0

Introduction to Mennonites Writing 2022 issue


Reflections on the Conference


30+ years of Mennonite/s Writing: Looking back, looking forward.

After two years of Covid-induced delay, several postponements, and a considerably revised schedule, writers, readers, and fans finally gathered for the Mennonite/s Writing IX conference at Goshen College in late September 2022. The editors of this journal, both on the planning committee, shared in the buzz of excitement for this long-postponed gathering, and as the main local organizer (Jeff Gundy observes) Ann Hostetler deserves special thanks for her brilliant and persistent work in bringing people together for a marvelous, jam-packed three days of readings, lectures, discussions, and conversation. (And music—more on that in a bit.)

For this veteran of numerous of these conferences, the event felt truly like a gathering of the tribes. There were rooms and hallways full of friends and fellow travelers from all over the U.S. and Canada, many I see only rarely. There was a great smorgasbord of words, stories, and images, from familiar voices and new ones, and greetings, conversations, introductions, and information of all kinds flowing in all directions. No gathering so full of events and people can be all things to everyone, but as the hours and days slipped by, the most common questions that bubbled up seemed to be “When is the next one? And where?”

We can’t answer that question, though rumors are already floating. But this issue of the Journal of Mennonite Writing gathers a wealth of material presented at, or related to, the conference. You will find work from new books by Cheryl Denise and Raylene Hinz-Penner, prose poems by Abby Carl-Klassen, a lively and searching essay by Kirsten Beachy, and Dan Born’s review of Anabaptist Remix, a substantial new anthology edited by Lauren Friesen and Dennis Koehn that was introduced at the conference. There are generous tributes to senior contributors to Mennonite literature, including Victor Enns, Merle and Phyllis Good, Raylene Hinz-Penner, Magdelene Redekop, and Hildi Froese Tiessen, delivered at the closing banquet.

Music has often been a part of these occasions, and we searched out links to music by writer-performers from a memorable late-night concert: Becca Lachman, Jessica Smucker, the bluegrass gospel band Rescue Junction (represented at the conference by siblings Kyle and Kaitlyn Gerber), and yours truly. Perhaps even more memorable was the Sunday-morning concert when Carol Ann Weaver on piano and soprano Mary-Catherine Pazanno presented the musical suite Poland Parables, with text by Connie Braun set to music by Weaver. We hope that these samples will lead you to explore all these musicians’ work more fully.  

Those who missed the conference, or particular sessions, may be especially interested in the links to recordings of keynote presentations by Casey Plett, Sofia Samatar, Rachel Yoder (interviewed by Shari Hostetler), The Cascadia Poetry session, the tributes, Hildi Froese Tiessen’s banquet keynote, and Patrick Friesen’s reading.

 

Kyle Gerber & Kaitlyn Gerber “Judah (Lions at Heart) Judah (Lions at Heart)

Lions at Heart album link https://open.spotify.com/album/3Ji9yNBHm4kmrARNFMSk9m?si=n1TYSlfmTjSnBpD_0H1lLg 

https://rescuejunctionband.com/home 

 

Jeff Gundy “Lucky” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTovPmL1eYg 

YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCN12Qin7NJ4OAPio34zrqAQ 

 

Becca Lachman “Fire Instead” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cSdmVDAWFp0 

https://www.becca-jr-lachman.com

Jessica Smucker https://youtu.be/KOULXQtfX78

jessicasmucker.com

 

“Way to Warsaw” from Poland Parables https://soundcloud.com/caweaver/way-to-warsaw-poland-parables 

Carol Ann Weaver home page https://carolannweaver.com/ 

--Jeff Gundy

About the Author

Jeff Gundy

Jeff Gundy graduated from Goshen College in 1975, and did his masters and doctoral work at Indiana University. His 13th book, Wind Farm: Landscape with Stories and Towers, is new from Dos Madres Press; earlier books include Without a Plea (2019) and Abandoned Homeland (2016), both poems, and Songs from an Empty Cage: Poetry, Mystery, Anabaptism, and Peace (essays, 2013). His awards and honors include a 2008 Fulbright lectureship at the University of Salzburg, six Ohio Arts Council Excellence Awards, and Bechtel, Yoder, and Menno Simons lectureships, as well as two C. Henry Smith Peace Lectureships, and he was named Ohio Poet of the Year in 2015 for Somewhere Near Defiance. His poems and essays appear in Georgia Review, The Sun, Kenyon Review, Forklift, Ohio, Christian Century, Image, Cincinnati Review, Terrain, and many other journals. After many years teaching at Bluffton University, he was named Distinguished Poet in Residence and Professor Emeritus of English in 2021.