Aging and Dying

Reprinted with permission from Sand Hills Press.

Poised to Embrace: The Literary Arts and Anabaptism
Poised to Embrace: The Literary Arts and Anabaptism
by Malinda Elizabeth Berry
What Language Shall I Borrow?
What Language Shall I Borrow?
by Rebecca Slough
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German Scholars on Canadian Mennonite Writers

March 16, 2011 Vol. 3, No. 2

In this Issue

We are pleased to publish three essays by German scholars on Canadian Mennonite writers, along with a poetry feature by American poet Katie Lehman Pierce.

This group of essays engages issues of language and translation in complimentary ways. Wolfgang Hochbruck’s essay, “Rudy Wiebe’s Reconstructions(s) of the Indian Voice,” articulates three approaches to representing the multiple voices and languages of First Nations Canadians in Wiebe's fiction. This essay, originally published in France in 1989, takes on new relevance with the recent publication of Rudy Wiebe's Collected Stories: 1955-2010, which reveals Wiebe's full contribution in this genre. Martin Kuester’s overview of recent Canadian Mennonite literature, “A Complicated Kindness—The Contribution of Mennonite Authors to Canadian Literature,” raises the question of whether Canadian Mennonite writers owe some of their versatility and creativity to their multilingualism. Many of these writers have a background in Plautdietsch and German in addition to English, and perhaps hear these different “voices” as they compose their work. Christoph Wiebe approaches Miriam Toews’ A Complicated Kindness from a theological perspective in “’The Tail End of a Five-Hundred-Year Experiment that has Failed: Love, Truth, and the Power of Stories in Miriam Toews’ A Complicated Kindness.” As the pastor of the Krefeld Mennonite Church, one that has been in existence for 400 years without a split, he urges theologians to listen to the voices emerging from Mennonite literature. The essays by Kuester and Wiebe were translated from German into English by Gerhard Reimer, an American scholar and professor of languages who grew up as Mennonite in Manitoba.

Alongside these significant contributions to the criticism of Mennonite literature scholarship, we feature an American poet new to readers of Mennonite literature: Katie Lehman Pierce. Several of her poems published here have been inspired by Katie’s residence in Ireland, where she worked and studied with an Irish nun. Thus the works in this issue involve questions of transatlantic travel and translation—in terms of both culture and language.

We hope these works will lead to a deeper appreciation of the linguistic heritage of Canadian Mennonite writers, and the role that cultural exchanges play in contemporary literature by writers of Mennonite heritage. Look for a review of Rudy Wiebe's Collected Stories in an upcoming issue of the Journal.

Ann Hostetler and Gerhard Reimer, co-editors

Rudy Wiebe’s Reconstruction(s) of the Indian Voice
Rudy Wiebe’s Reconstruction(s) of the Indian Voice
by Wolfgang Hochbruck

This essay originally appeared in RANAM: Recherches Anglaises et Nord-Américaines 22 (1989), 135-142, published by the University of Strasbourg

A Complicated Kindness—The Contribution of Mennonite Authors to Canadian Literature
A Complicated Kindness—The Contribution of Mennonite Authors to Canadian Literature
by Martin Kuester
“The tail end of a five-hundred-year experiment that has failed”:
by Christoph Wiebe

Translated from the German by Gerhard Reimer

Featured Poet: Katie Lehman Pierce
Featured Poet: Katie Lehman Pierce
by Katie Lehman Pierce
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Indianapolis Writers Group: On Mennonite Identity

January 15, 2011 Vol. 3, No. 1

In This Issue

About every sixth Saturday morning, five writers gather around a cozy breakfast table in an Indianapolis home to eat, discuss current events and read to each other our most recent writings. J. Daniel Hess, retired professor of communication at Goshen College, pulled us together about ten years ago in order to encourage creative writing. Admission to the group was not based on prior writing experience or success, but simple desire. We quickly discovered a comfort level with each other that has allowed for honest, personal and insightful conversation—as well as invaluable feedback.

Our occupations vary: a poet, pastor, professor, psychiatrist and physician. Some of us have published essays or books, stories or poems; others of us have not. But at the breakfast table we are equals, eager to listen and share. Our time together has inspired us to write more—and better—than we would have done alone.

Recently we found ourselves discussing Rhoda Janzen’s Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, which in turn led us into a discussion of what it means to be Mennonite. Each of us understood, and had experienced, being Mennonite in significantly different ways. Having already been invited to create the contents for this issue of CMW Journal, we had a sudden “aha” moment—we would use Mennonite Identity as our common theme.

In this issue—through personal essay, memoir and poetry—we explore the twists and turns, the obstacles and landmarks, that have contributed to, and helped us define, what it means for each of us to be Mennonite.

J. Daniel Hess starts us off with an intriguing autobiographical essay, “My Mennonite Identity,” which describes his journey from a conservative Mennonite home with a thick Pennsylvania heritage, to going off to a more open-minded Mennonite college, then on to secular graduate school, then a detour to what was supposed to be a temporary stint teaching at Goshen College, and finally back home for his parents’ 50thwedding anniversary. The circuitous journey is exciting, painful, enlightening and ultimately integrative. Despite times of rejection and tearing away, many worlds come together to form a new Mennonite identity that honors the good in all he has experienced.

In recent years, Hesshas been writing poetry. In his “Three Garden Poems” he reflects on his relationship to the animal kingdom: considering how to share fruit with the robins, how to imitate the seed shucking of a cardinal, and how to make peace with a black snake. The desire for harmony—never to be fully realized—becomes more apparent in each poem.

Martha Yoder Maust, like Hess, comes from a multi-generational heritage of Mennonite forebears, but she was nurtured in a more international context. In her identity essay, “Branching Out from One Foundation,” she relates her experiences with Mennonites in Argentina and Israel, across the United States and Canada, and at three Mennonite World Conferences. Along the way she has also engaged with other Christian traditions, as well as other religions, and has found the historical “dividing wall of hostility” being replaced by bridges. Intentionally mixing her metaphors, she sees her Mennonite identity rooted in the foundation of Jesus Christ while also branching out into greater diversity and dialogue.

In her personal essay, “Gleaners,” Yoder Maustdigs into the struggle to live ecologically in a throw-away society. She values and gathers what others ignore or disdain. Gleaning thrown-out food from dumpsters becomes a metaphor for the productive way we can gather insights from a variety of sources in order to create something more enriching.

Two years ago my mother died, and the way she died reflected her free-spirited, Auntie Mame personality. In my (Ryan Ahlgrim’s) autobiographical vignette, “Mom’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Party,” I recount her final wishes and how my family carried them out. She passed on to me a commitment to creative and courageous individual expression—a quality which has not always mixed well with Mennonite identity.

My second personal essay, “Bogart and Being Mennonite,” explores how I came to terms with the tensions between the values of my parents—who had no Mennonite background—and the values of the Mennonite congregation and college that nourished my mind and spirit as I grew up. The result is a definition of being Mennonite that is truly “naked” Anabaptist.

Unlike the others in our writers’ group, Rodney Deaton had no Mennonite influences prior to joining the church as an adult. This perhaps gives him an advantage in being able to understand and embrace the soldiers—traumatized by the Iraq war—with whom he does therapy. His lack of traditional Mennonite indoctrination, as well as the influence of his maternal grandmother, also gives him a clearer view of our hypocrisies. His personal essay, “An Aggressive Mennonite,” pulls no punches as he challenges us to re-think what it means to empathize, to seek peace, to know grace, and to be Mennonite.

Rounding out our writings is a set of persona poems by Shari Wagner. Inspired by frequent visits to her uncle’s farm, and stories told by her aunt, “The Farm Wife” series of poems embodies Wagner’s curiosity regarding what life might have been like if she had lived on a farm like so many generations of her family before her. In these poems we meet a conflicted woman: anchored to the land and the solidity of her cows, yet dreaming of the ocean and sometimes taking trips without a destination. She ruminates on the meaning of snakes and tornadoes, trees and grain. She also experiences the grief of eventually leaving the farm. One of the poems, “The Farm Wife Sells Her Cows,” was featured by Garrison Keillor on his radio program,The Writer’s Almanac.

Throughout this collection of writings is a profound gratitude for a vision and set of qualities we can identify as Mennonite. But getting to these gems is not easy. They must be mined in our past and in our present. We have to get scratched up and dirty. Slag has to be cut away and left behind. And what one person finds may not be exactly the same gems someone else finds. If this writers’ group is any indication, being Mennonite has a rich and diverse future.

--Ryan Ahlgrim, Guest Editor

My Mennonite Identity
My Mennonite Identity
by J. Daniel Hess
Three Garden Poems
Three Garden Poems
by J. Daniel Hess
Branching Out from One Foundation
Branching Out from One Foundation
by Martha Yoder Maust
Gleaners
Gleaners
by Martha Yoder Maust
Bogart and Being Mennonite
Bogart and Being Mennonite
by Ryan Ahlgrim
Mom’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Party
Mom’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Party
by Ryan Ahlgrim
An Aggressive Mennonite
An Aggressive Mennonite
by Rodney Deaton
The Farm Wife
The Farm Wife
by Shari Miller Wagner
read more from Indianapolis Writers Group: On Mennonite Identity

2010

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Working with Scripts

November 15, 2010 Vol. 2, No. 7

In This Issue

When I was a student at Goshen College in 1956 I sneaked downtown one dark night to see a movie, A Man Called Peter. I felt guilty even about seeing that religious film, since movie attendance was against the rules. Later during a “Nonconformity Week” series of chapel services, we were warned against seeing DeMille’s The Ten Commandments. The only theater activity on campus were plays entirely directed by students for “literary” programs, and those scripts had to be approved by a censor. Even as recently as 1978, when the Umble theater was dedicated on campus, a strong voice from the church objected, saying the college should first have got permission from the church to launch that previously questioned activity.

How things have changed! Today, Mennonite campuses have theaters and theater programs, show controversial feature films, have television studios and sponsor filmmaking programs. The official publication of Mennonite Church USA, The Mennonite, regularly offers movie reviews. The Mennonite Church sponsors Mennonite Media, which regularly offers critiques of new movies via the online Third Way Cafe and makes documentaries for use by churches and educational and commercial television channels. Dramatic segments in worship services have become commonplace. All such activity is carried out within a context of Anabaptist critique, but the media themselves—theater and film—and the acting, directing and technology that they require have found their useful place in North American Mennonite culture.

This issue of the CMW Journal highlights the work in film and theater that some Mennonite-related artists are engaged in, illustrating different kinds of work and degrees of success. If in some of the essays one also finds a self-consciousness (or even defensiveness) in being a Mennonite involved in the dramatic arts, that is to be expected, considering the distinctive Mennonite culture out of which all of them come. The four writers of scripts for commercial feature films – Don Yost, Joel Kauffman, Collin Friesen and Sidney King -- represent varied control by the writer of the final artistic work and varied relationships of their scripts to Mennonite experience and values.

A script to be turned into a film is probably the most unstable of texts, meaning the kind most liable to be altered in the process of producing the film. In classic filmography, the writer sells the script, which is then altered in major or subtle ways by the producer, director, actors, photographer, and editor. Some such process generated the feature film The Big White (2005), written by Collin Friesen, starring Robin Williams and Holly Hunter, and distributed in North America by Echo Bridge. It was filmed in Manitoba and north Canada. The Big White, which received mixed reviews, was described by one blogger as a “quirky black comedy,” which Friesen elaborates on by saying: “My stories aren’t inherently Canadian or American, they’re just inherently weird.” The script for The Big White was the first one offered to Hollywood producers by Friesen. Although he has sold several others since, he has not yet matched that original achievement. His essay, a kind of wry lament, muses on his experience in Hollywood.

At best, the normal Hollywood way of producing a movie emphasizes “collaboration.” Don Yost and Joel Kauffmann were deliberate collaborators in generating their scripts for two feature films produced for the Disney Channel, Miracle in Lane 2 (2000) and Full Court Miracle (2000). They also discuss several moments when they were involved in the actual production of the scripts. Their essay here is also a dialogic collaboration. Miracle in Lane 2 won the Humanitas Prize in 2000, and Full Court Miracle was nominated for the same prize.

Sidney King exercised more personal control over his feature film, The Pearl Diver (2005), for which he was not only screenwriter but also director. The Pearl Diver was given the Best Narrative Award at the Winnipeg International Film Festival; the Crystal Heart Award at the Heartland Film Festival; and the Grand Jury Prize at the Indianapolis International Film Festival.

The films of these four screenwriters illustrate varied influences from their Mennonite backgrounds. Although Sidney now considers writing a script for an action movie (which would fulfill an Anabaptist emphasis on doing), thus far his work has dealt with explicitly Mennonite subjects. The Pearl Diver depicts a conflict between two Mennonite sisters in Indiana and finds a way to integrate the Swiss-Alsatian tradition with the Dutch-Prussian-Russian experience. For an interpretation of this film, see Julia Kasdorf’s essay in the “Martyrs” issue of this journal (September 2009). The video Sidney produced as a college student dealt with the disappearance of Goshen College student Clayton Kratz in revolutionary Russia.

In their essay, Don Yost and Joel Kauffmann discuss how Mennonite values appear in their films, despite content that is not overtly Mennonite. However, Miracle in Lane 2 is based on the experience of an actual Mennonite family in northern Indiana, and Joel’s first film The Radicals depicts the experience of Michael Sattler, a first-generation Anabaptist martyr. It won the Silver Award at the Houston International Festival.

Although Collin Friesen elsewhere says he is a “lapsed Mennonite,” he opens his essay by saying he was willing to represent himself as a Mennonite on Craigslist, and he was happy to contribute to this issue of the Journal.

Segments from all of the films mentioned in these essays can be found on YouTube.

Vern Thiessen has written over 25 scripts for stage production, not film. Five have been published by Playwrights Canada Press. He won the Governor General’s Award for Drama in 2003 for Einstein’s Gift. Although Hildi Froese Tiessen’s long interview with him was conducted in 2000, its publication in this issue is serendipitous, since it coincides with the opening in Toronto on October 29 of his most successful play, Lenin’s Embalmers, which won critical acclaim in New York City in 2010 and is being translated for productions in Warsaw, Poland, and Tel Aviv, Israel. Like the other writers here, Thiessen discusses some of the negotiations between writer, cast and producers that occur as a script is being staged. The interview opens with the kind of warm personal exchanges between Hildi and Vern that seem to occur whenever two Mennonites meet and get acquainted.

For good measure, we publish a lively, thoughtful personal essay by Jeremy Frey, who as a stage and film actor, becomes a kind of creative pawn in the process of making a work of art. After briefly mentioning his role in Beloved (1998), he focuses on his experience of being the only Caucasian person in an all-black cast producing a play about black experience, Deep Roots by P. J. Gibson. We learn less about how a play is made, and more about what personal effect the process has on the actor. The photograph of Jeremy that accompanies his essay, from The Big Job (2010), probably represents the first time a Mennonite has introduced himself holding a pistol, ready to shoot.

Some current Mennonite screenwriters are not represented here. That is especially true of the many Mennonites who make documentary films, to which a future issue of the Journal of the Center for Mennonite Writing will be devoted.The same is true for Mennonite writers of drama, who will also be featured in a separate future issue. We welcome nominations and submissions.

-- Ervin Beck, Editor

Misery & Miracles: Our Brief Hollywood Career
Misery & Miracles: Our Brief Hollywood Career
by Don Yost and Joel Kauffmann
Don’t Do It! Advice on How to Sort of Make It in Hollywood
Don’t Do It! Advice on How to Sort of Make It in Hollywood
by Collin Friesen
The Mennonite Screenwriter
The Mennonite Screenwriter
by Sidney King
"Every play should pose a good question": An Interview with Vern Thiessen
"Every play should pose a good question": An Interview with Vern Thiessen
by Hildi Froese Tiessen
White Nights, Black Mondays
White Nights, Black Mondays
by Jeremy Frey
Five Poems
Five Poems
by Charity Gingerich

“Currently life is rich and terrifying, and I am finding that writing poetry is a most useful expression of my faith, which right now includes exercising my doubts. Doubt, after all, is a necessary component of faith. How else do we become sure of truth?” – Charity Gingerich

Charity Gingerich’s ...

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Christine R. Wiebe

October 19, 2010 Vol. 2, No. 6

In This Issue

Christine Ruth Wiebe (1954-2000) was a poet, writer, seeker, healer, nurse--a Mennonite daughter, devoted sister and friend, Catholic oblate, and Christian mystic. This issue of the Journal devoted to her poetry and to reflections about her life and work is the second part of a double issue devoted to the life and work of two unique women artists from Mennonite origins: Sylvia Gross Bubalo and Christine Wiebe. Because of size limitations, the issue was published in two parts. “The Prophetic Art of Sylvia Gross Bubalo: Enabling Constraints I” was published in September 2010 and can be found in the issue archive.

Christine Wiebe was born into a Mennonite Brethren family. Her pastor father Walter Wiebe died in 1962 when Christine was six years old. Her mother, Katie Funk Wiebe, a professor of English and Journalism at Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kansas for 24 years, became a strong feminist voice within the church and one of its most prolific writers (see her author biography in this issue). To be born into such a family with a gift for writing is not surprising, but to find one’s own voice and to carve an authentic path in writing in this context can be a daunting task.

Christine’s biography reveals a sensitive and joyful spirit intent on imprinting her vivid impressions of life in language. From a young age she created hand-made books, hand-stitched together like Emily Dickinson’s. Her writings continued to translate for friends and close family members her personal experiences of illness and recovery as she struggled to return from the threshold of death. While she longed for a life of both service to others through healing and through translating her most intense experiences in poetry, and was able to accomplish much in both areas, her lupus, and especially the medications used to treat it, made her vulnerable to heart failure and strokes which presented themselves as hard lessons and powerful subject matter for transformation into art. From these experiences she wrote and illustrated a book, How to Stay Alive, for family and friends.

This issue features a selection of Christine’s poetry, published here for the first time, excerpts and lively illustrations from How to Stay Alive, a tribute by poet Jeff Gundy, a reflection on Wiebe’s poetry by literary scholar and poet Ellen Kroeker, whose poem for Christine is also published here, a memoir by her sister Joanna Wiebe, a biographical sketch by her mother Katie Funk Wiebe, and a complete bibliography of Christine’s published work.

In Christine’s writings and life there will be much of interest to those who seek to articulate a spiritual pilgrimage in the arts, to reconcile the demands of earning a living the call to make art, and to discover a healing journey in illness and limitation. In another time and another faith, Christine might have been a Theresa of Avila. As George Eliot remarks in her Prelude to Middlemarch, there are many St. Theresas born who do not end up finding their moments of grandeur or founding an order. But fortunately for us, Christine found poetry as a vehicle to express her longings and her love of life. Her poems compel us to experience language in a new way; her journals offer insights to readers who seek to understand the artist’s vocation, and companionship for those engaged in the struggle to create.

– Ann Hostetler, Guest Editor

SELECTED POEMS
SELECTED POEMS
by Christine Ruth Wiebe

These poems were selected from a manuscript of over 100 poems culled by Katie Funk Wiebe and Joanna Wiebe from Christine Wiebe’s papers. This thematic selection of poems suggests the range of Christine’s interests and the depth to which she probed them. Her poems are deeply sensitive to ...

How to Stay Alive
How to Stay Alive
by Christine Ruth Wiebe

Christine Wiebe wrote this book with the hope that her personal responses to her illness would help those in similar circumstances, or those close to people living with chronic illness. A limited edition was produced for her family and friends. We are please to publish excerpts from it with the ...

A Few Words for Christine Wiebe
A Few Words for Christine Wiebe
by Jeff Gundy
Her Spirit, a Small Bird with Color
Her Spirit, a Small Bird with Color
by Ellen Kroeker

She turns fiercely to her right,

Curling to the lost comfort of sleep or rest. She searches

For the childhood position,

Its sweet familiarity, even

As her breath becomes ragged.

Demerol dims the pain yet she moans.

Here lies my friend after a life

Of doctors and medicines

And dismal ...

Writing, Interrupted
Writing, Interrupted
by Ellen Kroeker
Christine the Storyteller
Christine the Storyteller
by Joanna Wiebe
“Bread and Roses, Bread and Roses”
“Bread and Roses, Bread and Roses”
by Katie Funk Wiebe
 Bibliography of Christine R. Wiebe’s Writing
Bibliography of Christine R. Wiebe’s Writing
by Katie Funk Wiebe
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Sylvia Gross Bubalo

September 19, 2010 Vol. 2, No. 5

In This Issue:

Art is produced when inspiration meets formal constraint. Some artists, however, must deal with more than formal constraints when they strive to give form to their work. In the case of the two Mennonite women artists who are the subject of this double issue on “Enabling Constraints”—Sylvia Gross Bubalo and Christine Wiebe—those constraints included chronic illness, gender, and the restrictions of their Mennonite contexts. Because of size limitations, the issue will be published in two parts. The first part, “The Prophetic Art of Sylvia Gross Bubalo,” is published below as the September issue of the Journal of the Center for Mennonite Writing. The second part, “Writing as Spiritual Journey: The Poetry and Art of Christine R. Wiebe,” will be published in a special October issue.

Sylvia Gross Bubalo (1927-2007) and Christine Wiebe (1954-2000) did not know each other. They were members of different generations and came from different branches of the Mennonite family—Bubalo from the Mennonites and Wiebe from the Mennonite Brethren. Bubalo was married to a kindred spirit, the artist Vladimir Bubalo; Christine remained single, though she sought out kindred spirits throughout her short life. Both women were poets and artists, although Bubalo’s formal training was in visual art and Wiebe’s in poetry. Yet the “enabling constraints” of their journeys as artists, and their understanding of art as a spiritual practice, resonate with each other.

Both women understood their art as a spiritual vocation. Both struggled with the restrictions of the Mennonite Church at a time when it was wary of embracing artistic gifts as an expression of spirituality and cautious about the leadership roles of women. Both women coped with severe physical disabilities, Sylvia with muscular dystrophy and Christine with lupus. Both were drawn to mystical expressions of faith—Sylvia through what appears to have been ecstatic religious visions, and Christine through her embrace of the Catholic faith. Both artists articulate a longing for spiritual practice lacking in their Mennonite experience, and both returned to the Mennonites at the end of their lives. Their verbal and visual art is their gift to the faith community that formed them and their artistic concerns continue to be of relevance today. By bringing their work to a wider circle of readers and viewers, we hope to enlarge its audience so that it can continue its transformative work. Look for “Enabling Constraints II: Writing as Spiritual Practice in the Life of Christine R. Wiebe” on or about October 18, 2010.

In “The Prophetic Arts of Sylvia Bubalo,” we meet the artist through her own words and images as well as through the reflections of those who knew her in life or who have responded to her work. This has been made possible by the generosity of our contributors as well as by the meticulous care with which her brother, the historian and scholar Leonard Gross, has catalogued and curated her paintings and poetry. Sylvia’s grandniece, Miriam Kirchner Gross, assisted with the selection and arrangement of the poetry. Sylvia’s “Artist Statement” serves to introduce her intention and vision to the reader. “Point of Entry,” Sylvia’s autobiography in poetry, along with related paintings and drawings, reveals connections between her artistic vocation, her faith, and the Mennonite community. Bob Regier, a visual artist and friend of Sylvia and Vladimir Bubalo, offers a reflection on the days when all three of them were students at the Art Institute of Chicago. John Blosser, a visual artist and Professor of Art at Goshen College, engages Sylvia in conversation in a rare interview. Dawn Ruth Nelson, author ofA Mennonite Woman: Exploring Spiritual Life and Identity, writes about her recent discovery of Sylvia’s visual testimony and how it spoke to her own spiritual journey as a Mennonite woman. Reproductions of Sylvia’s artwork are interspersed throughout the essays and poetry.

Sylvia’s vibrant engagement with Bible stories, reminiscent of the Jewish practice of Midrash or wrestling with the text, reveals a living faith that demanded her full resources as an artist. On the other hand, she was an outspoken critic of what she considered to be ossified practices and traditions among the Mennonites of her Pennsylvania community, especially those pertaining to women. In “Point of Entry” she recalls:

"So in baptism they said: 'Do you choose Christ and / (or) the church?' And she said: 'I choose Christ. (I can't handle the church).'"

Sylvia’s painting, “La Paloma,” portrays a stylized one-eyed woman in a flowered conservative Mennonite dress and an army helmet, sitting atop a dismantled weapon, her axe on the ground, and a dove flag, whose pole rises from the gun. One version of this painting includes the word “coraje,” which is Spanish for "rage.” According to medical anthropologist Marcia Good, women are said to have "coraje” . . . to have “nerve” . . . an expression that blends fury and courage to express an effort to surmount injustice.

Yet, as noted in a letter to scholar Reinhild Kauenhoven Janzen, it was the Christ-like spirit of many Mennonite men and women in the church, as well as the enthusiasm of her newly converted husband, the artist Vladimir Bubalo, at having discovered in the Mennonites a Church that preached the gospel of peace, that emboldened and sustained Sylvia in her efforts to conduct a ministry of art in conversation with the church. Sylvia Bubalo wrote to Janzen: “Both my grandmother and my parents and certain singular men and women taught or emanated the Christ-love. It stopped me short of rage, giving me resolve instead to become one of the voices of the same Passionate Love.” (“Art as an Act of Faith: Sylvia Gross Bubalo,”The Mennonite Quarterly Review, July 1998, 389.)

The Mennonite Historical Library at Goshen College has accepted the gift of Sylvia Bubalo’s paintings, the first major collection by an artist in its holdings, and the Archives of the Mennonite Church USA, her writings and papers.

Ann Hostetler, Guest Editor

Sylvia Gross Bubalo, Artist and Poet, Born into a Mennonite Tradition
Sylvia Gross Bubalo, Artist and Poet, Born into a Mennonite Tradition
by Leonard Gross

September, 2010

Artist’s Statement
Artist’s Statement
by Sylvia Bubalo

May 11, 1973

Point of Entry
Point of Entry
by Sylvia Bubalo

September 2010

Selected Poems
Selected Poems
by Sylvia Bubalo

The major long poem, “From the Turquoise Sky 21st Century You,” opens the selection. It is followed by a selection of shorter work, chosen from a manuscript of over 500 pages by Miriam Kirchner Gross. The contemporary epic, “A History of St. Charlie’s Chicago,” concludes this selection.—AH

Remembering Sylvia
Remembering Sylvia
by Bob Regier

July 2010

A Conversation with Sylvia Bubalo
A Conversation with Sylvia Bubalo
by John Blosser

October 29, 1992

A Response to the Art of Sylvia Gross Bubalo
A Response to the Art of Sylvia Gross Bubalo
by Dawn Ruth Nelson

August 2010

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Serial Fiction

July 15, 2010 Vol. 2, No. 4

In This Issue

Some books are so wonderful that we want to read them over, or even again and again. Authors sometimes capitalize on this kind of success by writing a sequel, or two, and suddenly a series has been born. Children still love the old Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series. Pre-teens and teenagers today relish the Harry Potter and the Twilight books and films. Many adult readers are fans of the books by Alexander McCall Smith in his No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, 44 Scotland Street and Isabel Dalhousie series. Most recently, The Millennium Trilogy by the late Swedish author Stieg Larsson has become very popular.

This issue of the Journal of the Center for Mennonite Writing focuses on this burgeoning phenomenon by focusing on fiction that has appeared in series written by Mennonite or Amish authors, or written about Mennonite and Amish people, whether by Mennonite-related or non-Mennonite authors.

A minimal definition of “series” might be a sequence of at least three books that deal with overlapping characters in the same historical and geographic setting. The narrative may or may not be continuous, although by including characters from other books their stories are at least implied. Usually books appearing in a series can be read in any order, which militates against a narrative that continues to unfold from the first through the last books.

Among the Mennonite authors who have been given the most attention in recent years at conferences and in journals, the three novels by Armin Wiebe about Low German Manitoba culture, often referred to as his “Gutental novels”—The Salvation of Yasch Siemens, Murder in Gutental, The Second Coming of Yeeat Shpanst—is the only true series that comes to mind. Rudy Wiebe’s Sweeter than All the World is a sequel to The Blue Mountains of China and Sandra Birdsell’s The Ladies of the House is a sequel to Night Travellers. However, a sequel seems to be something less than a series. And Birdsell’s books, later published as the one-volume Agassiz Stories, really constitute a long novel of stories.

This issue of the journal foregrounds other authors who have found enthusiastic audiences and distinguished themselves by writing Mennonite-related serial fiction. They are Mennonites Judy Clemens and Karl Schroeder, non-Mennonite P. L Gaus, and the many Mennonite, Amish, Old Order Mennonite, and non-Mennonite writers who supply the U.S. and Canadian mass markets for romance and detective fiction about Mennonite and Amish people—sometimes called bonnet fiction, or buggy fiction. The most successful of these writers is Beverly Lewis. My bibliography in this issue is an initial attempt to identify these series. Notice that, although it features mainly series of “bonnet fiction,” it also includes the series by Judy Clemens, P. L. Gaus, Karl Schroeder, Armin Wiebe and the earlier writer A. E. van Vogt.

Karl Schroeder’s short story “Making Ghosts” was first published in On Spec (Hard Science Fiction Issue), Spring, 1994, considerably before his “Virga” series of four science fiction novels published by TOR Books from 2006-2009. Luddites might not be able to follow all of the sophisticated cybernetics on which the story is based, but the story deals clearly enough with how the “virtual” representation--or creation, or re-creation--of a person relates to the human desire for immortality. When we die, can we live for eternity in virtual reality? There must be something about the water of the Brandon, Manitoba, community from which Karl Schroeder comes. It is the same community that produced A. E. van Vogt, regarded as one of the best writers in the “golden age” of sci fi, and, before him, Douglas Hill and E. M. Hull.

Judy Clemens offers the first chapter of her newest book,The Grim Reaper’s Dance, second in the “Grim Reaper” series, which was released on July 1, 2010, by Poisoned Pen Press, the premier U. S. publisher of detective fiction. Poison Pen has published all five of her Stella Crown mysteries and has given Judy a contract for the books in her second series, which features the paranormal detective Casey Maldonado, whose close associate is Death. No doubt this series will draw a following, too, but her fans might well complain if she abandons Stella Crown, the tough-talking, cycle-riding Mennonite sleuth featured in her first series.

About her second series, Judy says: “During 2008 and 2009 my father was very sick from cancer. Death became a regular partner of my days as I considered what was happening to my dad. When I began writing about Casey, Death came along as a natural companion. When reviews began coming out describing Embrace the Grim Reaper as a paranormal mystery, I was surprised. Death was such a real part of my life, I hadn’t thought of it as being anything supernatural. I now see that of course it is a paranormal aspect of the book! I write Death as a genderless being so people can imagine it as they will. Most people think of it as male, but I’ve had one person who seemed surprised it would be anything but female! It’s fun to hear people’s thoughts on what Death looks like to them.”

P. L Gaus was too busy writing his seventh Ohio Amish Mystery novel, all published by Ohio University Press, to contribute new fiction for this issue, but Kyle Baldanzi Schlabach offers a critical, interpretive survey of the series. Kyle is well qualified to present Gaus, since Kyle is a native son of the same area of eastern Ohio that Gaus represents in fiction, and Kyle has also taught detective fiction at Goshen College.

As my bibliography indicates, the number of “bonnet” novels published about Amish and conservative Mennonite communities is staggering. Beth Graybill contributes a critical survey of some of the authors working in the field. The essay is a revision of the paper she presented at the "Mennonite/s Writing: Beyond Borders" conference at Bluffton College in 2006. Among other things, Beth assesses the “authenticity” of the authors’ representation of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Amish life, which she is eminently qualified to do since she is a native of “The County” and until recently was director of the Lancaster County Mennonite Historical Society.

Michelle Thurlow focuses on the work of Beverly Lewis, who is arguably the most successful writer of Amish romance novels. In particular, Michelle gives a literary “reading” of three Lewis novels whose unity is supported by symbolic use of infants’ clothing. Michelle’s master’s degree in Christian fiction, along with her experience in teaching it, might lead us to hope that she will continue to keep up with, and publish, about this burgeoning phenomenon.

Indeed, one goal of this issue is to encourage more serious consideration of the extreme current interest, especially by non-Mennonite readers and authors, in Amish and Mennonite romance fiction. When did it begin? What historical and cultural developments have led to it and sustained it? Do the authors “get it right” in regard to Anabaptist theology, culture and experience? Why are the authors mostly non-Mennonites, or people only tangentially related to Mennonitism? What creative contributions are writers of bonnet fiction making to what readers of the CMW website regard as “Mennonite literature”?

Despite budgetary constraints, the Mennonite Historical Library at Goshen College still tries to obtain copies of every such book published, which makes it a beckoning haven for whoever will rise to the challenge of understanding this popular literature.

-- Ervin Beck

Making Ghosts
Making Ghosts
by Karl Schroeder
Chapter 1
Chapter 1
by Judy Clemens
Review Essay: P. L. Gaus’s Ohio Amish Mystery Series
Review Essay: P. L. Gaus’s Ohio Amish Mystery Series
by Kyle Schlabach

Blood of the Prodigal (1999), Broken English (2000), Clouds Without Rain (2001), Cast a Blue Shadow (2003), A Prayer for the Night (2006), Separate from the World (2008).

-- Athens, OH: Ohio University Press.

Chasing the Bonnet
Chasing the Bonnet
by Beth Graybill
“A Whisper of Satin”: The Infant Dress Leitmotif
“A Whisper of Satin”: The Infant Dress Leitmotif
by Michelle Thurlow
Mennonite and Amish Serial Fiction: An Informal Bibliography
Mennonite and Amish Serial Fiction: An Informal Bibliography
by Ervin Beck
Poetry Feature:  Six Poems
Poetry Feature: Six Poems
by Jeff Gundy

We are pleased to publish for the first time a selection of six poems by Jeff Gundy, author of the award-winning Spoken Among the Trees (University of Akron Press 2007) and four other poetry collections. In these poems the worlds of popular culture—suggested by references to Ronald Reagan, Jerry ...

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For Young Readers

May 15, 2010 Vol. 2, No. 3

In This Issue

At the “Mennonite/s Writing: An International Conference” held at Goshen College in 2002, Elaine Sommers Rich paid special tribute, in absentia, to Barbara Claassen Smucker for the many books she had written for young readers, most notably Henry’s Red Sea (1955). Other than that brief moment, apparently no other serious attention has been given to Mennonite writing for young readers, whether at the large Mennonite literature conferences or in published scholarly writings. This, despite the fact that the earliest successful literature written by U.S. and Canadian Mennonites was for children, stemming from books by Claassen Smucker and Elizabeth Hershberger Bauman in the mid-1950s.

The recent surge in handsomely illustrated books for children by Mennonite writers calls attention to this important area of creative writing and publication. Perhaps this issue of the Journal of the Center for Mennonite Writing will inspire more such books and the serious consideration that they deserve.

To that end, the CMW editors asked Kathy Meyer Reimer to write a preliminary critical survey of Mennonite children’s books. She decided to focus on the publications of Herald Press, the book division of the Mennonite Publishing House, since most such books have come from that press. Kathy identifies four different “eras” and at least five different kinds of books published for children by Herald Press and, in general terms, relates them to publications for children in secular presses in the U.S. Her survey and analysis need also to be applied to children’s books published by the former denominational Faith and Life Press and by Good Books of Intercourse, Pennsylvania, an independent trade publishing house founded by Mennonites, as well as those published by commercial trade houses.

For very young children, the illustrations that accompany the printed text are as important as the words in the book. We are privileged here to look over the shoulder of graphic artist Ingrid S. Hess as she describes how she proceeds to develop visuals for the books that she illustrates. Her essay is replete with colorful examples of the bold, stylized, “flat” artwork that is a trademark of her style. Ingrid, who teaches at the University of Notre Dame, also agreed to let us publish a presentation she was asked to give, regarding her work, to a meeting of Jesuits in California during the past year.

Barbara Nickel has previously won awards for her books for older children, including fictionalized accounts of classic European composers, drawing on her experience as a violinist. Like Sarah Klassen, the “featured poet” in this issue, she has also published several collections of poetry for adults. “Schnee 1939” is the first chapter of her novel-in-progress, now titled “September Cold,” which, like much Canadian Mennonite literature for adults, draws upon the historical accounts of Western Canadians, who were immigrants to the prairies from Prussia and Ukraine.

Of her plans for the novel, Barbara says: “This is a historical children’s novel that explores the relationship between two cousins who have never met, and their perspectives as German Mennonite children on either side of the Atlantic during World War II. Allegiances to country, family, and faith will be tested in complicated ways as their friendship deepens despite distance in the midst of one of the world’s greatest conflicts. The novel is based on much of my family history. My maternal grandfather emigrated to Saskatchewan in 1921 from the Danzig area, which (since WWI) was a city-state independent from Germany, although much of the population was German. He left most of his family behind, joining a farming community of Mennonites (Prussian, from the same area he’d left) who had emigrated decades earlier. My mother’s first cousin lived in Danzig, and her birthday party actually was cancelled because of the Battle of Westerplatte that opened World War II.” One incident in this opening chapter is adapted from a story told by the Canadian poet Patrick Friesen.

In the context of Kathy Meyer Reimer’s survey, it is intriguing to consider whether the work of Ingrid Hess and Barbara Nickel fits into the same paradigms of authorial intent and genres that Kathy finds in her four eras of publications. One might look for continuities, also, in the six poems published here by our “featured poet,” Sarah Klassen. Is it possible to see in her poems for sophisticated adult readers, intentions and subjects parallel to those of the writers for children discussed in this issue? In what ways do her poems demonstrate an ethical engagement with the world around her? There are no exemplary biographies in these particular poems--although one of her books of poetry focuses on the work and life of philosopher and mystic Simone Weil—but rather a deep engagement with nature, a clarity of observation, and especially in the last poem, a strong sense of social responsibility. And do we find in her poems a word and sound “magic” that might appeal, in an animated oral reading, to children too young to understand the poems’ full intentions?

Passing on the Faith: Mennonite Writing for Children
Passing on the Faith: Mennonite Writing for Children
by Kathy Meyer Reimer
Some Things I Think About While Illustrating
Some Things I Think About While Illustrating
by Ingrid Hess

To see Ingrid Hess's colorfully illustrated article about her work, click on the title above.

On Frosting and Broccoli
On Frosting and Broccoli
by Ingrid Hess

As presented to a meeting of Jesuits at “Search for Meaning,” the 2010 Pacific Northwest Spirituality Book Festival, Feb. 13, 2010. Also at College Community Mennonite Brethren Church, Fresno, April 4.

Schnee, 1939
Schnee, 1939
by Barbara Nickel
Poetry Feature: Six Poems
Poetry Feature: Six Poems
by Sarah Klassen

CMW is pleased to introduce readers to a group of new poems by award-winning Canadian poet Sarah Klassen, the “featured poet” of this issue. In these six poems Sarah explores the mystical possibilities indwelling in the moments of a life lived with full presence. Natural imagery evokes the prairie landscape ...

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Word Work

March 15, 2010 Vol. 2, No. 2

Bookbinder Image

In This Issue

Click on the link above to find the image that introduces this issue. It is “The Bookbinder,” one of 97 engravings in The Book of Trades published in 1694 in Holland by Jan Luyken (1649-1712), the prolific Mennonite engraver, assisted by his son Casper (1672-1708). The book of engravings has become Luyken’s most famous work, and the Bookbinder image has become an icon for book-binders and book conservators worldwide.

No doubt an idealized depiction, the Bookbinder seems to have reason to be satisfied, even happy, in his work. The room is spacious. The upper windows let in a lot of light and the lower windows and doors are open, letting in fresh air. In the left foreground, the worker sews signatures on a sewing frame, glue pot on the floor. In the back, the man beats the signatures prior to sewing. The round-blade “plow” at bottom right is for trimming book edges. The shelves at the left are crammed with books. Perhaps the Bookbinder is himself an avid reader.

He is doing “word work,” the theme of this issue of the Journal of the Center for Mennonite Writing. Perhaps he can represent most of the readers of this journal—poets, fiction writers, memoirists, bloggers, journalists, readers—anyone who loves words and might yearn to earn a living in some way associated with words. All of us might hope somehow, someday to attain the goal of the speaker in Robert Frost’s poem, “Two Tramps in Mudtime,” who says: “My object in living is to unite / My avocation and my vocation.”

This issue presents three Journal readers who, in very different ways, earn their living by means of words and books. Jeff Peachey is The Bookbinder’s closest descendant, since he has mastered the craft of book conservation and earns his living by it in New York City. We can tell he loves to hold and preserve the physical vessels of writing—books and pamphlets—by his clear and precise attention to the physical and historical details that the books themselves embody. Even more of his craft and insight is available through his blog that is included in the links on the homepage of the CMW website.

Marta Brunner manipulates books in a similarly meticulous way, but more theoretically, as an academic bibliographer for the graduate library at the University of California at Los Angeles. Her academic background is in English, rhetoric and the history of consciousness, not in library science, which gives hope to all that our training does not limit us to one vocation.

At the opposite pole from Peachey, who preserves books and their history, is Jane Hiebert-White, who as Executive Publisher of the journal Health Affairs, tries to keep up with the decline of words in print and the rise of words in digital form. Despite Jane’s heavy workload in Washington, DC, during the recent flurry of discussions of health care reform, she was able to rise above the chaos and craft her fine essay—like many writers, just in the nick of time.

Dr. Samuel Johnson, a lexicographer, defined his own “word work” as that of “a harmless drudge.” To some degree, the intense, minute scrutiny that our three authors’ jobs require fits that disarming description. But ask all of our writers if they enjoy their work, and you will, I am sure, receive a positive response.

One caveat: Nick Lindsay, the poet and mentor who was honored at the Mennonite/s Writing Conference in 2006 at Bluffton College, always urged his creative writing students NOT to try to earn their living by writing literature or teaching creative writing, lest the job ruin the art. Nick eventually left his teaching position at Goshen College and returned to Edisto Island, South Carolina, where he built winding stairs and fiberglass boats. Perhaps, in light of his warning, the three essayists in this issue have found the golden mean of “word work” between the extremes of “mere work” and “literature.”

This issue concludes with a series of linked poems by David C. Wright. He is the “Featured Poet” for this February 2010 issue, to be followed by Sara Klassen in May and Jeff Gundy in July. Wright’s five “Sarabandes” represent a new direction in his published poems. Instead of the sharp, chatty, witty and always insightful poems that we have enjoyed earlier, here he experiments with pure lyricism and emotion, responding to performances of cello music by Bach. The poems are examples of ekphrastics, or the interplay between one artistic media and another, in this case music and poetry.

The Bookbinder engraving that introduces this issue is also ekphrastic art, since it integrates image with poetry, creating a kind of Renaissance emblem. The Luyken text has been newly translated by Jan Gleysteen and Leonard Gross:

The Eye of the Eternal Being,

Can read the book of your heart.

If knowledge were hidden in secret corners,

Showing us the way to heaven,

It would be worth searching the world for it;

But now it has been clearly told to humankind,

In the Holy, God-given Book. Respond to it by holy living!

Ervin Beck, Editor

Outside of the Text
Outside of the Text
by Jeffrey S. Peachey
A Series of Fortunate Events: Becoming an Academic Librarian
A Series of Fortunate Events: Becoming an Academic Librarian
by Marta Brunner
Publishing: The Seeds of New Growth
Publishing: The Seeds of New Growth
by Jane Hiebert-White
 My Small Books of Bach
My Small Books of Bach
by David Wright
Five Sarabandes
Five Sarabandes
by David Wright

Poems by David Wright

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New Fiction

January 15, 2010 Vol. 2, No. 1

The title of this issue is a bit misleading, since some of the authors included have published fiction elsewhere, and the piece by Keith Miller is excerpted from his second published novel. But the title does capture the intent of this issue, which is also one of the goals of the CMW website as a whole: to offer unpublished authors a friendly venue for publication; to bring to the attention of CMW readers Mennonite writers early on in their publishing careers; and to make accessible the writings of Mennonites who might be unfamiliar to many readers of this journal. The seven very different fiction-writers in this issue fulfill these intentions in a fine way.

The issue also is intended to encourage the writing of fiction in the Mennonite community. Periodicals tend to favor poetry, which takes up less space. Readers can easily embrace a lyric poem, and move on if they don’t like it. Fiction requires more space from the publisher and more patience and commitment from the reader.

To pose a provocative, winless debate: it may also be easier for most people to write a good poem than to write engrossing fiction. If William Wordsworth is right, a poem springs from a “spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling,” which everybody experiences from time to time. Any person literarily inclined might be able to write at least one good poem in a lifetime, based on such experience.

A short story might also derive from personal experience—hence the close association between memoir and fiction—but perhaps it requires a fuller, more complex set of competencies and inspirations to create “believable” setting, characters, narrative, conflict, dialogue, resolution and idea (to invoke the classical ingredients of fiction).

As has often been noticed, Mennonite writers in Canada have tended to excel in fiction, as in the remarkable work of Rudy Wiebe, Sandra Birdsell, David Bergen and many others. Mennonite creative writers in the U.S. have produced much fine poetry, but much less fiction. That situation is remedied here a bit by a preponderance of U.S. authors: Keith Miller, Ryan Ahlgrim, Tim Stair, John Liechty and Linda Wendling

The seven pieces of fiction published in this issue prove once again that Mennonite literature is no predictable, monolithic body of work. The pieces are so varied that it was hard to arrange them in a fruitful sequence, and it is even harder to generalize about their connections.

The sequence begins with fiction by Keith Miller and Ryan Ahlgrim, both of whom move us beyond mundane reality into kinds and degrees of fantasy. Miller clearly writes in the tradition of Borges and other magical realist writers by creating a new world that bears little correspondence to daily life. Ahlgrim begins with mundane reality in Indianapolis, which gradually modulates into the realm of fable and poses a moral view of life, even if that “moral” is hard to pin down. Miller’s “Library of Alexandria” avoids any moral and lifts the reader into the purely imaginary, aesthetic realm. Miller’s piece welcomes the reader into the world of imagination in which the writers who follow him also dwell.

The next three pieces, by Dora Dueck, Tim Stair and Linda Wendling, exploit the idiosyncratic views of first-person narrators. Dueck’s short story seems so close to life that the Journal editor initially mistook it for memoir, although the complex narrative strategies in it signal that it is art more so than life. Stair’s narrator is so witty and saucy—and so different from its pastor author--that we relax, enjoy the humor and look forward to the unwinding of a picaresque tale. The most extreme, idiosyncratic, surprising – and biographically and emotionally complex -- narrator is Wendling’s God-haunted Hope, whose story becomes the most overtly religious one in the set.

The sequence concludes with two third-person narrations. Janice Dick offers the beginning of an unfinished historical novel, set in Siberia, that promises to add one more variant to the archetypal Russian Mennonite narrative of migration because of persecution. John Liechty creates a central figure who is an alien by choice, teaching English in an Arab country, almost despite himself. Dick’s chapter sets up a romantic, melodramatic story line, whereas Liechty’s selection comes from a picaresque novel that is funny, ironic and richly allusive to experiences found in Mennonite history and western literary classics.

A welcome response to any or all of these fictions would be comments addressed to authors on the CMW website blog. Any response is an encouragement. Feeling ignored is the worst fate a published writer can experience.

Ervin Beck, Editor

From "The Book on Fire"
From "The Book on Fire"
by Keith Miller
The Day I Saw Bigfoot at the Zoo
The Day I Saw Bigfoot at the Zoo
by Ryan Ahlgrim
Chopsticks
Chopsticks
by Dora Dueck
From "The Man in the Green Plaid Sport Coat"
From "The Man in the Green Plaid Sport Coat"
by Tim Stair
His Baby Bird of the Day
His Baby Bird of the Day
by Linda Wendling
From "The Other Side of the River"
From "The Other Side of the River"
by Janice L. Dick
From "Foot of Pride"
From "Foot of Pride"
by John Liechty
read more from New Fiction

2009

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"New" Mennonite Voices in Poetry

November 15, 2009 Vol. 1, No. 6

A Celebration of “New” Voices in Mennonite Poetry

In a recent talk broadcast on TED, the Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie warns against “the danger of a single story.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9Ihs241zeg

Although her focus is on African writers, and the ways in which western readers are apt to read a single work of fiction by an African writer as representative of all Africans, Adichie’s insights can productively be applied to a discussion of Mennonite literature. According to Adichie’s logic, cultures with great economic power have the privilege of telling many stories about themselves, but cultural minorities too often only have permission to tell “one” story to outsiders. If the story a minority writer tells deviates too much from the “script” of the single story, then the story is deemed “inauthentic” by critics outside the minority group, who have known the group primarily through this “single story.” Too often, their criticisms gain support from insiders who disagree with a representation of their culture that does not match their own experience. Yet, as Adichie convincingly argues, we are all people who have multiple, overlapping stories to tell.

Reading poetry, I’m convinced, is a way to expand one’s capacity for entertaining a variety of stories . . . as well as their containers made of language. Lyric or non-narrative poetry may not offer story as such, but it allows us to look at the world from different vantage points, illuminated through the lenses of other minds. While readers may lack time or patience to sample multiple works of fiction, they may be enticed to read a variety of poems. Poems, after all, are short. We’ll reserve the “New Fiction” for the January 2010 issue of the Journal, after we have offered readers a taste of poetry.

While I was editing A Cappella: Mennonite Voices in Poetry (University of Iowa Press, 2003), I was delighted to discover a whole range of diverse voices, each offering a unique perspective from the roots of a heritage whose churches have split over and over again because they insist on a single version of what is in fact a capacious and multi-faceted story. Mennonites have for so long been misunderstood by outsiders, a state of affairs complicated by the tremendous range and variety that exists among Mennonite groups. Individual Mennonites also tend to become extremely uncomfortable with representations of their cultural and religious group that do not reflect their “own” experience or understanding of Mennonites.

Mennonites (in all their variety) also have a tradition of fidelity to historical truth and loyalty to THE Story, both of their own religious history and of their understanding of the New Testament. Literature has typically been viewed by Mennonites with a bit of suspicion because it purports to tell many stories from subjective, and often critical, points of view. The ethnic writer often feels the double burden of both originality and responsibility for representing the group to others. Most “Mennonite” writers I know want nothing to do with the latter; it is an impossible, silencing task. Rather, these writers are people who have been shaped by a particular Mennonite experience who want to exercise their gifts and imaginations with artistic freedom.

What if we acknowledged our many stories? What if our self-understandings, as well as others’ understandings of Mennonite heritage, were as varied and contradictory and productive of surprising harmonies as an international library? Would such a circle of readers and listeners open up to include more members? Such was certainly the case at the most recent “Mennonite/s Writing: Manitoba and Beyond” conference, held at the University of Winnipeg in October 2009, co-chaired by literary critic Hildi Froese Tiessen of the University of Waterloo, Conrad Grebel University College, and historian Royden Loewen, Mennonite Studies Chair at the University of Winnipeg. The conference celebrated a place that has given rise to a rich array of Mennonite writers at a crucial moment in history when the sons and daughters of Mennonite immigrants encountered literature through secular education and dared to begin writing their own contributions, and when the Canadian world was receptive to new stories from its cultural minorities. You can read some first-hand reports on this conference at the end of this issue. But in a panel on the future of Mennonite writing, poet Patrick Friesen cautioned, “A danger in being Mennonite is to retell the same stories. It’s the danger of repeating something to the point of sentimentality or, possibly worse, to the point where the story starts to become a lie, the point where it is fossilized, becomes a museum piece that holds no life whatsoever."

Meanwhile, I am aware that there is also danger in the “single anthology,” as it may be used by readers or critics to solidify the “best of” a canon which is in the very early stages of shaping itself. Thus it is important to open the covers of our books to the reality that language is always creatively, restlessly changing its shapes and containers. None of the writers represented in this current “New Voices” issue were anthologized in A Cappella, nor have they yet appeared in print in the Journal of the Center for Mennonite Writing, another sign that poetry is flourishing among writers from Mennonite contexts in North America. One of the productive conversations between writers of Mennonite “stories” has been a cross-border one between Canadian and American poets. Happily, a new multi-genre anthology of British Columbia Mennonite Writers, Half in the Sun, edited by Elsie Neufeld and Leonard Neufeldt (Ronsdale Press 2006) appeared to offer readers access to an additional group of Mennonite writers, only a few of whom had also been anthologized in A Cappella, but some of whom are represented in this issue.

The ten poets featured here—men and women, from Canada and the United States, newly published or well-published—write of everything from divining rods to the feminine divine, from leftovers in an American kitchen to hunger in Ethiopia. Their language ranges from lyrical to narrative to imagistic to experimental. Their experiences encompass the struggles of building a new marriage, mourning the dead, exploring desire, encountering another culture, and listening to the miracle of their own heart beat. This issue also includes a set of translations from the French poet Rimbaud, testimony to the multiple stories that construct a writer’s self. Together, these poems invite us to taste language and thus to celebrate life.

Ann Hostetler, Guest Editor

Poetry Note: Look for more poetry in future issues of the Journal in the “Featured Poet” section, which will offer selections from the work of poets such as Jeff Gundy, Sarah Klassen and David Wright. And be sure to visit our archived issues for a sample of poetry published in the Journal of the Center of Mennonite Writing by Carl Haarer, Rhoda Janzen, Robert Martens, Shari Miller Wagner, and Yorifumi Yaguchi.

Three Poems
Three Poems
by Cheryl Denise

Three Poems
Three Poems
by Elise Hofer Derstine

Three Poems
Three Poems
by Carla Funk

Five Poems
Five Poems
by Becca J.R. Lachman

Five Poems
Five Poems
by Joanne Lehman

Three Poems from The Illuminations
Three Poems from The Illuminations
by Keith Miller

Translator’s Note:

At the time I first read The Illuminations, I was making ink drawings of Cairo. I’d lay down water and drop ink into it, letting the colors swim into each other, then go back in with a fine nib and clarify shapes. The Illuminations seemed to ...

Three Poems
Three Poems
by Jesse Nathan

These poems are from a collection in progress, “Fugue,” which explores the story and the state of mind of a man named William whose mother was a German Mennonite and whose father was a Polish Jew. William's parents encountered one another in Germany during World War II. Despite everything ...

Five Poems
Five Poems
by Elsie K. Neufeld

Four Poems
Four Poems
by Larry Nightingale

Five Poems
Five Poems
by John Weier

Letters Home:  An Informal Report on “Mennonite/s Writing: Manitoba and Beyond”
Letters Home: An Informal Report on “Mennonite/s Writing: Manitoba and Beyond”
by Ann Hostetler

The fifth Mennonite/s Writing conference took place from October 1-4, 2009 at the University of Winnipeg. It was co-chaired by historian Royden Loewen, Chair of Mennonite Studies at the University of Winnipeg, and literary scholar Hildi Froese Tiessen, Professor of English and Peace Studies at the University of Waterloo ...

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Martyrs

September 15, 2009 Vol. 1, No. 5

In 1660 in Dordrecht, Thieleman van Braght published the first edition of The Bloody Theater, better known as Martyrs’ Mirror in North American Mennonite culture. The second edition, published in Amsterdam in 1685, contained 103 etchings by the prolific Mennonite artist Jan Luyken. The book has remained in print for over 300 years and has been translated from the original Dutch into German, English and, in part, other languages. It is frequently claimed that “every” Amish home today contains a copy and that “every” Mennonite home used to do so—albeit, in both cases, usually unread.

Mennonites today have a love/hate relationship with the book. On the one hand, authors and artists appreciate it as the earliest and largest collection of artful narratives and images. And the average Mennonite stands in awe of the heroic stances taken by their Anabaptist ancestors in the face of the Inquisition’s mortal challenges to Anabaptist beliefs and commitments. Probably over 3500 Anabaptists were drowned, burned at the stake, drawn, quartered and otherwise tortured because of their Christian beliefs.

Yet the “martyr complex” that even today’s Mennonites are said to bear becomes a burden, or even a curse, as they try to negotiate the demands of their church community and what is required for them to function in mainstream postmodern, global culture. Must Mennonites be bound to their early history of humiliation and defeat? Can they affirm, or even understand, the fine points of Christian doctrine for which the early Anabaptists risked their reputations and their lives?

In 2009 a group of Anabaptist scholars met to brainstorm ways in which the role of Martyrs Mirror can be updated and renewed to undergird the current global Mennonite church. A conference, Martyrs Mirror: Reflections across Time, will be held at Elizabethtown College June 8-10, 2010. We may look forward to other new, and new kinds of, studies and programs.

Meanwhile, this issue of the Journal of the Center for Mennonite Writing illustrates the continued inspiration and relevance that Martyrs Mirror has offered to Mennonite readers, poets and critics. Kirsten Beachy is one Mennonite of a younger generation who has read Martyrs Mirror. She has not only read it but integrated its images, stories and lessons into her and her husband’s genealogies and her liberal arts education. She reflects the ambiguities and ironies that many Mennonites find in thinking about the book, and writes movingly and thoughtfully about its lasting impact on her. Rhoda Janzen honors her own reading in Martyrs Mirror by transforming its plain style and narrative into a complex poetic art, linking early Anabaptist suffering with wide-ranging literary and historical allusions--like the martyr in “Last Words,” who “instead of plain words . . . speaks in bright jewels, rubies and emeralds and aquamarines.” While Janzen offers us an ars moriendi, Julia Spicher Kasdorf finds an ars poetica for Mennonite writers in her analysis of Sidney King’s prize-winning film, The Pearl Diver. She finds that the film raises the question of the relationship between suffering and the artist-writer’s responsibility to individuals and the community in representing suffering for a public audience. It uses the Dirk Willems story from Martyrs Mirror to explore the central ambiguity of “whether sacrifice and separation can ultimately undo the Christian imperative to love and choose life.” Jessica Baldanzi reviews Janzen’s forthcoming memoir, which depicts with “wit and spirit” Janzen’s recovery from a traumatic divorce and her adult return, for an extended visit, to the close-knit, conformist Mennonite home and community in which she grew up.

These fine writings indicate that the influence of Martyrs Mirror has not necessarily waned among Mennonites, but has been transformed in a new context by a new generation of readers with new sensibilities. Oddly, English-speaking Mennonites have ignored the main Dutch title of the book—The Bloody Theater—and named it Martyrs Mirror instead. Both titles are metaphors that, if taken seriously, might inspire new insights and new writing. But The Bloody Theater, which implies fiction as well as performance, might also lead to new thoughts about a Mennonite literary theory.

Me and the Martyrs
Me and the Martyrs
by Kirsten Beachy

Kirsten Beachy is one Mennonite of a younger generation who has read Martyrs Mirror. She has not only read it but integrated its images, stories and lessons into her and her husband’s genealogies and her liberal arts education. She reflects the ambiguities and ironies that many Mennonites find in ...

Four Poems
Four Poems
by Rhoda Janzen

Rhoda Janzen honors her own reading in Martyrs Mirror by transforming its plain style and narrative into a complex poetic art, linking early Anabaptist suffering with wide-ranging literary and historical allusions--like the martyr in “Last Words,” who “instead of plain words . . . speaks in bright jewels, rubies and emeralds and aquamarines.”

An Insider’s Pearl Diver
An Insider’s Pearl Diver
by Julia Spicher Kasdorf

While Janzen offers us an ars moriendi, Julia Spicher Kasdorf finds an ars poetica for Mennonite writers in her analysis of Sidney King’s prize-winning film, The Pearl Diver. She finds that the film raises the question of the relationship between suffering and the artist-writer’s responsibility to individuals and ...

Book Review: Mennonite in a Little Black Dress
Book Review: Mennonite in a Little Black Dress
by Jessica Baldanzi

Jessica Baldanzi reviews Janzen’s forthcoming memoir, which depicts with “wit and spirit” Janzen’s recovery from a traumatic divorce and her adult return, for an extended visit, to the close-knit, conformist Mennonite home and community in which she grew up.

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Folk

July 15, 2009 Vol. 1, No. 4

Folklorists regard as folk culture, or folklife, all knowledge and skills that we acquire through "oral tradition and customary example." The key words are tradition and customary. They call attention to the depth of historical circulation or use that has perpetuated any one aspect of folklife. That is, what is folk is never created from nothing, but has been around for some time, transmitted from one person to another or, more usually, from one generation to another. Folk items or practices resemble those that we have observed before, although often with interesting variations since they are informally transmitted and re-created and are therefore not fixed in form.

“Hurry Back!”
“Hurry Back!”
by Vi Dutcher

Letter-writing, and specifically the circle letter, as presented in the essay by Vi Dutcher, qualifies as folk expression, even though it is not an oral genre. But it is customary in that it is a written genre and custom that has been passed on over many years, and it is ...

Three Poems
Three Poems
by Shari Miller Wagner

Shari Miller Wagner’s poems illustrate how the sphere of folk culture interacts with academic culture, where poetry-writing, with its origins in academic classrooms, is highly valued. Shari’s forms are sophisticated, from an academic point of view, but her subject is Mennonite and Amish folk culture. Four-part unaccompanied hymn-singing ...

Amish Joking
Amish Joking
by Ervin Beck

The Amish jokes presented here by Ervin Beck represent folklore that has been passed on by oral tradition, that is, from person to person in informal settings, usually in small groups, by word of mouth. Most of these jokes had not been written down until they were transcribed from tape ...

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Personal Writing

May 15, 2009 Vol. 1, No. 3

In recent years, personal writing has risen in regard in literary circles, as one subgenre of creative nonfiction. Two influences in this elevation have been the field of cultural studies, which has leveled the hierarchy of traditional literary genres, and postmodernism, which values the personal and relative over the objective and universal.

Silence, Memory and Imagination as Story
Silence, Memory and Imagination as Story
by Connie T. Braun

In her essay, "Silence, Memory and Imagination as Story: Canadian Mennonite Life Writing," Connie T. Braun articulates Paul Ricoeur's theory regarding memory and narrative and applies it to the historical Mennonite experience found in two masterworks of recent Mennonite fiction, Rudy Wiebe's Sweeter Than All the World and ...

Menno Pause Revisited
Menno Pause Revisited
by J. Daniel Hess

In this memoir, derived from personal experience,Hess gives a personal—yet restrained and reportorial—account of a crisis at Goshen College that has become legendary among students.

Daddy’s Girl
Daddy’s Girl
by Shirley H. Showalter

Showalter's narrative of her early teenage encounter with her father amid tobacco culture among Lancaster County Mennonites is densely personal, cultural and literary.

Three Poems
Three Poems
by Robert Martens

Robert Martens transforms into lyric poetry his childhood experience of growing up in the Mennonite community in British Columbia's Fraser Valley. The three poems appearing here move through depictions of his childhood village, Sunday School pranks, and adult experience in the city.

Grist for the Mill
Grist for the Mill
by Ann Hostetler

Ann Hostetler reviews a recently published book of poems by Helen Alderfer. We tend to assume that lyric poems reflect something of the author's life and feelings, but in this book the poems even become a kind of lifetime memoir in verse, scanning the author's life from childhood ...

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Yorifumi Yaguchi

March 16, 2009 Vol. 1, No. 2

This issue of the journal focuses on the work of a single author, Yorifumi Yaguchi, of Japan, and specifically on the relationship of his life and poems to the problems of war and peace. The materials presented here have been gathered through the efforts of Wilbur Birky, his American friend and interpreter.

Staring Down the Muzzle from Yamoto to Baghdad
Staring Down the Muzzle from Yamoto to Baghdad
by Wilbur Birky

Birky's essay, "Staring Down the Muzzle," relates Yaguchi's life and experience, during World War II and since, to his poems and his activism for peace in Japan. The original version of Birky's essay was presented at the "Mennonite/s Writing: Beyond Borders" conference on Mennonite literature at ...

The Movement for Non-Defended Localities in Sapporo, Japan
The Movement for Non-Defended Localities in Sapporo, Japan
by Yorifumi Yaguchi

In his essay, "The Movement for Non-Defended Localities," Yaguchi favors us with an account of the way he used two of his poems in a public, official meeting to try to persuade local authorities in his home district to make Sapporo a "non-defended" location. The incident is a fascinating illustration ...

Five Poems
Five Poems
by Yorifumi Yaguchi

Yaguchi has also contributed five of his peace-oriented poems for this issue. Published earlier in Japan, they appear here with permission of the author.

Poems for Peace in China
Poems for Peace in China
by Wilbur Birky

In May 2008 Birky was invited to visit China with Yaguchi on behalf of Mennonite Partners in China. Yaguchi was to read his poems and Birky was to comment on them, as well as make presentations on American literature and the English language. It was hoped that Yaguchi's presence ...

Wing-Beaten Air
Wing-Beaten Air
by John J. Fisher

Yaguchi's new memoir, The Wing-Beaten Air, is reviewed by John Fisher.

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Orality

January 1, 2009 Vol. 1, No. 1

Since oral literature was first rendered in writing, c. 800 B.C., the written text, read in silence, has dominated western thinking about literature. But texts rendered nowadays in radio, film and television-to name only a few "new" media-should remind us that the history of literature began in what some people call orature ; that the national literatures of many cultures of the world remain in orature; and that even the appeal of our written literature includes the implied sounds of the words, as in the fiction of Joyce, all dramatic texts and the assonance and consonance of all poetry.

The Mother Tongue in Cyberspace
The Mother Tongue in Cyberspace
by Magdalene Redekop

In her essay, "The Mother Tongue in Cyberspace," Magdalene Redekop presents a wide-ranging discussion of orality, mother tongue and ethnicity, especially in relation to literary writings by Mennonites. Her mother tongue, of course, is one variant of the Plautdietsch dialect spoken by-or at least familiar to—many descendants of Russian ...

Four Radio Poems
Four Radio Poems
by Carl Haarer

Carl Haarer, using the professional name of Carl Stevens, may be the best known poet in New England. As a reporter for radio station WBZ Boston, which has the widest range in the New England states, Carl from time to time reads on the air his poems based on current ...

The East Window
The East Window
by Bob Johnson

The short story, "The East Window," by Bob Johnson depicts a dysfunctional Mennonite-Amish family and raises some intriguing theological possibilities. Is the story more "about" Rodney's experience in the barn? Or about his uncle who observes the disaster? Some of the cultural context is implied by the spellings of ...

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