Contributor Notes: 8.1
We ask our contributing authors to consider the role of faith in their work, or in the pieces in our issue. It adds some depth to what is often just of list of accomplishments that lacks any real sense of who wrote a particular poem or essay or story.
Here’s a selection of what our authors had to say:
Daniel Bowman, Jr.
So many of my poems have water in them in one way or another. It is, for me, among the most profound symbols, and a hugely important part of my faith. One of the four classical elements, it has always been used for cleansing and for healing. Jung saw it as representing the collective unconscious, where the archetypes reside. There is tremendous power in that place, and therefore tremendous threat. “The Waves” seems to relate to this somehow—the speaker has heard this call to greater depth and awareness, and has internalized it. I think he is on the faith journey, called to consciousness, to the fact that “The kingdom of God is at hand” and “within.”
In “The Bridge at the Bend,” the speaker visits a bridge over a creek in winter, presumably drawn to the power of the water but unable to summon any feeling. In the summer, the speaker and a friend go to Batavia to see a Muckdogs game (Single A, short season baseball). Batavia is the birthplace of novelist and critic John Gardner, and is also where he is buried. In the poem, the experience of the cold creek water late at night (after the ball game and a stop at the pub) is holy. They believe they see the ghost of Gardner sitting on the banks of that water. They honored his spirit that night, and were reborn, as we must be each day.
I see writing and faith joining hands in acts of witness—acts of seeing the lives of others (and my own life) acted out in their precise actualities. I’m not interested in glossing over truths, minimizing damage, or escaping this reality. As a Christian, I believe the Incarnation is a direct call to stay rooted in what’s happening here and now, in this present and fleeting moment. It’s an ultimate act of creativity that calls us to create ourselves. And to create vividly, we must learn to see clearly.
I hope these poems capture a precision and vision that is a kind of incarnation, in some small way. “Moonflower,” “Dissonance,” and “Cacophony” are poems, I think, of reaching outward toward our creatureliness—to desire full life, to try and understand death, and what it might mean to create life—however serious, ironic, or humorous. “Drift” and “This Winter Mix” are both earlier poems of mine about betrayal—the betrayal of the senses and mind against the body, and the betrayal of one human being to another.
It’s my hope that these poems will awaken you to something in your own experience, and begin to speak beyond these pages. At their best, I hope they charge you to sit down and create yourself, reveal yourself in your own creation, or ask more of you than just a quick glance. In any case, this is my voice—me trying to say that I see you, that I hear you, and that I’m trying to speak as clearly as I can.
I find faith to be an unbelievable thing, a magic trick of sorts. It is worth attempting to understand while always slightly outside our grasp. In literature we get to see glimpses of its process and tools and logic. It is like getting to see behind the curtain, for a moment, or sneaking a peek into the box where human beings will shortly be cut in half and then made whole again.
Jesus is a master of metaphors—the parables, the kingdom of heaven analogies. He’s always giving those poor disciples a brain teaser. And we can understand their confusion. We doubt along with them, we puzzle and question and scratch our heads, we give our own experience a hard look and try and imagine the kingdom of God. Is it in this rocky field? Is it in an untimely death? In the poverty of a hardscrabble life, or in the sweat-and-dust transformation that lifts us outside it? Is it the sense of flying, or the reality of crashing back to earth? “After the Funeral” doesn’t so much answer these questions as give weight to the asking. This poem previously appeared on The Far Field, a blog of Washington state poets.
For me, depression came quietly. It crept in one damp winter and lodged in my body like a parasite—dangerous and invisible and growing. It came by way of loneliness and displacement, and before long, it had taken hold of my heart.
How many months did I hack at the ground with a spade, trying to dig myself out? I was a good, church girl, and I believed that if I did enough Bible studies, wrote enough in my prayer journal, found the right church, I would find God. But in my head, it was pitch-black dark, and I couldn’t find him, couldn’t find my way out, no matter how I strained with the digging.
During those dark months, I wrote. I was halfway through my master’s in creative writing, and prompt after prompt, I wrote the Darkness. I wrote around it and into it. I wrote it in lists, in first person and third person, in past tense and present tense and infinite future. I wrote until it was a book.
And in that time when the Christian clichés and formulas were crumbling beneath me, writing gave me a way to be honest. When I couldn’t bring myself to read God’s words, he met me in mine.
When I say that memoir, for me, is a work of wholeness, it’s because this is where God healed me.
It was here that I found him again—in all of these words, written one by one in the dark.