Literature, and especially poetry, has been in the West at least a nationalist project, a government-funded attempt to replace Classical literature with a great-power vernacular literature. Building a prestigious canon is what the powers that funded poetry cared about.

From mole.

the cassandra pages

When we create, I think we all long for the close reading, the deeply attentive listener or viewer. Making our work public is an act of courage, risking not only dismissal or rejection, but also intimacy. Editing, by its very nature, requires an intimate engagement with the text, closer perhaps than anyone’s but the author. I see that intimacy as both a responsibility and a great privilege.

From the cassandra pages.

small change

A gentleman of a vanished empire is what he seems to evoke. This is not so surprising, considering that he hails from a place where east and west converge in a perpetual stirring of history’s muddy currents in which the raft of character is often the only way to cross from shore to shore.

From small change.

The reluctant reader

“Moshe’s own journeys parallel those of the entire people later on.  Like them, he flees from Pharaoh into the wilderness, meets God at flaming Sinai, and has trouble accepting his task but must in the end.  Here is where Moshe shines as the true leader: he epitomizes his people’s experience and focuses and forges it into something new.” (Everett Fox, The Five Books of Moses, at 253.)

Michael has been like that with our little group over the past quarter century.  His stories of his young faith have become our stories, our framework, for our lives individually and corporately.  Plain, honest, often abject, often magical.  Like a patriarch’s.  I hope he writes.

I’ve been slowly reading Genesis over the past few months.  My plan was to move on to Exodus, but I’m reluctant to do it.  I’ve been asking myself why.  Reluctant to take on Moshe again?  Reluctant to relive all of the childish behavior at the national level in time for the next presidential election cycle?  Reluctant to move from a God at the personal and clan level who quietly spins jealousies, squabbles, and bad decisions into fulfilled promises?  To a God who intervenes with signs and miracles and statutes, the stuff that, taken together, tends to limit human freedom and amounts to the Grand Inquisitor’s final solution?

Exodus starts politics beyond the clan level: crowd dynamics, stunts, statutes, delegation, and demagoguery.

Our nation sees its own history in Exodus through Numbers, of course: the escape from the Old World, character-building trials, pioneers looking for the Promised Land, the distinctions between godly and native practices, the exceptionalism, the enslavement of other races, the destruction of other nations.

Exodus also has launched a thousand churches in basements and middle schools all over Northern Virginia alone.  In the last fifty years alone.

One good thing: my reticence has made me dwell in Everett Fox’s wonderful introductions to Exodus and Moshe.

The best thing about Moshe for me has been his genuine reluctance.  Reluctance to a fault – a God-angering reluctance.  But God doesn’t seem to get too mad at him, and how could he?  God spent the middle forty years of Moshe’s life burning the youthful brashness out of him.  Moshe’s story is as wonderful as the matriarchs’ and patriarchs’ in Genesis before him.

Two Dishes But To One Table

It was emotionally demanding.  I lived in despair for the last two acts, having the sensation for a good   30 minutes that I was sliding down a slate roof, straining for traction with my fingernails and arriving at the end, not a precipice but something more like abandonment.  Leaving the theater I felt a little ill and wanted no more mention of the characters or themes.  I was Leared out.

From Two Dishes But To One Table