If You Build It, Will They Come?

Mary Ann Miller, editor of a new independent journal, Presence: A Journal of Catholic Poetry, affiliated with the English Department at Caldwell University, New Jersey, will soon find out. It is the only publication, of which I’m aware, exclusively devoted to Catholic poetry. 

According to the website, the idea for Presence emerged at a panel discussion at the 2015 Future of the Catholic Literary Imagination conference, sponsored by the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies at UCLA. Conference participants, Dana Goia, Paul Mariani and Angela Alaimo O’Donnell, join Susanne Paola Antonetta, William Baer, Paul Contino, and Judith Valente to form an amazing board of advisors. 

Presence opened to submissions on September 1. According to the mission statement, the journal is interested in work “of artistic merit,” “informed by the Catholic faith,” with the goal of eventually fostering “a community of writers who recognize Catholicism as fertile ground for the flourishing of contemporary poetry.” I am thrilled. And wish everyone connected with this new venture abundant grace and blessings.

Because they, we need it. Imagination. Catholic Literary Imagination. 

I went to Mass this morning, a Wednesday. What was the first reading, if not the Corinthians passage suggesting, “brethren, the appointed time has grown very short; from now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none.” I know we can do a song and dance routine to force this passage to make sense, but should we have to, on a relatively frequent basis? How many times is this reading used in the liturgical cycle? Or is it my luck to always hear the Scriptural advice to hold my breath and wait til this thing called life is over?  On this beautiful morning, did we in the pews not shoo these words away, blah, blah, blah, best not to listen to this one, because we’re sticking with our Catholic program, however annoying and off-putting it is at times?  

A cherished assumption among Catholic artists is that art has the potential to be incarnational, exploring, as the Presence mission statement puts it, the many “ways God’s presence is communicated to and experienced by human beings.” And only imagination bridges that gap. Imagination not the stripped-down economy trip, but free and unfettered, on the wings of an extravagant, intrusive dove.

Presence website can be found at http://www.catholicpoetryjournal.com