Honoring Work On St. Joseph’s Day

St. Joseph is the patron saint of workers. We all know work can be tedious, boring and exhausting. But work can also be exciting, fulfilling and satisfying. When we love what we do, we are told, we will never really have to work. But there will always be garbage to take out, pots to scrub, and laundry to do. How can that be considered anything but a seeming waste of time?

Have you ever noticed that on days when worries burden your mind, the greatest antidote sometimes is found through mindless work? Whether splitting wood or mopping a floor, the repetitive motions have a Zen quality that stills the restless mind. Continue reading “Honoring Work On St. Joseph’s Day”

Marriage Through Animation and Country Music

Have you ever seen the Pixar movie “Up?” That is pure Sehnsucht brought to animation. Here is a video of clips from the movie, accompanied by an Alan Jackson song that is compelling in its lyrical honesty. Coupled with the images, this is one artistic tribute to marriage.

CS Lewis and Free Will

George Macdonald said, “The one principle of Hell is: ‘I am my own.’

In The Case for Christianity, CS Lewis writes

God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong, but I can’t. Continue reading “CS Lewis and Free Will”

On Squirrel Nutkin, German Opera…and Geese

In yesterday’s post I referenced CS Lewis’s obsession with what he called “Northernness,” German mythology, the Norse gods, the works of Wagner. He also felt Sehnsucht, or deep longing for “the idea of autumn” he referenced as having shaped in his mind from the works of Beatrix Potter, especially Squirrel Nutkin.

If you look at the whimsical yet earnest illustrations of Nutkin for more than a minute or two, they can start to seep into your being, until you too might feel wistful for “the idea of autumn” that Nutkin represents. Continue reading “On Squirrel Nutkin, German Opera…and Geese”


I’ll admit, I really like the name of this blog. After all, it is inspired by a line in one of my own poems. But if I had to choose another name, and if this word was familiar to more people outside of Germany, I would name it “Sehnsucht.”

Sehnsucht is a German word that literally means: “longing.” Hard to translate literally but is an ardent longing or yearning. As CS Lewis treats it time and again, a key ingredient of this experience is that this longing is never fulfilled but is itself sweeter than any other human desire. Continue reading “Sehnsucht”

Irish Step Dance As Passionate Prayer

This evening, my husband and I attended a dance celebrating the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians. This, after all, this the month that honors the Irish. We saw some very talented young Irish step dancers perform and I was struck by the beauty achieved in the disciplined restraint of their motions. Irish step dancers do not move their arms. Yet with this supposed restriction, their legs leap and their feet pound the floor with precision and passion. It reminded me of my poems about the marionette, “The Marionette’s Manifesto” in which the speaker asserts, “It’s dancing through restraint that is the test.” Continue reading “Irish Step Dance As Passionate Prayer”

The Power of Memorization

As a teacher, I am fond of assigning the old-fashioned practice of memorizing poems. This is something that was commonplace in my grandmother’s generation. She is 98 years old now and can still recite Longfellow and Shakespeare. Poems take on great meaning now that my grandma is older and they are still with her. That taught me that words, unlike any other art form have the ability to enter into our beings, to permeate our bodies as part of our thoughts and as the speech formed upon our tongue and with our breath. Continue reading “The Power of Memorization”

Five Years of String Poet

This year marks the five-year anniversary of the founding of String Poet, the online journal of poetry and music. I founded it in 2010 as both an online journal and a New York Times-reviewed performance series. String Poet is a journal of excellent poetry that includes sound files of music by the Featured Musician in every issue. Our performance series brings fine musicians together with prominent poets at the Long Island Violin Shop, where the wooden bodies of cellos and violins surround us and a kind of magic is born. The best music can be called poetic and the best poetry is musical. Both provide desert bread.

In String Poet Volume IV, Issue 2, Meredith Bergman has created a visual prayer. Look at how this image poignantly captures the stigmata of pain experienced by so many on that September day in 2001. Listen to the sumptuously haunting music of Featured Musician Shem Guibbory in Volume II, Issue 2. And then, in that spirit, read the beautiful poetry of Gladys Henderson in Volume IV, Issue 1. The same ache captured in Bergmann’s sculpture is echoed in Guibbory’s resonance, and braided into the longing within Henderson’s words.

Desert Bread

One should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of one’s life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.

The phrase “Desert Bread” comes from my poem, “Moses,” which appears in my double volume of poetry, A Ship to Hold the World and The Marionette’s Ascent. It symbolizes that place at the intersection of the arts and faith. In this Midrashic poem, Moses trudges on through the desert, all the while longing to be near the banks of the Nile, the river of his lineage. Yet, he presses on through the desolation. What sustains him? Continue reading “Desert Bread”