December 31, 2009

Went with the kids to see AVATAR. (My brother-in-law recommended it.) Fantasy is so much fun. The canvas is so big, you can do anything. Great world-creating here, stunning imaginative and visual power. Story was, no surprise, something less; but these kinds of things always get me charged up, make me want to see great new Catholic works, stories where the subtext radiates truth. Imagine going to the movies and actually seeing great work. Think of the scope, the diversity, the actual human condition. And I do believe that is going to happen. Christ is risen!

This one was pure Obama/Oprah. You can make a list: The United Fruit Company, Al Gore, noble savage/Native Asian Americans, paganism, national health care, an embracing of Islam.

The setting and backdrop of the story would've made Ernesto Cardinal smile. It's the UFC in Nicaragua all over again: the US invaded the country nine times in the 20th century by his count, never built a school or a road into the capital. All roads led to the "bidness," as an Oklahoma evangelical businessman might phrase it. Bottom line: we need those bananas, boys. But the setting is equal opportunity here, and it morphs into the Iroquois, Iraq & oil as well; characters actually use Frost's "displacements"--word choices which suggest other meanings/resonances. In this film you hear the turned-good Caucasians actually warm up to the words "terrorism" and "suicide bomber" when they see the light and turn native blue (purple knifs--Cleveland joke . . . sorry).

So in effect the blue world here (Max) becomes any indigenous victim of the Republican imperialist machine: South & Central America, Vietnam, the Mid-East, the US. And just to try and put us off the scent, the director throws in a couple of red herrings as well. At one point, for example, Sigourney Weaver's character says of the Mother worshipping natives: "They're not pagans." Huh? . . . And the limp-legged hero victim who can't get healed because his country has no national health care claims he doesn't want to become a "tree hugger." (But wait, he does finally die and gets to leave his hated human body, so maybe that works--the skin shed. BLUE IS TRUE.)

And there it is, the whole sorry batch. But we've been down this Hollywood trail before.

Al Gore and the noble savage/Native Asian Americans show up too of course--anything that is not "Christianity" will do.

(As an aside, I'm still waiting for John Kerry to win his Nobel. He should whine about it--but maybe that's the problem. His face is in the dictionary next to the word. Now Sweden is all about whining, but they want to look normal. . . . Still, skipping him just doesn't seem fair. In a way, he is this movie. On the ride home, I told my son that the film reminded me of those Kerry/Edwards stickers you still see on cars. . . . Now I'm no fan of that WASP muzzle-loader, Cheney, but Hollywood's glitter-socialists are every bit as pathetic.)

I put Christianity in quotes as far as this movie goes because Hollywood has no idea what Christianity is. To them it's Falwell, Jimmy Swaggart. (Catholics are not as hard on pagans or the environment.) And so our director, in a spike of heroic neandrathal insight, takes the required hard left. The capitalists have destroyed their world (see Walli) and now they must take out anyone not like them: any and all third world peoples. In this version, those would be the sinless blues who live in a world without mosquitoes or greed.

Why is the world so stupid?

St. Francis, true lover of the natural world, pray for us.

And keep writing, Catholics! Things will get better.

December 13, 2009

Went with the family to see WICKED up in Cleveland. Great stuff on a plot level; the kids enjoyed in. And the physical comedy was positively inspired. (Brought Profs. Dougherty and Anderson to mind!) But on the downside the play reminded me of a Grisham novel. A great ride with nothing to say. I know it was a comedy, but I like subtext. This one offered a squishy "be nice to animals" message. (I went home and didn't kick my dog.) But I had a good conversation with my cousin afterwards--he's always good for that. He was going on about DEATH OF A SALESMAN. I really hate that play. I don't like Miller at all--though the only other thing I've seen was THE CRUCIBLE. Insufferable. Boring, long-winded; and the people are stupid. Why am I here? I don't want to be? How can I get out of here? (Reminds me of being stuck some years ago at a FUS Christmas carol service-y kind of thing at the chapel. The performance positively creaked with self-aware tradition. I couldn't breathe--and the only way out was to excuse ourselves and walk right right through the singers! God I love culture . . . Thankfully, though, I've heard that with the new personnel, offerings have much improved.) But if I were ever locked up in a stalag prison camp, they could just make me watch those Miller plays. I'd crack, work in PR.

Long works seem so hard to pull off in any form. In grad school I did a course in O'Neill. LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT was actually a description of the reader trying to get through the thing! I loved his one-acts. In and out, with punch. But the long ones! All that was missing were the straps to bind you to your seats. Diodes. (What are diodes anyway?)

I find that's true of novels, too, and of long poems. "No man ever wished it longer," as Dryden said about PARADISE LOST. I wonder if Milton had to take out a gun and finally shoot the sucker, whimpering on the floor (the text, not him--my next entry will be about squinting and/or dangling modifiers). Really an act of epic perseverance just to get through the first book. And then there's THE FAIRIE QUEEN. Whoa, pure flagellation: purgation. A fitting irony as Spencer was doing a concerted anti-Catholic dance at the time. People have died! English halls littered with the vanquished--some still breathing. (If you went to school in the 70s, you know what I mean.)

I did MOBY DICK for quite a few semesters, back when I was the American Lit. person here at FUS. I liked the book very much--and as I say, I don't really like long works--but it was a trial every time. And once I tried ULYSSES when I was saddled with Modern British Novel. Give me THE DUBLINERS, story, not Freud's poop lectures in prose. (That's probably too easy, but without inner resources, I hated wading through Dublin's outhouses. . . . My wife once read FINNEGAN'S WAKE for fun. . . . a wonderfully strange woman. . . . She's told me that she often feels most novels decline sharply during the second half, so maybe I got part of this from her.)

And what's the baggier monster: PIERS THE PLOWMAN or HAMLET? No one ever stages the whole play. Shakespeare is Shakespeare of course, but I am always more interested in how his tragic characters got to be where they are when the plays start than where he wants to take them. I know, too "realistic" (and quite off the road--though there is much to be said about high grass).

But in the spirit of the times, I want to blame my difficulties squarely where they belong, on my daughter's ADHD. ("I was just following orders.") I flash back to Mr. Powers, SJ, scholastic at Jesuit St. Ignatius HS in Cleveland, during detention, 1970--mine, not his; though that might be another story--: "Mr. Craig you just can't sit still can you?' ----uh, no. And so the great student/critic was born!

The lyric poem is an almost perfect form: too short to get stupid or boring. Maybe if they hired scops at MTV, had them, like Caedmon, SING! Tim Russell, a fine poet from Toronto, OH once told me that due to some sort of brain condition, his interests in writing poetry ran to shorter and shorter forms. Some years later he won an international haiku contest in Japan. Is that where I'm headed? The land of the rising abbreviation? On the other hand I love oriental stuff; Chinese and Japanese--Li Po, falling drunk in the water, trying to embrace his image, or Basho, singing at Horsetooth Reservoir.

I'll stop now.

December 10, 2009

This spring I'm doing Contemporary Christian Fiction once again, and that's both fun and weird. It's weird because somehow so many Christian writers feel obliged--because of the old Ovid, Pandarus poet-as-pimp routine--to deliver play by play sex in their works. A sign of mastering the craft apparently! Dubus was the first place I found that--I was not native to these waters.

Irritating! I don't think Catholics are free to do that: titillate. Sex is a holy part of life, but near occasions of sin don't need to be--if we can avoid them. I once had an e-mail conversation with a Catholic woman fiction writer from Ohio State. She recommended her own book, but told me I might have to skip chapter 11!

I try to start with three great short story writers: O'Connor, Powers, and Spark. Masterful stuff, right on the spiritual mark. (I was so taken with Powers early that I thought I'd try one of his novels: THE WHEAT THAT SPRINGETH GREEN. Great if you don't count chapter 2 or 3; I forget now. Pornographic stuff.) O'Connor is a marvel, witty and ruthless. Her characters pay, and she never damns any of them; then she leaves the ball in the reader's court. Where are we with the Pharisee thing? Powers, at least in the stories we've done, is wonderful as well. There's a kind of pre-Vatican feel to them. First rate stories on priests! "Prince of Darkness"! Spark on the other hand is wonderfully diverse. I once told Ron Hansen, via e-mail, that some of her difficult stories seemed almost iconic: you had to meditate on them before they unfolded. He relayed that someone had just asked him to review her latest novel. She was 90 at least then. Anyway, Hansen said that the thing just didn't make any sense at all to him! Everybody's got their own take, I guess. And while I will admit that some of them are tough, still, I like her a lot. She can do a British Jewish/Catholic O'Connor thing, scald British racism in Africa; but there are other kinds of stories too. Fun! I like to go back to the three of them several times during our novel reading.

This semester I want to go next with Robinson's GILEAD and Hansen's EXILES, just to set off Protestant and Catholic sensibilities. Robinson is a great writer, but I could never imagine having a beer with her main character. No belly laughing aloud. Hansen is so good! I'd love to do ATTICUS, because it really moved me--the thing opens up so beautifully at end to a Prodigal Son allegory. (The funny thing there is that when he came here to keynote for a Catholic Writing Festival we were having, he told us that the NY critics never got that part--because they didn't know the Bible!) But I just can't do it for some reason. I can't do "who-done-it"s: I need more symbol or something--places to hang my hat as we go through.

My standbys have been THE POWER AND THE GLORY, Endo's DEEP RIVER. and Percy's best one, prose-wise: THE MOVIEGOER. Endo is Catholic, but his book veers toward monism. (Discussion to follow.) It's a good read though. A group of Japanese tourists goes to India to visit Hindu shrines and the Ganges--which really functions like Christ for them; all of it told from a darned near Catholic POV! (It's also a nice rip on scholasticism: Euro-centeredness, that Catholic right-wing fixation. It's so EWTN, the deep rich mahogany, the smell of old European money. All brought to you by classical music. No jazz aloud: like rock its Satanic.

Now we all love reverence, classical music, but come on! Culture is not dead.)

We'll do Lewis's space trilogy. He's not as good a novelist as the others, but he is Lewis! And I love how close he gets to the sacramental in THAT HIDEOUS STRENGTH. And then we going to do Rice's CHRIST OUR LORD. I haven't read her yet, but did catch an interview: seems a kind of squishy Catholic. Her son is/was gay, so the Church needed to rethink that.

God bless us, every one.

The students will have to pick a book to present too: Bernanos, Mauriac; there are lots of folks out there. (And please, please feel free to e-mail me with ANY suggestions, about fiction or poetry.) We've done a few Idylls writers in the past: Debra Marphy's (Murphy's) THE MYSTERY OF THINGS, O'Gorman's AWAITING ORDERS. There's Dubus, as I mentioned, Tobias Wolff, Price, Hijuelos, Hassler, Waugh, Salzman, Crace, McDermott, Betts, Wiowode, Godwin, Tyler, Payne, Thon, McGraw, Cary, Malamud (He's so Franciscan!), Undset, Cather, Malone, MacFarlane, Lagerkvist, Breslin's THE SUBSTANCE OF THINGS HOPED FOR. Who else? Tell me so I'll know. (But no LeFort or Mazoni, none of that stuff.)

Hey, it's my birthday today! Me and EDickinson. (Any port in a storm. But I do like myself. I do.)

December 4, 2009

Victory! With Linda's help it's done. You can hear the podcast; just go to links at left. This is fun.
I've got a podcast up but haven't been able to link it yet. So if you're interested, at this point you can go to the English faculty page on the FUS web site and link to "Some kind of Pilgrim poem." It's clear and Linda liked it!

If I can find a way to successfully link it, I'll get back.

November 27, 2009

Well, the end of the semester is nigh upon us, so I wanted to add more to the discussion. In our "Contemporary Christian Poetry" class, we went over a slew of people. And the best of the lot: Thomas Merton, hands down. And who has been vilified like this guy? Charismatics and those from the creakily Catholic right have all just assumed that the guy was a Buddhist of some sort, seduced by the 60s. (Maybe God even took him our early because he was unfaithful!) Personal revelations can be such rubbish.

First off, before trashing someone, a poet, read the poems! It's not asking too much. And that's where the reward is. What poet loved our Lord, our lady, the Eucharist, the Mass more! And the poetry is beautiful. (A few misses in the new "Selected," but you've got to expect that.) Merton was interested in Zen Buddhism, yes, but why wouldn't he be? He was a monk himself. As mixed as my feelings are about Mott, his bio. is very good, very comprehensive. Merton chafed against his bosses; though had he been a canonizable saint . . . No kidding, Sherlock.

I don't know any saints. I met Catherine Doherty, and she's at the Servant of God stage, and Fr. Flanigan of SOLT who's got the same mojo going, but surely no poets. They tend to struggle with the most basic things. But check out the poems: the joy, the wisdom! They're gorgeous, and faithful to boot. Unfortunately, the cards are stacked against Tommy in some way. The secular left, the squishies who give the Merton prize, those types, they like the Buddhist thing just fine. It's a story they can live with! (Read the intro to the new text.) And our faithful brethren and sistren, they're still reading trumpeting "faithful" drivel.

Robert Cording was the next guy we did. Robert is a great human being and a first rate Protestant poet--but as you might guess, the latter creates problems. Because our separated kin don't have the same sacramental sense we do, the poems, beautiful though they are marvelously executed, move on a shallower level. Protestants generally speaking are concerned with a disembodied intellect, with obsessing about appearances, so they aren't as comfortable with the body, our fallenness, the unconscious--so the poems pay. However, given all that, the man is good, and I bet you enjoy the read.

Levertov became a Catholic near the end of her life, and her Black Mountain style can make for dense reading. The only problem is a kind of social/moral superiority can get into the poems, part of that anti-war thang perhaps. (She met Merton.) I liked the poems--we used THE STREAM AND THE SAPPHRIE--but some of the selections were real clinkers. You take your chances spiritually with New Directions--they also did the new Merton.

Gioia. The class loved him, and he is very good. He's suave, in a kind of Gatsby sort of way, has a master's way with numbers, and the sensibility is Catholic. I like him a lot--though my forebears were more blue collar. The only problem I have with the poems is that you have to dig or be patient until you hear the Catholic knell. Now I know Dana, like every public poet, has to deal with the audience thing, few of which are orthodox Catholic. But Jesus is Jesus, and the Church is the Church. How can any Catholic really write about anything else? What we are called to be has been spelled out by the saint. There is no new way to do this--outside of the new personalities involved. (Gerald Stern ounce said "A poet isn't always Jewish. Sometimes he just has an itchy back." But I don't agree. Don't we take a dump in the presence of God? And of what value are our lives if we don't give glory to God with them?)

The most intriguing voice I've heard as far as straight forward literary and good Catholic poetry is probably someone you're not familiar with: Father David May of Madonna House in Canada. Fr. David's poems are about trying to be a saint--and what's nice is that he's nicely along the path; unlike the rest of us! We did him in our chapbook series--gone quickly, all of them.

John Hodgen's GRACE came nest. A fun read--one of the reasons I chose him, Christian in its way. Then we did Jorie Graham, who's always tough, so abstract, Platonic. I always love doing "Noli me Tangere." Jesus comes up often in her work, but after having read a lot of it, I remember thinking that He seemed more valuable as convenient metaphor than He did as King of King and Lord of Lords.

Jane Kenyon is always wonderful to read, a little reminiscent of Frost in the New Englander pose, but she's a squish whereas he's not. She's kind of monosyllabic too, a delight in so many ways, but like Levertov, we too often get the "I have a liberal sensibility and am more socially conscious than so many people, so I must weep in public" thing. I like her though, a rich simplicity to her. I will do her next time too.

Franz Wright is a fine Catholic poet. Wonderfully dense sometimes, wise. Very good. He misses on some poems like "Rosary." You wonder who the heck he's talking to. We actually spent a lot of time on him in class--he's got that "I've been in the gutter" grit, so the reader listens. No small feat. I'll do him again next time as well.

We're ending up with Murray, the Australian comet (or not). He's always fun, difficult because you got to get to the outback in some way to pick up some of the language. Like Wright, he's got an edge, but Murray's is national, not gutteral (gutters can be fine and instructive places). He's a poet you would love to have a beer with--actually this is true of most of the Catholic poets we read. (More of than next semester when we do fiction--Robinson's GILEAD set against Hansen's EXILES). Very Catholic, Murray, and very good, a fine choice to end on.

Other poets we covered in one way or the other: SASANOV--why isn't ALL THE BLOOD TETHERS still in print? Now that's a crime. A great Catholic book. I've learned so much from her, even though she's (disgustingly) younger than I am. She never lets the first person singular speaker off the hook in her poems. No subtle I'm a nice guy/gal stuff. No PR for Jesus. She's a find! (Though she says she's having some trouble with the faith just now, so pray for her please).

DANIELS, ANDREWS, JACOBSEN, BODO, SAMARAS, MARIANI--love Paul, great Catholic poems. Give us more in the collections, Paul. Also Paraclete needs to hire a better editor or something. Mariani has done a lot better work than some of the poems that appear in his last book. We also looked at CAIRNS, EVERSON, SIEGEL, BERRY, HOWE. And we could've included Zagajewski, Wilkerson, Tolides, Serpas (squishy Catholic), Karr (another squish), Riley, O'Donnell, Norris, Pollard (with a large caveat: "I will teach you poetry"), Miller, Maddox, Lietz, Lea, Hill, Ursu. Others no doubt as well.

Happy Christmas!

July 8, 2009

Catholic literature today: what's being done today--is it enough? So much of contemporary work keeps an eye on the market, which I suppose it must. But what about ardent faithfulness, what about falling on one's face before the living God, writing from there? And on the flip side, what about the seige mentality that tries to make great literature out of Chesterton, Belloc, Newman?

July 5, 2009

Catholic Reading List

  • Alighieri, Dante, THE DIVINE COMEDY
  • Auden, W. H., FOR THE TIME BEING
  • Akhmatova, Anna, POEMS OF AKHMATOVA
  • Baxter, James K., SELECTED POEMS
  • Berry, Wendell, COLLECTED POEMS
  • Blake, William, THE COMPLETE POEMS
  • Claudel, Paul, KNOWING THE EAST
  • Cording, Robert, COMMON LIFE
  • Daniels, Kate, FOUR TESTIMONIES
  • Eliot, T. S., FOUR QUARTETS
  • Everson, William, THE MASKS OF DROUGHT
  • Graham, Jorie, THE END OF BEAUTY
  • Heaney, Seamus, SELECTED POEMS
  • Herbert, George, SELECTED POEMS
  • Hill, Geoffrey, CANAAN
  • Hodgen, John, GRACE
  • Hopkins, Gerard Manley, POEMS
  • Hudgins, Andrew, SAINTS AND STRANGERS
  • Jacobsen, Josephine, THE SISTERS
  • Jarman, Mark, TO THE GREEN MAN
  • Karr, Mary SINNERS WELCOME (cafeteria Catholic)
  • Kenyon, Jane, COLLECTED POEMS
  • Knoepfle, John, RIVERS INTO ISLAND
  • Lea, Sydney, TO THE BONE
  • Lietz, Bob, STORM SERVICE
  • Merton, Thomas, IN THE DARK BEFORE DAWN
  • Miller, Vassar, ONIONS AND ROSES
  • Moore, Marianne, COLLECTED POEMS
  • Norris, Kathleen, JOURNEY
  • O'Donnell, Angela, WAITING FOR ECSTASY
  • Pollard, Sr. Miriam Pollard, NEITHER BE AFRAID (though the teacher swamps the art here)
  • Pound, Ezra, his translations
  • Riley, Michael, CIRCLING THE STONES
  • Rilke, Rainer Maria, DUINO ELEGIES
  • St. John of the Cross, POEMS
  • Samaras, Nicholas, HANDS OF THE SADDLEMAKER
  • Sasanov, Catherine, ALL THE BLOOD TETHERS
  • Serpas, Martha, THE DIRTY SIDE OF THE STORM (“rebel” Catholic)
  • Stafford, William, A SCRIPTURE OF LEAVES
  • Thomas, Dylan, COLLECTED POEMS
  • Thompson, Francis, COLLECTED POETRY
  • Traherne, Thomas, POEMS
  • Wilbur, Richard, NEW & COLLECTED
  • Wilkinson, Claude, JOY IN THE MORNING
  • Yeats, William Butler, THE POEMS OF W. B. YEATS
  • Zagajewski, Adam, WITHOUT END

Published Works

Books of Poetry

Being a poet is the only job where you can't know much, but get to make a big deal out of it.

Mary's House

Mary's House

Idylls Press(2007)

"Mary's House is a veritable hipster/scholar's Lives of the Saints, taking us from the Psalms through a spelndid, giddy, brillant chorus of saints - women and men - many of these poems (and what abundance is here, in so many lyrical forms and riffs on forms) turning on the poet's own progress...and, with searing intensity and honesty and wit, on our own. If anyone has drunk deeply of the model of St. Francis for our time, it has to be David Craig. He scatters flowers of spiritual wisdom with abandon toward us, which again and again and again bless even as they burn."
-Paul Mariani, author of Deaths and Transfigurations and Salvage Operations

The Hives of the Saints

The Hive of the Saints

iUniverse, Inc. (2005)

David Craig is a poet for whom the vocation of poetry is but one element within the greater vocation of being a faithful servant. in all that he writes - here in The Hive of The Saints and elsewhere - we hear the voice of one crying in a perplexing wilderness, bidding us to prepare. These poems attain to both witness and prophecy, offering calm consolation that every darkness will yield to light.

- Scott Cairns, author of Philokalia: New & Select Poems

The Hive of the Saints should establish Franciscan University English Professor David Craig as one of the finest religious poets currently writing. This book, a careful selection from his many previous books, contains meditations on Scriptures, vivid images of family life, and representation of the lives and hearts of saints. The family poems give moving vignettes of a Catholic working-class childhood and of the people who shared it. But the saint poems are unforgettable. Mini-documentaries in verse, accurate and inspiring, they evoke the sounds and sights of the times and places of favorite saints, demonstrating the nature of saintliness to those of us who can never quite understand it. We see the forces of the world working and the gift of grace that confounded them. What makes all these poems so fine is the poet's deep faith combined with his feel for words - his ability to manipulate the accords, the music, and the dissonance of language. He teases the words, gnarled and knotted and resistant, into translucence.

The Therese sequence is especially powerful. He describes St. Therese in her last illness, considering the claim that long life is needed to serve God:

Merits for most of us are piled

Like duty logged, a drowned carcass,

a wooden leg. Which is why

she is all eye, a blink on the bed,

seeing clearly,

tender as any morning.

These poems see clearly. They are tender as any morning.

- Janet McCann, author of Pascal Goes to the Races

This book is available for purchase on [Click here]

Sonnets from Matthew

Sonnets from Matthew


Taken singly, each poem is wonderfully crafted and deeply wise. Taken together, they stand as an achievement that is nothing less than monumental. They confirm what I have long suspected, that David Craig is among the finest religious poets writing today.

- William Bedford Clarke, editor of The Selected Letters of Robert Penn Warren

What an impressive collection this is. For the past two days I have been reading with the Gospel of Matthew open beside me, and I feel as if I have been on an intensive retreat.... I truly believe this is a masterpiece.

-Jill Palaez Baumgaertner, author of Finding Cuba

These are really splendid examples of the sonnet form with its difficulty, its logic, its power, its capacity to surprise.... The poet made me see the scriptures in a different way; as Christ did on the way to Emmaus, he opened them up for me.... My thanks for the gift of his spirit and his words.

- Ron Hansen, author of Atticus

Mercy's Face

Mercy's Face

Franciscan University Press (2001)

I believe David Craig to be the foremost religious poet of the day whose special gift it is to reveal the presence and care of God in all things - especially the most unlikely things. He gives us poems as rich in humanity as they are of the mystery of God, which is the same. He is doing the work he was called for, and we are blessed by the presence his words generate.

- Howard McCord, author of Collected Poems

This beautiful new volume gathers into one place the work of one of our best poets, drawn from the first twenty years of his remarkable journey. Through David Craig's luminous verse, we enter the realm of mystical realism, a vision of the real world recorded in a meticulous and cherished present, yet ecstatically observed to be participating in the eternal. Whether Craig is musing on a city stoplight glimpsed through a black iron fence or the sacred antics of Francis of Assisi on Mt. Alverno, everything for this poet pulses with God's breath and love. Moreover Craig is a master of both the short and long forms of his craft. This volume contains four of his most poignant narrative sequences, stirring in their historical weep and vibrant in the intimacy: his portraits of Peter Maurin, Francis of Assisi, Therese of Lisieux, and Blessed Anna-Maria Taigi. Selected also are a number of Craig's psalm translations and his remarkable sequence of sonnet meditations on Matthew's gospel. As always, Craig's language is immediate, expressive, rich in imagery, as subtly crafted and luminous as stained glass. We are greatly enriched by this poetry, by its rapture and wry tenderness, and by it's truthful telling of the holiness and passion of the human story, which is always, for this modern mystic God's story in our midst.

-David Impastato, editor of Upholding Mystery

This book is available for purchase on [Click here]

The Roof of Heaven

The Roof of Heaven

Franciscan University Press (1998)

Craig writes as if his life depended on it, which it does. One finds here that rarest of gifts: a distinctively Catholic poetry in the long tradition of St. Francis, a poetry steeped in both the sacred as well as what the world calls the profane, the sheer weight and brokenness of it all made for the moment buoyant by measured song and light and Light.

-Paul Mariani, author of Salvage Operations

I have followed David Craig's poetry for some time now, relishing not only its quality but also its originality - how few in our time eschew the triviality and babble of so-called postmodernism, preferring the path of spiritual growth? What a pleasure to chart that progress, aesthetic and spiritual (for Craig the two are rightly inseparable), as we here can do by moving from the jewel-like earlier poetry to a tour de force like ANNA-MARIA TAIGI.

- Sydney Lea, author of Ghost Pain

Only One Face

Only One Face

White Eagle Coffee Store Press (1994)

David Craig is a mystic in the tradition of Hildegarde of Bingen, Rainer Maria Rilke and Thomas Merton. His provinces are those border countries where the spiritual and the material come nearly close enough to touch, places where a seeker traveling after golden clouds of truth and 'a beauty worth dying for' is as likely to find a gas station and 'Some guy in/Uniform who wants to sell you air.'

The poems of this talented writer are meditations on the world which is within us, the world of imperfect beauty which we find ourselves within, and the world of commitment and belief. David Craig shows us again how close are beauty and truth, and reminds us that there are certain life-and-death matters that can be celebrated only in poetry.

- David Citino, Poet Laureate of the Ohio State University

Like Taxes: Marching Through Gaul

Like Taxes: Marching Through Gaul

Scripta Humanistica (1990)

Like Taxes, by David Craig, is an impressive book. In an age dominated by secular and characterized by the pretentious and trivial, we are fortunate to have a book so rooted in authentic experience, and serious concern. Craig is eager for the fullness of the religious experience, but he does not let himself be deceived by the superficial religious. He is a subtle enough theologian to know that God hides in strange places, and reveals Himself as He wills, not as mortals might imagine. The best way to encounter Him is to get on with your life - driving cab, talking with friends, eating supper - and staying as alert as the hunter is for the deer. These are the hunter's poems.

- Howard McCord, author of Collected Poems

This book is available for purchase on [Click here]

Peter Maurin and Other Poems

Peter Maurin and Other Poems

Cleveland State University Poetry Center (1985)

David Craig is an unusual poet - first because he writes religious poetry in our secular age and second, and more importantly, because the poetry he writes does not try to convert or shame. But while this poetry belongs to the tradition of celebratory and mystical religious poetry, it does not shun ordinary life or language and it does not avoid contact with sinners or the anti-poetic. Nor does it make faith easy. It simply tries to say: Faith, yes, reality, yes, and hope, somehow.

- Mary Crow, former Poet Laureate of Colorado

The Sandaled Foot

The Sandaled Foot

Cleveland State University Poetry Center (1980)

These poems are the story of that profound reconciliation which enables Francis and those sparrows who followed after to lie down with the lion and the snake and expose their feet to everything there is. Like Francis, these poems are disarmingly simple and unassuming, but you may have to remove your shoes, and more, to read them.

- Fr. Murray Bodo

Anthologies Co-Edited by David Craig (with Janet McCann)

These anthologies are like three large tables, brimming with good food. Excellent orthodox fare can be had here, but so can food for stranger palates. God can sort it all out. And may He have mercy on all of us!

Francis And Clare In Poetry: An Anthology

Francis and Clare in Poetry: An Anthology

Saint Anthony Messenger Press (August, 2005)

Francis and Clare in Poetry: An Anthology is a comprehensive collection of poems written by and about Saints Francis and Clare. The poetry in this anthology is as timeless and memorable as the masters who wrote them.

(from back cover)

This book is available for purchase on [Click here]

Place of Passage: Contemporary Catholic Poetry

Place of Passage:
Contemporary Catholic Poetry

Story Line Press (2000)

The spiritually satisfying and intellectually challenging poems in this anthology exhibit the range of Roman Catholic poetry being written today, from the striking devotional poetry of Pope John Paul II, to the translucent, soul-awakening poems of Gabriela Mistral. Arranged by use of the liturgical calendar, the feasts and season of the Church are interpreted and reflected upon by well-known poets such as Annie Dillard and Denise Levertov, as well as by talented emerging poets. Wrought with poems of struggle as well as poems of triumph and joy, this anthology addresses the idea of spirituality as explored through poetry.

(from back cover)

This book is available for purchase on [Click here]

Odd Angles of Heaven: Contemporary Poetry by People of Faith

Odd Angles of Heaven:
Contemporary Poetry by People of Faith

Harold Shaw Pub (1997)

Poetry begins in the world of the natural-what is around us, in our hearts and imaginations. But the special gift of the poet is to see more than what is there--to go beneath to deeper meanings, to talk about dark nights, epiphanies, and spiritual quests. Odd Angles of Heaven provides a broad spectrum of some of the finest contemporary poets. As they speak with truth, courage, and conviction, you will find handholds for your own spiritual journey.

(from back cover)

This book is available for purchase on [Click here]

Books of Fiction

I'd say that this fiction was written "with my left hand," except for the fact that I'm left-handed. And so it was.

The Cheese Stand Alone was my first go at it. It's a fictional spiritual autobiography, a lyrical attempt to do something of an Augustine--if he were a contemporary cab driver.

Our Lady of the Outfield was a chance to mix two of my passions: our dear Mother and baseball. I mean writers have mixed baseball with everything else, so it seemed like a great idea. The book also addresses the question: Why doesn't Mary appear in Times Square. (Hint: It wouldn't matter.)

A Communion of S(aints) is a satire which takes a look at odder Christian efforts to establish community. I did it POD, pulled it early despite the four copies sold. Too much Swift, not enough O'Connor.

Our Lady of the Outfield

Our Lady of the Outfield

CMJ Marian Publishers (2003)

Our Lady of the Outfield is intelligent, fun and moving, and it is also right. God's invisible world is intricately intertwined with out human world, and while mystics know this best, some lovers of sports, especially Indians' fans, know it keenly too. Not that we can figure it out any better than mystics can, but if God numbers every hair, why shouldn't His Mother cover the outfield - most often as our Lady of Silence or Mater Dolorosa, but at times, wonderfully, as the joy of all who sorrow? David Craig knows that it happens, and he tells us about it with Joy.

- Fr. Robert Pelton, Director of Priests, Madonna House Apostolate

This book is available for purchase on [Click here]

The Cheese Stands Alone

The Cheese Stands Alone

CMJ Marian Publishers (1997)

Taxi-driver James Bailey flees the ruin and emptiness of his life by heading off to Fargo. Although he never gets there, he does find out that the grace he had imagined in far-out places has been tagging along with him all the time. In Bailey, author Craig enacts in a rollicking manner Josef Pieper's idea of man as "Status Viatoris" (Being-on-the-Way) and shows that a ministry can even be found driving a taxi. Craig show beautifully how grace turns up in the strangest places, and, in a manner worthy of Fitzgerald, magically evokes the graced land which is America and her people.

- Dr. Bill Davis, Scholar & Friend

This book is available for purchase on [Click here]

Communion of S(aints)

A Communion of S(aints)

iUniverse (2003)

How is a Catholic to know if he or she is orthodox enough? Is there a checklist somewhere, a politically correct quiz? The Bishops might be a place to turn, but to what extent can you really trust them? A Communion of S(aints) is, by turns, a gentle, affectionate, scathingly satirical look at Catholic America's attempt to remain faithful within the hallowed walls of academia. Besides delivering a basketful of laughs, it serves up a profoundly humane version of what it means to stomp the firma.

(from back cover)

About David

David Craig and Familly David Craig has published nine collections of poetry: THE SANDALED FOOT (Cleveland State University Poetry Center,'80), PSALMS (Park Bench Press, '82), PETER MAURIN AND OTHER POEMS (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, '85), MARCHING THROUGH GAUL (Catholic University of America, '90), ONLY ONE FACE (White Eagle Coffee Store Press, '94), THE ROOF OF HEAVEN (Franciscan University Press, '98), MERCY'S FACE, NEW & SELECTED POEMS, 1980-2000 (Franciscan University Press, '00), SONNETS FROM MATTHEW, Franciscan University '02), and HIVE OF THE SAINTS (iUniverse, 2005). He has, as well, published three works of fiction: one a fictional spiritual biography, THE CHEESE STANDS ALONE (CMJ Press, '97), one a novella, OUR LADY OF THE OUTFIELD (CMJ Press, '00), and one a satirical novel, A COMMUNION OF S(AINTS) (iUniverse, '03). His poetry has been widely anthologized, most significantly in David Impastato's UPHOLDING MYSTERY for Oxford University Press where he shared space with only 12 other poets in the English-speaking world. Thirty-two of his poems are included there. In 1994 he co-edited, with Janet McCann, an anthology of contemporary Christian poetry for Harold Shaw Publishers entitled ODD ANGLES OF HEAVEN, and in May of 2000 they released an anthology of contemporary Catholic poetry from Story Line Press entitled PLACE OF PASSAGE. Currently, the two of them are working on an anthology of Franciscan poems for St. Anthony Messenger Press, which is due out in '05. It will be called POEMS OF FRANCIS AND CLARE. He holds M.F.A. and Ph. D. degrees from Bowling Green State University and teaches Creative Writing as a Professor at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. He lives in Wintersville, Ohio with his wife Linda and their three children, David Thomas, Jude Francis, and Bridget Jean.

Dr. Craig in the News

Posted: Thursday, June 29, 2006

English Professor's Poetry Selected Among "Best" of Christian Literature

STEUBENVILLE, OHIO—The work of a Franciscan University professor acclaimed as one of today's foremost religious poets will be featured among the "best" of Christian literature in a new reference series volume.

Mercy's Face (2000), a collection of poetry authored by English professor Dr. David Craig, is one of approximately 500 titles selected by Salem Press for the Christian literature volume of its Masterplots series, due out in 2007.

The volume, which will include essays that cover classics of Christian literature such as Acts of the Apostles and St. Augustine's City of God, also will feature modern selections such as C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity and J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings; Casti Connubii, Humanae Vitae, and other papal encyclicals; and No Greater Love by Mother Teresa.

"It's a nice little surprise God springs on you once in awhile," says Craig, whose repertoire includes nine collections of poetry, three co-edited anthologies, three novels, and an unpublished play about Blessed Margaret of Castello. Craig and his 13-year old son, David, are also currently working on "The Queen's Gambit," a novel geared toward a middle-school age audience.

Dr. John Holmes, Craig's colleague in the English Department and a past contributor to the Masterplots series, says that given the tremendous scope of the selections, "just to be included at all is quite an honor."

Holmes pointed out that the series is one of the first stops for students researching scholarly criticism of a work. "Craig's book might start showing up on more curricula," he said.

The Masterplots II: Christian Literature volume will also include essays on several works by poets featured in the chapbook series edited by Craig and published by Franciscan University Press.

Craig received his undergraduate degree in English from Cleveland State University, an MA in English from Colorado State University, and a master's in fine arts in creative writing and a doctorate in English from Bowling Green State University. Since 1988 he has taught a variety of courses at Franciscan University, including Studies in Poetry, Creative Writing, and Modern Poetry. A member of the American Poetry Society, he and his wife of 14 years, Linda, live with their three children in Weirton, West Virginia.


Who is this Holy Spirit,
And what is He doing in the eggplant?

I hope you find work here that claps its hands, like the mountains of the Psalms, work that sings a new song unto the Lord, in bass as well as in higher registers. It's ardently Catholic stuff, sacramental, via the spirituality of the Servant of God Catherine Doherty-a spirituality which I gathered, mostly through osmosis, as I found myself returning again and again to Madonna House in Canada, from my mid-twenties to my mid-thirties, usually for about two months at a time. They fed me, they prayed with me. Their "hospitality of the heart" changed my life, and I am in their debt.

The poetry herein moves basically from joyful little dythrambs in praise of the Trinity to a poetry which more directly involves the intellect. From one perspective it's a process which seems to reverse the usual monastic route: from meditation to contemplation. But those early poems were happy because there was infused Joy. I hadn't known the Holy Spirit mattered or existed really, and so that became the message. Later on I found and still find myself searching through the darkness of faith, with joy still, yes, but with soberness too because, after all, salvation is a tenuous thing, a pure gift. And since I have this gift for screwing things up, I personally need to meditate intensely and often, to fall on my face on a hourly basis.

Fiction? Well, I did it because I teach it, though one critic reviewed THE CHEESES STANDS ALONE as poetry. (The Sewanee Writers Conference actually liked the prose better than the poetry, so go figure.)

Along with an extraordinary friend, Janet McCann, I've edited three anthologies of Christian poetry. In a way, these are a different kettle of fish. They are an attempt, at least on my part, to offer the general secular poetry-reading audience something of the Truth--who Jesus is. The goal was and is not to present a lot of bad pietistic poetry. (The Kilmer 50's had done that decades before.) No, we've been after the best poetry we could find, and often that has not been glowingly orthodox. But I figure why not cull those voices and allow these fence-sitting poets to read the orthodox poems too. As Peter Maurin one said, the truth alone should attract. May it be so.

I'd like to leave you a comment of Leonard Trawick's, the long-time co-editor for the Cleveland State University Poetry Center, the folks who published "Pentecost."

"You know that poem really wouldn't have worked with any other vegetable."