Past/Present

Vol. 13, No. 2

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In this issue:

  • 0 read more Past/Present

    Past/Present

    by Ann Hostetler

    Past/Present

    The global pandemic has changed many of the ways in which we live in the world, as well as our place in it. Along with its many challenges, this period has witnessed new creativity among writers that share a connection to Mennonite heritage. As the world emerges from the pandemic, one of the things we anticipate is the rescheduling of the twice deferred (because of COVID-19) Mennonite/s IX Writing Conference. The conference, which will celebrate 30+ years of “Mennonite/s Writing,” will be held at Goshen College on September 29-October 2, 2022. The conference theme of ...

  • 0 read more The Professor, Four Quartets, and an Epiphany

    The Professor, Four Quartets, and an Epiphany

    by David Walter-Toews

    Albert Camus, reflecting on the Myth of Sisyphus, argued that the fundamental question of philosophy, and perhaps the only question worth asking, is this: is life worth living?

    Some teachers achieve fame and influence by performing brilliantly for large classes. Often, they are celebrated by both students and institutions. Such brilliant, polymathic, inspiring, performers have opened my eyes to many of the world's wonders. After the first flush of adrenaline, however, I have sometimes walked away wondering: why should I care?

    Other teachers focus their attentions with laser-like intensity on small groups of students, or even one student. These ...

  • 0 read more Three Poems by Connie Braun

    Three Poems by Connie Braun

    by Connie T. Braun

    These three poems are from a new manuscript in poetry and notebook form, evoking life and childhood in Poland, Ukraine, and Canada, before, during and in the aftermath of catastrophe. The opening epigraph comes from Ecclesiastes 7:4, the heart of the wise is in the house of mourning.

    The work’s title, The Stellium in My House is derived from an astrological reading, by a poet friend, of my birth date, and the work is divided in sections according to the stellium—planets, sun, and comet—associated with the time of birth. The sun is in the twelfth house “of sorrow ...

  • 0 read more Review of Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder

    Review of Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder

    by Shea Tuttle

    Yoder, Rachel. Nightbitch. New York: Doubleday, 2021. Pp. 238.

    The protagonist of Rachel Yoder’s novel Nightbitch—a mother who thinks she is turning into a dog—is mostly unnamed, called only “the mother,” “MM” (as she signs emails), and, of course, “Nightbitch.” Her missing name adds not only to the surreal quality of the read but also to the feeling of something like universality. “Something like” because I know better than to think that everyone, or every mother, or every artist mother would be nodding along with every page. But still: I was wagging my own doggy tail, as ...

  • 0 read more Review of Shale Play by Julia Spicher Kasdorf and Steven Rubin

    Review of Shale Play by Julia Spicher Kasdorf and Steven Rubin

    by Ervin Beck

    Julia Spicher Kasdorf and Steven Rubin. Shale Play: Poems and Photographs from the Fracking Fields. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press. 2018. 138 pp. $24.95.

    This magnificent book looks like a coffee table book, and may be used as one by owners. But it is a deadly serious description and expose of the depredations of fracking in the Marcellus Shale of Pennsylvaina, the home territory of the book’s authors. In 23 poems, 74 photographs and introductory essays, it delivers on its intentions and elicits a thoughtful and emotional response in its readers.

    The poems represent the recent development ...

  • 0 read more Review of Unpardonable Sins by David Saul Bergman

    Review of Unpardonable Sins by David Saul Bergman

    by Ervin Beck

    Bergman, David Saul [Daniel Born and Dale Suderman]. Unpardonable Sins. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2021. Pp. 200.

    A bullet shatters a window in John Reimer’s room and strikes a plaque with Menno Simons on it. The plaque falls on a crouching John, leaving a serious gash in his head. Are we to assume that Our Leader is chastising John for letting his detective—aka counseling--impulses overwhelm his preaching responsibilities in his Lakeview Mennonite Church in Chicago?

    Chris (Christ?)—a seminary student member of the church who refuses to take his medications for schizophrenia—sees angels, and questions and rants about the ...

  • 0 read more Review of After June by Charity Gingrich

    Review of After June by Charity Gingrich

    by Connie T. Braun

    Gingrich, Charity, After June, Green Writers Press, Brattleboro Vermont (2019),

    After June is the debut collection of poems—or are they hymns?—“by one voice, among women," Charity Gingrich, winner of the 2018 Hopper Literary Magazine poetry prize. The slim volume is resonant with striking and gorgeous imagery of choirs and singing, the landscape of Appalachia, the deer and blackberries, and “nature with its own instruments.” Pitch, its highs and lows and the intervals between, is the sustaining metaphor throughout this wide range of poems about beauty and sorrow that forms an ode from a daughter to her mother, to ...