Hold It All

Month: August, 2018

What Kind of University Does SLU Want To Be?

Reading about SLU’s receiving of Rex Sinquefield’s fifty million dollars reminded me of a letter Mev Puleo wrote to then SLU President Biondi 25 years ago …

 

A School/2

After the exhilarating World Youth Day experience, Mev jumped right into her doctoral program at the GTU in Religion and the Arts. Early on, she became acquainted with Maria Bower, a doctoral student in spirituality, with whom she increasingly spent time. She also continued her Haiti solidarity work with local activists Pierre LaBoussiere and Nancy Laleau. But even as she began her study, her experience earlier in the year in El Salvador was raising all kinds of questions to her about higher education.  She dashed off the following  letter to St. Louis University President Father Lawrence Biondi.  

6 September 1993
Lawrence Biondi, S.J.
St. Louis University
221 North Grand Boulevard
St. Louis, MO  63103

Dear Father Biondi,

Greetings from a SLU alumna living in California.  I hear good words about you from both my father, Peter Puleo, and from some SLU faculty with whom I keep in touch, such as Sr. Dolores Greeley.  Congratulations on your good work.

I am writing in response to the “Campaign for St. Louis University” materials.  You and those who worked on this produced a beautiful publication with an attractive layout — which I appreciate as a professional photographer.  A while back, when I was heading to El Salvador for a meeting, Fr. McGannon gave me some literature on both the SLU Campaign and for the UCA-El Salvador Campaign.  (I imagine you are familiar with that publication as well, put out by the AJCU in D.C.).  

As a graduate and great fan of SLU, and as a person who has been active in solidarity work with Central America for more than a decade (which I began during my student years at SLU), I was jarred by looking at the two campaign booklets side by side.  I am very impressed with the UCA’s attention to “Social Outreach,” their ongoing analysis of the “national reality,” their attention to institutional violence, defense of human rights, and to bringing together people from across the political spectrum to try to encourage a more just, humane society.  They are explicit in their aims to educate the privileged (the literate and college-bound) to lead and serve the needs of the majority of the country.  While the SLU booklet mentions community service and scholarship funds, these themes of immersion, analysis and engagement in the local social reality are absent.   Read the rest of this entry »

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Jew-in-the-Library, Jew-in-the-Streets

Jill Krementz, The Jewish Writer, Henry Holt and Company, 1998

Portraits, bios, occasionally quotations form this coffee table book collection of Jewish writers, poets, novelists, scholars. Wiesel is here, as is his nemesis Hannah Arendt, as is Norman Finkelstein’s nemesis, Daniel Jonah Goldhagen.

Chava Rosenfarb touched me most.

The book’s a testimony to Jewish empowerment, making it (Podhoretz is included), with some occasional sentimentality. The Holocaust survivors are here, a few Yiddish writers, a few Israelis (no women), the young and the ancient, many New Yorkers.

I don’t think the word “Palestinians” is in the whole book, and why should it be? This is a feel-good tribute to the tribe’s success stories. Why muck it up with notice of Israel’s ethnic cleansing program? (But then, if Krementz had done a similar book on “American Writers” in 1982, you wouldn’t be surprised if no one mentioned the recent Indochina cataclysms, compliments of the United States.) Thus, I.B. Singer’s line doesn’t appear to apply to many of these writers: “Life itself is a permanent crisis.” In the Promised Land of American Success, Academy of Arts and Letters, Holocaust and Lower East Side Memorials, how could it be?

What follows is a list of those writers I’d be happy to read (or in some cases, get reacquainted with): Read the rest of this entry »

I Was Sitting Outside at 6 North Coffee

I bought tea for my friends
Shams and Rumi
Another intoxicatingly sunny day
70 degrees
They were cutting up the way they always do
But they could see in my eyes a request to quit horsing around.

“Friend Mark,” Rumi began, “Tell us what is on your mind….”

I knew how to ring their bell. Read the rest of this entry »

Not So Random Entries, Commonplace Moleskine/5

7.  Our monkey-minds are like these agitated monsters that are wanting this and collecting that, always grabbing, grabbing, grabbing. The process of cooling out that agitation takes time, and that’s hard for the agitated mind to accept. But the spiritual journey will teach us patience if it teaches us nothing else.  –Ram Dass

107.  If our present suffering ever leads to a revival, this will not be brought about through slogans but in silence and moral loneliness, through pain, misery, and terror, in the profoundest depths of each man’s spirit.  –Simone Weil

207.  To put it simply: I have read everything that Jerry [Rothenberg] has written, translated or edited, and I still read it all the time. He is the rare poet whose last book is his best book, and whose next book I’ll read the day I get it.  –Eliot Weinberger

307.  All his energies, like those of every soldier, were unconsciously directed to restraining himself from contemplating the horror of his position. –Leo Tolstoy

407. I suppose that what in other men is religion is in me love of nature. –Henry David Thoreau Read the rest of this entry »

Exemplar of Epistolary Ecstasy

Bill Morgan, ed., The Letters of Allen Ginsberg

“Recommending Hare Krishna to one and all” 375

It might have taken me 12 hours to read this book line by line, but it’s more important to trust and intuit at look of page, and find what is useful, and not read like pedantic scholar or (still) anxious grad student scrupulous about comprehensive exams.

There’s not much to say here, except this: I have been a pathetic slacker when it comes to correspondence, and so it was worth the 20 bucks I spent on this volume to allow this vow to arise: I vow to write 1 person each day in old style 1989 letter for 15-20 minutes, JUST A SINGLE PAGE, bang it out.

So, thank you, Allen, for being role model, exemplar, candid explainer, exhibiter of neuroses, free thought fun thought, intimacy engenderer, and I think of people I need to at least write one page to: LW, CT, CG, AW, TS, JL, SM, LD, RK, and 50 more! Revive the great era of letter writing! Use letter as warm up for any writing I want to do. Wish to be ancient, marginal, anti-up-to-date, within 24 hours of me receiving from you, you will have response in mail… training (again) in wild mind.

Plus, List 50 luminaries—literary, political, spiritual and write them letters. Fearlessness. Charming notes to sages, authors, mentshes. N.B. Correspondence as a response to something: Book, event, circumstance, insight, feeling, memory…. [Best writing comes in letters, hence, the epistolary form for future book]

Reading this book, I want to start exhaustive correspondence log, including date, addressee, form (Facebook, email, letter, postcard).

Poem to write: Allen Ginsberg Healthy at 83—Twitter, Facebook, 84,000 prostrations of the Mind Read the rest of this entry »

Share the Wealth with Gregory Pass: Notes from My Library

Moving into our house five years ago gave my wife, Jennifer Lowe, and me room to expand our libraries. I have been collecting or accumulating books with some purpose since I was eleven or twelve years old. My current collection is for the most part a reader’s library—that is to say most volumes are acquired at least with the virtuous intention of reading them at some point. And as a library reflects the reader, its patterns must say something about my interests and motivations as a collector of books—either for the works they contain or, as Samuel Pepys once said, “for the love of the binding.” One area of interest we both share is publishers’ decorated cloth bindings of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, wonderfully inventive, beautiful, and colorful designs embossed into cloth bindings used by publishers to decorate and promote their books before the prominence of illustrated dust jackets. We will introduce you to some of these items from our collections and expand to other areas of our libraries (and of the house) as time and interest allow.

Gregory Pass is a medievalist and librarian with interests in manuscript studies and book history. He is head of Special Collections at Saint Louis University. Jennifer Lowe is Rare Books Librarian at Saint Louis University.

Join us
Sunday 26 August
Potluck dinner begins at 6:00 p.m.
Gregory and Jenny begin sharing at 6:45
At their home
2358 Tennessee
Saint Louis 63104

Not So Random Entries, Commonplace Moleskine/4

99. There is a notion of “passing it on,” that simple. One to one. Elder to younger perhaps. That “poetry is news,” that the inspiration for any work you do and the work you do as a writer and artist connects you to an ageless continuum. “In the mind of the poet, all times are contemporaneous.”   — Anne Waldman

198. Translation theory, however beautiful, is useless for translating. There are laws of thermodynamics, and there is cooking. –Eliot Weinberger

297.  The death of the ego is the purpose of all the disciplines of the spiritual life. Even in little things, whenever we are very patient or cheerfully do something we dislike, a little of our selfishness and self-will has died. –Sri Eknath Easwaran

396. When the mind is braced by labor and invention, the page of whatever book we read becomes luminous with manifold allusion. –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Share the Wealth with Linsey Stevens: Iphelia and Editing with the Gift of Feeling

What kind of work would you wake up in a hospital bed eager to do?
And how is editing like being a doula?

The first question is one I answered back in the fall of 2015. That summer, my husband and I had settled into first-time home ownership and I’d “leveled up” professionally, having moved from the Department of Social Services, where I’d been a Family Support caseworker, to Mercy, where I was hired on as a patient benefit and Medicaid advisor. My career seemed to be opening up before me and everything looked good on paper. But I was miserable. I was physically sick every day at work and I was unhappy even when I got home. I felt trapped in my life and was disappointed that I wasn’t shaping up to be the great social servant or public educator I was sure I should be.

I resigned from Mercy and went to work part-part time teaching children’s swim lessons. Like so many creators, I started side hustling: writing and editing for peanuts through a site called Upwork. Amidst the uncertainty, I realized I’d happily wake up in a hospital bed, ask for my laptop, and dive into editing another person’s writing. I’d found a professional passion and was ready to move on from the rescuer narrative that I had to be sacrificing myself in a certain setting to help others or assume my place in the world.

Over the last three years my journey as an editor, creator, and human being has unfolded in sometimes bumpy, but also fantastic ways. As doors have opened (more on that Sunday) so have windows—and my heart and mind. I’ve developed a close working relationship with Erick French, LCSW, author and illustrator of Iphelia: Awakening the Gift of Feeling and have been editing full time for HealthyWay Media, a women’s lifestyle and wellness brand, for over a year. Read the rest of this entry »

Reading of Dorothy’s Reading

The Dorothy Day Book, compiled by Margaret Quigley and Michael Garvey,  is a  kind of posthumous commonplace book, that is, a collection of quotations from Dorothy’s decades of reading (largely from her column in the Catholic Worker), interspersed with some of her own commentaries on her life.  

As this slim volume attests, she was a voracious and vivacious reader, culling wisdom, aperçus, exhortations, and epigrams from saints (Gertrude,  Teresa of  Avila, Maximilian Kolbe),  rabbis (A.J. Heschel), popes (Leo XIII, Pius XI, John XXIII), sages (R.W. Emerson and H.D. Thoreau), novelists (Upton Sinclair, George Orwell, Leo Tolstoy, Henry Miller), activists (Danilo Dolci, Mohandas Gandhi, A.J. Muste), literary critics (Raymond Williams), philosophers (Immanuel Kant, Simone Weil, Herbert Marcuse), monks (Roger of Taize, Thomas Merton, Thich Nhat Hanh), poets (Samuel Taylor Coleridge, W. H. Auden), prophets (Isaiah), theologians (Teilhard de Chardin, Johannes Baptist Metz), even university presidents (Theodore Hesburgh), to name but some of those cited in these pages.  The entries reveal Dorothy’s preoccupations with property and poverty, war and peace, patriotism and idolatry, service and self-purification.  She read newspapers and the Book of Common prayer,  classic novels and the lives of the saints, social criticism and spiritual testimonies.  Her practice of reading was a decades-long, spirited  clarification of thought.

In their introduction, the editors quote  Dorothy’s view of reading:  “The books will always be there.  If we give up many other distractions, we can turn to them.  We can browse among the millions of words written and often just what we find can nourish us, enlighten us, strengthen us — in fact, be our food just as Christ, The Word, is also our food.”

Here is what I’ve culled from her culling and own writing … Read the rest of this entry »

Not So Random Entries, Commonplace Moleskine/3

100. [T]oday it is not nearly enough to be a saint, but we must have the saintliness demanded by the preset moment, a new saintliness, itself also without precedent. –Simone Weil

200. Poets who died with nearly all their work unpublished or out of print in last 25 years: HD, Zukovsky, Hughes, Blackburn, Olson, Moore, Loy, O’Hara, Reznikoff, Spicer, Niedecker. –Eliot Weinberger

300. We can throw a pet opinion out into the arena and let everybody trample on it while we look on in detached interest. If the opinion is damaged, we can discard it; if it is still intact, we keep it, and often those who just danced on this very same opinion will say,”That is a good opinion; we would like to share it with you.”  –Sri Eknath Easwaran

400. If a man reads a book because it interests him and reads in all directions for the same reason, his reading is pure and interests me. –Ralph Waldo Emerson