The Poem as Lantern: Q&A with Leslie Williams

Some readers have asked: who is the you? I hope it’s not greedy to have “you” mean multiple things! First it speaks to the reader, the “you” who’s invited into the book. In some of the poems “You” addresses the Divine. And in other poems the “you” is addressed to the friend, a character in the book. Finally, “Matters for you Alone”: not only meant for a single person, but also for someone literally by himself: a solitary reader.

Who are You Becoming? Q&A with Timothy O’Malley

Fr. Giussani does what great thinkers do: he gets to first principles. It strikes me that what has been forgotten about liturgical renewal is that it was intended to help us live worshipful lives in the world. That’s what he invites us to throughout: it’s not about liturgical reform first but a liturgical way of living.

The Presence of the Past: Q&A with Matthew Porto

The initial impulse for me comes almost exclusively from other writers. I’ll be reading something with a clear mind, which is difficult to do these days, and I’ll be struck by a phrase, an idea, an image, and then I’ll start a draft. That’s how it happens for me. My inner life finds its way into the poems through the medium of other texts, so that I can really call my poetry intertextual.

Fictionalizing the Midwest: Q&A with John Salter

I started writing “There Will Never Be Another Night Like This” because I was trying to remember the feeling of being very young, bold, romantic, and sort of benignly self-centered. Remember those days? A story began to emerge around this feeling. Some of the places and people and events are based on real life—the drive-in theater, for example—but the predominant autobiographical link is that sense of invincibility that Nils is enjoying, but which even he seems to realize is fleeting.

Poland—History and Witness: Q&A with Charles Kraszewski

Rymkiewicz is fighting a battle on two fronts. On the one hand, he resorts to what you call a “documentary” style in order, like a historian, to establish the objective reality of what once happened, while he will switch to “personal recollections of childhood” to make of his account an eyewitness testimony, not merely a thoroughly researched historical account.

Poetry Chose Me: Q&A with Jeanne Murray Walker

I miss the very close community that I believe we all felt when my family and other families in our conservative Baptist church saw one another as special and bonded. We counted on one another. Whenever the pastor turned the lights on, we were there: Sunday School, church, prayer meeting, young peoples’ meetings, vacation Bible school, mother-daughter banquets, midnight watches, potlucks, revivals, and car washes on Sunday afternoons.

Getting Lost in a Poem: Q&A with Olga Sedakova

Q: In his foreword to this translation, Rowan Williams says that you invite the reader to get “lost” in these poems—and that while we are lost we may become open to noticing something we hadn’t seen before. Does this description resonate with you?
A: What a profound and precise observation! It is the author, first and foremost, who “gets lost.” He (or she, in my case) is the one who must catch sight of something “we’ve never seen before.”

Getting Personal: Q&A with Amit Majmudar

I didn’t expect to ever publish this memoir, primarily because I didn’t feel it “fit” the genre as it exists today (and it doesn’t, but that’s why I treasure indie publishers like Slant Books). I embedded these poems and fables and theological reflections in various places in the narrative to give variety to what might otherwise have been a wearing litany.

Religion, Death, Humor: Q&A with poet Richard Michelson

When I am writing about subjects that touch my emotional life—my mother’s decent into dementia, my father’s murder—the forms help me constrain the passion, which heightens the energy. On a more prosaic level, my mother was a lover of crossword puzzles and word games, and there is definitely an element of challenge and fun for me to work in strict forms. Plus, I just like the way sonnets look on the page.

Love without Profit: Q&A with Luca Sommacal

Every act of welcome is a gesture of gratuitousness. There is no profit or calculation that shapes the relationship, but only unconditional love for the destiny of the other. We don’t need anything more than this love to welcome someone into our house and thus into our life. For this reason, gratuitousness is at the origin of every experience of welcoming or hospitality.

A Fever for Life: Q&A With Marco Bardazzi

Piccinini was an Italian surgeon at Sant’Orsola hospital in Bologna, a husband, a father of four, and a passionate leader and friend of thousands of high school and university students in Italy between the 1970s and the end of the twentieth century. He died at the age of 48 in 1999 in a car accident on the highway between Milan and Bologna. At his funeral in Bologna, celebrated in the basilica of San Petronio by the then archbishop Giacomo Biffi, there were seven thousand people.

Q&A with John Touhey, contributor to Slant’s new book Cry of the Heart

I have been gathering and archiving Lorenzo Albacete’s writings and related audiovisual materials for the past five years. As a result, I now have a fairly comprehensive knowledge of Albacete’s overall body of work, but writing the biographical essay was an opportunity to make connections between all these materials and discover the person behind them.

Evil and Grace: Q&A with Daniel Taylor

One trigger for this particular novel was coming across the King James Bible phrase “the mystery of iniquity” (2 Thess 2:7-9). I found it a very intriguing phrase, one always relevant but no more so than today. (Modern translations lean toward rendering this “the spirit of lawlessness,” which certainly seems loose in the world today in many ways both overt and subtle.) What is evil? Why do we participate in it?

Shards and Brokenness: Q&A with Nance Van Winckel

During the years I was writing the pages of Sister Zero, I was also teaching myself to do mosaic tiling. With each little project—covering a wooden box, a mirror frame, a clay pot—I learned from small successes and big mistakes. (Plus, smashing china plates can be very cathartic!)

Philosophy of the Gut: Q&A with Morgan Meis

With the publication of The Fate of the Animals, your “Three Paintings Trilogy” is beginning to take shape. So the question arises: what could possibly link paintings as different as Rubens’s Baroque The Drunken Silenus (covered in the first volume) and Franz Marc’s modernist The Fate of the Animals? Is it all subjective—or are there truly things in common here?

Photo by Lisa Mancuso Horn Photography

Absolute Music: Q&A with Jonathan Geltner

The earth is dying in a way that it was not (or we did not know it fully) when I was a boy, a way that is different from what is meant when we acknowledge that this world is always, as the Bible puts it, “passing away.” And this fact changes everything. Yet the earth is beautiful and will remain so. How can I show my children this goodness despite what threatens it?

Making It New: Q&A with Paul Mariani

No matter how many poems you write, the challenge is always with the blank page as you begin to write your next poem. There’s the emptiness, but it’s like a mirror with so many ghosts and echoes on the other side. Where are you going? Do you really know where this particular poem will lead you? Sometimes you do have an idea, a jumble of energized music swimming around as you look into what appears to be a void.

To Renounce Oblivion: Q&A with Samuel Thomas Martin

I’m intensely interested in the complexities of ordinary crime, like in the stories of Kevin Hardcastle: a world without mastermind Dr. Evils and I-can-solve-anything Sherlocks. But a world where those with power do exploit the weak for their own protection or benefit. I’ve seen that reality, from domestic abuse that’s touched people I care about to misogyny, racism, and sexism in the workplace.

Roses, Bees, Sages, & Strangers: Q&A with Karen An-hwei Lee

The four parts of my book echo the progression of Virgil’s The Georgics: Book I—agrarian labor like tilling the soil, weather signs and war omens; Book II on olive groves vs. vineyards (“The Vituperation of the Vines”), birth of trees; Book III on animal husbandry (veterinary care, procreation), cycles of life in nature; and finally, Book IV, a “bio-mythography” of bees. I also explore Virgil’s questions in The Georgics: What is the ultimate path to happiness? What is pleasure? What is a good life?

Mountains and Muses: Q&A with Paul J. Willis

It confuses me that nature writing should be considered as some sort of specialized niche. The earth is really our grand subject. But, like Wordsworth, I seem to be as interested in the quirky people I run across as I am in the natural places in which I find them.