Hold It All

Philosophy/Poetics/Politics

Category: Book of Mev

“Be in Love with Yr Life” — A Online Summer Writing Course with The Book of Mev*

From time to time I’ve learned how some readers of The Book of Mev recognize themselves in Mev Puleo’s words, say, from her letters and journals. They remind of the French novelist Marcel Proust, who wrote: “In reality every reader is, while she is reading, the reader of her own self. The writer’s work is merely a kind of optical instrument which he offers to the reader to enable her to discern what, without this book, she could perhaps never have perceived in herself.”

In this late summer-early fall writing class, I invite you to read (or reread) and write off of stories, themes, and questions from The Book of Mev. We’ll explore topics like being present, community, accompaniment, faith, spirituality, the state of the world, the state of the soul,  friends, mentors, teachers, creative arts (e.g., photography), travel, breakdowns, breakthroughs, illness, celebrating, grieving, letting go, poetry, El Salvador, Palestine, Haiti, schools, gospels, letter-writing, gratitude, bearing witness, and much else.

We go  for eight sessions,  from Sunday 20 August to Sunday 8 October.  Each Sunday I will email participants an agenda  to direct reading, writing, and sharing in the week ahead.

Time Commitment:  You’ll need approximately 1 to 2 hours a week, more if you have the energy.  It’s not necessary to do an entire agenda in one sitting; feel free to space it out over the week. Read the rest of this entry »

Seeing the World/1 [from The Book of Mev]

The second week of that Summer Program at Maryknoll, Mev made an announcement after one of the morning sessions that she was going to present some of her photographs in a slideshow/meditation on a night when there was no scheduled speaker.  Curious about what made this self-promoting impresario tick, I wanted to attend.  Her slideshow, with taped instrumental music to establish a contemplative mood, was a welcome relief from the intense, sometimes strangely cerebral presentations during the day about global liberation theology, the suffering of the poor, and the consequent responsibility of U.S. citizens.  She presented a series of her photos from her travels in Brazil, Mexico, Haiti and Russia, and, as I confronted the faces of Mev’s subjects, I was reminded of one of my favorite poems, Thich Nhat Hahn’s “Please Call Me by My True Names,” especially the concluding lines:

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up
and the door of my heart
could be left open,
the door of compassion.

Her meditation lasted about 15 minutes, leading the group of 20 into an awareness that our discussions during the day ultimately were about flesh and blood people, with names, faces, histories, heartaches, resilience and desires.  Afterwards, feeling hesitant to speak directly to Mev, I went up to my room and began to write out Nhat Hanh’s poem, since I had learned it by heart years before and often used it for a morning meditation. I also wrote a note of thanks to her for the presentation, and I pinned the note and poem for her on the community bulletin board.  This was safe, spiritual flirting.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Good News of a Reader’s Response, 4.4.2017

Some time back I received the following from Fred Zweig after he read The Book of Mev

“Mark, I finished reading your book yesterday.  It has it all:  a beautiful love story, heroic idealism, clarity.  It is awesome in many respects.  I am 93 years old and consider myself pretty tough-minded but it is the only book I remember reading that made me cry!  Congratulations on your achievement.

With great appreciation,

Fred”

The Good News of Rereading, 4.2.2017

Tasha Rutledge and I had class together when she was a freshman at SLU in 2007. We read The Book of Mev in that class, and many years later she told me she reads it once a year to re-instill a sense of urgency in her life.

A More Lively Mode

I read James Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson in the summer of 1999. At the time I was gathering materials for what eventually became The Book of Mev.  The following passage from Boswell left its mark on me in that project…

Wherever narrative is necessary to explain, connect, and supply, I furnish it to the best of my abilities; but in the chronological series of Johnson’s life, which I trace as distinctly as I can, year by year, I produce, wherever it is in my power, his own minutes, letters, or conversation, being convinced that this mode is more lively, and will make my readers better acquainted with him, than even most of those were who actually knew him, but could know him only partially; whereas there is here an accumulation of intelligence from various points, by which is character is more fully understood and illustrated.

 

“To Love Others Is All We Can Do” by Rachel Nass

Rachel 1

Rachel 2

Facebook Wall Post from Chris Hesh, 11.20.2008

I saw a composition notebook
and The Book of Mev
with a college student attached
yesterday night
at the Gelateria.

Mark ‘Omnipresent’ Chmiel

We Inter-Are/458

1.

Mev was inside of me
And so I wrote a book

And Miriam read the book
And Mev was inside of her

And when Miriam was with Johnny
Mev ended up inside of him

Johnny paid attention to Miriam
Miriam was inside of him

Johnny wrote Miriam a love letter
He was inside of Miriam

This kind of thing cannot be controlled
No CIA could interfere with it

This goes to that which goes
To this which goes to that Read the rest of this entry »

The Holy Texture of Life (Hold It All)

By chance yesterday I came  across the following reflection by Emily Warming from 2007, when she was in a Justice and Peace Senior Seminar with Roger Bergman at Creighton University.  I have been blessed and inspired by many Creighton friends, like Emily, who have been deep  readers and enthused hallowers of life.

I was nervous for Mark Chmiel to come to Creighton. Mev only died a week ago for me. I was grieving and it seemed like he were coming to Creighton to help us bury her. How do we talk about this book with this man? How do we even begin to address the flash, the brilliance, the ahh! bright wings of Mev? She so radiated and resonated with us. Presente! She is with us. The book was so personal, so broken open, receptive and burning of suffering and joy, so sacred in some way. The many voices; the concrete manifestations of exhilaration, edification, frustration; the crushing grief; the inexplicable soaring of heart; the hope hope hope made this book breathe with the holy texture of life. Read the rest of this entry »

Wilder Love by April Ulinski

Started rereading The Book of Mev last night. Partially because I needed her reminder that being academic does not mean being disengaged from the world

and from the people behind all those ideas.

Also because I wanted to be near Mev
Though I have never known her.

Thank you for sharing her,
And thank you for sharing you
And the love between the two of you

love draws new dimensions of us love comes to surprise us
Out of our small safe place
Into the wild home we didn’t even think to ask for.

Maybe love is wilder when it is not just for us
But the community too
And loss is love’s coda.

“Do this in remembrance of me”

 

april-u