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  • 0 read more 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, they fell in love and had a child. Now, years after the unlikely intertwining of their lives, their son is still trying to sort out his relationship to his hybrid heritage. These poems are a window into the depth and joy and turmoil of his confusion.

  • 2 read more Five Poems

    Five Poems

    by Joanne Lehman

  • 0 read more Five Poems

    Five Poems

    by John Weier

  • 0 read more Four Poems

    Four Poems

    by Larry Nightingale

  • 1 read more 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. The focus of the conference was Canadian writers from Manitoba, including those who had helped to create or participated in the literary community in Winnipeg during the 1970s and 1980s, nurtured by such writers and teachers as Robert Kroetsch and Dorothy Livesay, and the publishers of Turnstone Press. While the vast majority of the participants were Canadian—coming from Ontario and British Columbia as well as the Prairie Provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba—the conference also attracted international scholars Martin Kuester from Germany, James Urry from New Zealand and Ann Hostetler from the United States. The conference was designed as a series of plenary sessions and readings, so that it was possible for participants with stamina and time to hear every paper and listen to every literary reading. (See “Links to Events” on our home page for a link to the conference website.)

    On Sunday after formal papers were concluded, participants were invited to participate in a day-long literary bus tour of the Eastern and Western Reserves, Mennonite settlements in Southern Manitoba, including the city of Steinbach and an abundant traditional Mennonite lunch at the Mennonite Heritage Village, made famous by Miriam Toews’s A Complicated Kindness. Writers who gave readings in the landscapes that inspired their works included David Bergen, Di Brandt, David Elias, Patrick Friesen, Sarah Klassen, Al Reimer, David Waltner-Toews and Rudy Wiebe.

    Patrick Friesen wrote of the experience, “I had never actually gone to the junction of the Red and Rat Rivers where my own great-grandmother landed (near Niverville). I mean I knew of the place, had certainly been near it often, but had never previously bothered to go there. I was moved to stand where my four-year-old great grandmother Anna had once been. She was a powerful influence on me…died when I was ten, but I remember her well, can almost smell her sometimes…” In addition, Friesen commented, “the town of Niverville, and environs, came alive with David Bergen’s reading, and with his comments on the town. I’d been in the town numerous times but hadn’t seen it very clearly; it didn’t have any vibrations, as we used to say in the 60s, but it does now.” Although Friesen knows Manitoba well, he had never been to the border that David Elias wrote about in Sunday Afternoon. “Really interesting to think of his imagination developing there,” he said.

    Armin Wiebe was unable to attend the conference, but a memorable passage from The Salvation of Yasch Siemens concerning a perilous pilgrimage up the Altona TV tower ladder for love was read aloud in Altona while we all gazed at the tower from the bus—a rare moment in which literature and life overlapped. Another memorable moment was the generous faspa put on by the family and friends of Di Brandt in the Reinland Community Center, where Di read a poem from questions i asked my mother. In response to my invitation to share her impressions of the conference, participant Natasha Wiebe wrote the following letter highlighting two memorable moments—both of them involving chocolate!

  • 0 read more 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 possess a similar texture: a marriage of a child’s dream imagery with more careful craft. They were written at the end of Rimbuad’s poetic career, when he was 19, after his sojourn in England, after he’d been shot by his lover Verlaine, and just prior to setting out on travels that would take him to Java, Cyprus, Egypt, Yemen, and Abyssinia. They distill and incorporate the new cities and languages and literatures he was encountering, and contain a strangeness and energy I have not found in any other work. They retain their freshness today: it is extraordinary to think that while Rimbaud was writing these - the world’s first prose poems and free verse - Tennyson and Swinburne were at the peak of their careers in England. They may perhaps be best compared to the work of the early Impressionist painters, and in particular Monet. I wanted to translate them to understand them more fully, and to make them my own. In translating them, I have kept in mind W. S. Merwin’s advice, which he received from Ezra Pound, to keep “the greatest possible fidelity to the original, including its sounds.”

  • 23 read more 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.

  • 1 read more 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.”

  • 2 read more 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 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.”

  • 2 read more 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 thinking about the book, and writes movingly and thoughtfully about its lasting impact on her.