Another of my haiku, written after birding the Bolsa Chica Wetlands near Huntington Beach, now appears in the Asahi Haikuist (2 November 2018).
Great Blue Heron stands
on one leg in the water
Another of my haiku, written after birding the Bolsa Chica Wetlands near Huntington Beach, now appears in the Asahi Haikuist (2 November 2018).
Great Blue Heron stands
on one leg in the water
My poem, “Aphrodite Sings to Adonis,” now appears in the White Stag Journal (October 2018), 18-20.
My essay, “In Memory of Ann Eliot: Colonial American Midwife,” appears in Midwifery Today 127 (Fall 2018): 20-22, in print and online.
“Ann Eliot (born Hannah Mumford or Mountford) was a midwife in Roxbury, Massachusetts, just outside Boston, during the Colonial era in America. After she died on March 22, 1687, her family, friends, and neighbors commemorated her life by erecting a special monument for her. In a unanimous resolution, they voted to do so: “Mrs. Eliot, for the great service that she hath done this town, will be honored with a burial there.” (qtd. in Gregory). At the time of her death, she had attended more than 3,000 births …
… No scandal ever attached to her or her practice of midwifery. In fact, her work as a midwife and healthcare provider expanded into the area of fiduciary responsibility: eight families from the town of Roxbury trusted her to be the executor of their estates (Packard, qtd. in Whaley). So in addition to having attended the births of more than 3,000 babies, she also helped ensure for some of them their provision and future inheritance. When she died, at about the age of eighty-three, Ann Eliot’s loss was deeply felt and widely mourned. Her memory, however, was cherished.”
“O give yee thanks unto the Lord
because that good is hee;
because his loving kindness lasts
~ Psalm 107:1
(from The Bay Psalm Book,
trans. John Eliot, et al.)
My academic essay, “Who is Tom Bombadil? Interpreting the Light in Frodo Baggins and Tom Bombadil’s Role in the Healing of Traumatic Memory in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings,” now appears in The Journal of Tolkien Research 6 (2018): Iss. 1, Art. 1, 1-34.
In Rivendell, after Frodo has been attacked by Ringwraiths and is healing from the removal of the splinter from a Morgul-blade that had been making its way toward his heart, Gandalf regards Frodo and contemplates a “clear light” that is visible through Frodo to “eyes to see that can.” Samwise Gamgee later sees this light in Frodo when Frodo is resting in Ithilien. The first half of this essay considers questions about this light: how does Frodo become transparent, and why, and what is the nature of the light that fills him? As recourse to Tolkien’s letters shows, the light is related to the virtues of Frodo’s character: love, self-sacrifice, humility, perseverance. The light in Frodo also is related to the light in the Phial of Galadrial, which comes from the Earendil’s Silmaril set in the heavens above Middle-earth, which is called the Morning Star. Because “Morning Star” is a name for Jesus in the New Testament, the light within Frodo may be interpreted, symbolically, as the Christ-light.
The second half of this essay considers how this light was ignited in Frodo, specifically by asking: who is Tom Bombadil, and what does he have to do with the light inside of Frodo? The essay explores multiple explanations for the long-standing, critically-debated mystery of Tom Bombadil’s identity, ultimately showing that he must be interpreted at multiple levels of meaning simultaneously. Intriguingly, Tom Bombadil has parallels to the first Adam and the second Adam, Jesus, especially in his role as “Eldest” (or ab origine) and in his ability to bring light to Frodo in the grave of the barrow-wight, save him from death by his song, and heal him from spiritual “drowning” – a word that Tom uses to describe Frodo’s terrifying experience in the barrow and which relates to Frodo’s original childhood wound: the primal loss of his parents, who drowned in a tragic accident. When Frodo receives healing from this trauma, he is strengthened to endure what he later experiences on his quest to destroy the Ring.
My essays, “Supporting Sexual Abuse Survivors in Childbirth” and “Mary Hobry: A Midwife and a Murder Mystery in 17th C. London,” now appear in Midwifery Today 126 (Summer 2018), 24-24-25 and 48-50.
“Not every woman can or will experience a birth that helps to facilitate the healing of past abuse. But as midwives, we can do our best to listen to women’s stories, respect their free will, and share the wisdom we have. Healing can come from the care we provide even when things do not go the way that women hoped. It takes a lot of love and patience in the process, and the work can be exhausting. But if the women are not giving up, then neither should we.”
“L’Estrange titled his short book, A Hellish Murder Committed by a French Midwife on the Body of her Husband, Jan. 27, 1688, for which she was arraigned at the Old Bailey, Feb. 22, 1687, and pleaded GUILTY, and the Day Following Received Sentence to be BURNT.It became the basis of other writings about Mary Hobry, including one poem by E. Settle and another by an anonymous poet. The latter poem versified all the details from the case in rhyming couplets; it was called “A Warning-Piece to All Married Men and Women, Being the Full Confession of Mary Hobry, the French Midwife, Who Murdered her Husband on the 17thof January, 1688 (as also the Cause Thereof).” The poem treats the tragedy as a moral parable, beginning with the lines:
All you that married men and women be
Give ear unto this woeful tragedy,
That now befell a Frenchman and his wife,
Who lived together in continual strife (lines 1-4).
The poem ends: “She now is burned, and begs of all mankind / And women too, Wisdom by her to find” (lines 164-65).”
My academic essay, “Mapping Desire in Chaucer’s ‘To Rosemounde,’ Shakespeare’s ‘Rape of Lucrece,” and Donne’s ‘A Valediction: Of Weeping,'” now appears in Peregrinations: A Journal of Medieval Art and Architecture 6:3 (2018): 105-29.
“The poets Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, and John Donne were aware of the existence of medieval world maps. Evidence from their writings clearly shows that the poets were familiar with the genre and had seen cartographic examples of it. They may also have read prose descriptions of the whole world that sometimes journeyed with, and sometimes journeyed separately from, cartographic mappaemundi. The poets each used such maps metaphorically in their poems about women, juxtaposing woman- as-map in their reader-viewer’s inner eye in poetic contexts they created to represent male desire. That desire is figured in a would-be lover’s lament that turns to satiric complaint in Chaucer’s “To Rosemounde” and in a conqueror’s lust that turns to violent assault in Shakespeare’s “Rape of Lucrece,” while in Donne’s “A Valediction: Of Weeping,” it is expressed with tender empathy in an increasingly complex, metaphorical meditation on the tears shed by both lover and beloved on an occasion of parting.1 In order to understand this thematic sexualization of the mappaemundi, it is relevant first to consider the contemplative and educational functions of world maps in medieval Christian culture.”
My chapter, “Ending Dystopia: The Feminist Critique of Culture in Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games Trilogy” now appears in Worlds Gone Awry: Essays on Dystopian Fiction, eds. John Han, C. Clark Triplett, and Ashley G. Anthony (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2018), 122-138.
More’s purpose in Utopia was not, of course, to inform his highly educated, Latinate, mostly male readers about a “good place,” a utopian country in the New World, but rather to critique a dystopian country in his own Old World: England.
Virtually all subsequent utopian/dystopian fiction in the western tradition is generically defined by elements found in More’s Utopia, and feminist utopian writings and contemporary feminist dystopian fiction are no exceptions. The later development of the genre branches out from its roots (Christian humanist satire), producing distinctly different fruit (literary works), because it hybridizes the tree (the genre). Whereas More’s Utopia, like Platonic dialogues, is a conversation between men, feminist dystopias expand the conversation that critiques culture by:
Authors of feminist dystopian fiction frequently take as a given that the world their female protagonists live in is being represented to those women as utopian, as a “good place” that is culturally and politically organized for their benefit, but they emphasize in no uncertain terms that the world is in fact dystopian. They show that the male-dominated cultural forces in their fictions consistently seek to exploit women’s bodies, in violation of their will, at the expense of their minds and to the detriment of their emotional wellbeing. They do not hesitate to show how some female characters living in dystopia accept these forces while others actually become perpetuators of them, and they may also highlight how male characters are not only oppressors but may be oppressed by the mechanisms of injustice in dystopia.
But in response to the “big lie” that women are living in utopia, when the actual conditions of their existence are mercilessly dystopian, authors send their female protagonists on a journey of personal and relational growth. The journey inevitably includes acquisition of new knowledge, new strength, and new, previously unknown, and virtually unimaginable freedom.This trajectory is especially clear when reading the endings of feminist dystopian fictions.
Because feminist dystopian fiction is very much in keeping not only with utopian satire but also with the fairy-tale tradition, it engages the human psychological realities of hope and fear, but often—quite purposefully—without the consolation of a traditional “happy ending.” This raises a key question: since the endings are clearly not wish-fulfillment fantasies, intended for the temporary satisfaction of readers, what purposes are being accomplished by the endings of feminist dystopian fictions? To explore the question, my chapter focuses on the ending of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy (2008-2010). As we shall see, her fiction makes new use of the generic elements of the utopian satirical tradition—classical learning, Christian ethics, and the discovery of a new world—in a “bad place” where the development of the psychological complexity of her female protagonist on her journey drives the critique of the real dystopia: the postmodern world inhabited by the author and her readers at the turn of the twenty-first century.
My review of Elizabeth Solopova’s edited volume, The Wycliffite Bible: Origin, History, and Interpretation (Brill, 2017), now appears in Mediaevistik 30 (2018): 446-48.
The Wycliffite Bible (WB) is the first complete Bible in English, extant in over 250 manuscript copies, and it had an extensive influence on late-medieval and early modern English culture. Translated from the Latin Vulgate, it consists of biblical books in prose and verse along with academic prologues. It is extant in two versions, the earlier (EV) and the later (LV), which often were transmitted with commentaries as well as liturgical and exegetical aids. Elizabeth Solopova’s edited volume contributes significantly to the scholarship of the late medieval English Bible already produced by Henry Ansgar Kelly (The Middle English Bible: A Reassessment, 2016), Mary Dove (The First English Bible, 2007, and The Earliest Advocates of the English Bible, 2011), and Anne Hudson (The Premature Reformation, 1988), work which is well-contextualized by broader studies on the medieval Bible by Frans van Lière (An Introduction to the Medieval Bible, 2014), Susan Boyton, and Diane Reilly (The Practice of the Bible in the Middle Ages, 2011), and the quintessential Beryl Smalley (The Study of the Bible in the Middle Ages, 2nd ed., 1989).
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
My essay “‘Desco da parto’: The Birth Tray and its Cultural Significance in Renaissance Italy,” now appears in Midwifery Today 125 (Spring 2018): 26-28.
In this essay, I describe the practical and decorative use of the desco da parto or birth tray in Renaissance Italy. After the Black Death, birth trays were used from 1370 to the third quarter of the sixteenth century to serve the mother’s first postpartum meal: They commemorated the life of mother and baby kept safe in childbirth. The deschi featured both secular and sacred scenes, painted in tempera, with gilded borders. They could be round, twelve-sided or sixteen-sided. After serving their primary purpose, they could later be hung upon walls in family homes and passed from one generation to the next.
IMAGES OF DESCHI
Triumph of Chastity
birth tray presented to Lucrezia di Giovanni Tornbuoni,
mother of Lorenzo de’Medici, “the Magnificent”
Other biblical, allegorical or mythological desci images:
My co-authored essay, “The Lais and Fables of Marie de France,” now appears in Major Authors and Movements in British Literature (Gale, 2017), edited by Kirilka Stavreva, accessible through The Gale Researcher.
“This article provides a brief introduction to the poetic works of Marie de France including her lais, fables, dream vision of Saint Patrick’s Purgatory, and hagiographical poem about Saint Audrey. A survey of Marie’s literary sources and immediate cultural context is followed by a discussion of the role of magic, romance, and gender in her poems. After a look at the major social and political themes of Marie’s writing, the article concludes with an examination of her influence on later medieval literature.”
My poem, “After the Labyrinth,” now appears in Snapdragon: A Journal of Art and Healing 3:3 (Fall 2017), 20, a themed issue focused on one word: remember.
by John William Waterhouse
My co-edited volume, Approaches to Teaching the Middle English Pearl, is now in print from the Modern Language Association.
The moving, richly allegorical poem Pearl was written in Middle English by the anonymous poet who likely also penned Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. In it, a man in a garden, grieving the loss of a beloved pearl, dreams of the Pearl-Maiden, who appears across a stream. She teaches him the nature of innocence, God’s grace, meekness, and purity. Though granted a vision of the New Jerusalem by the Pearl-Maiden, the dreamer is pained to discover that he cannot cross the stream himself and join her in bliss—at least not yet. This extraordinary poem is a door into late medieval poetics and Catholic piety.
Part 1 of this volume, “Materials,” introduces instructors to the many resources available for teaching the canonical yet challenging Pearl, including editions, translations, and scholarship on the poem as well as its historical context. The essays in part 2, “Approaches,” offer instructors tools for introducing students to critical issues associated with the poem, such as its authorship, sources and analogues, structure and language, and relation to other works of its time. Contributors draw on interdisciplinary approaches to outline ways of teaching Pearl in a variety of classroom contexts.
Table of Contents
My biographical essay on Judith Wilks, royal midwife to Queen Mary of Modena, now appears in Midwifery Today 123 (Fall 2017), 48-51.
“When the Catholic Queen Mary of Modena, wife of King James II of England, gave birth on June 10, 1688 to a son, James Francis Edward, the Prince of Wales and heir presumptive to the throne, a vicious rumor sped throughout predominantly Protestant England: that Queen Mary’s own child was stillborn and that the boy presented to the public was a spurious changeling child who had been brought to the birthing room in a warming pan (Haile 190; cf. Corp 184, 190, 200).
This accusation outraged the Queen’s midwife, Judith Wilks, who had delivered the prince. She wrote a letter to her cousin, Mrs. Winifred Wilks, which was later published, that provides a historical document attesting to the legitimate birth and the midwife’s own strong feelings of loyalty to the queen, love for the newborn baby, and fury at the wide-spread slander (Wilks 1-2).
To better understand this letter, it is important first to understand the life of the queen whom Judith Wilks served as a midwife and the historical tensions between Catholics and Protestants that were so exacerbated in England in the seventeenth century.”
My new collection of poems
about birding and the spiritual life:
WHAT NEVER FAILS
We went to the water
to see the Pelican –
the one, they say, who stabs her breast
and feeds her young with blood (like Christ),
but there was no bird like that
on the little islands by the pier.
There were Western Gulls instead,
crying out like Alcyone for Ceys,
flying over us like the ragged mists
of dreams we dream at dawn
and, waking, find
have told us the truth.
We were standing close together, just above
the water, like the Light Princess and her Prince,
when I noticed the cliff swallows
darting over the waves, under the pier
where they have hidden their nests
and are feeding the future
with a constant love
that never fails.
My biographical essay, “Christina of Markyate,” now appears in British Writers Supplement,Vol. 24, ed. Jay Parini (Farmington Hills, MI: Gale/Cenage Learning, 2018), 59-73.
“Born into an ambitious Anglo-Saxon family in Huntingdon, England, not long after the Norman Conquest of 1066, Christina of Markyate was a spiritually-minded child who grew up to resist the marriage her family had planned for her and devote herself instead to a chaste life as a religious recluse and, later, prioress of Markyate. Like other medieval English women writers, such as Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe, her autobiographical reflections were shared orally with an amanuensis who preserved them for her, their religious communities, and future readers. A monk of St. Albans Abbey copied Christina’s hagiographical Life in the fourteenth-century manuscript, Cotton Tiberius E1, which was lost for many centuries. It was damaged in an eighteenth-century fire, and only rediscovered, transcribed, translated, edited, and published by C.H. Talbot in 1959. In addition to this rich, textual resource, two other textual sources recall Christina Markyate’s special existence: the Gesta Abbatum, a chronicle of St. Albans Abbey compiled in the 1250s, which mentions her, and the St. Albans Psalter, a richly illuminated manuscript which was altered for her personal use.”
My poem, “Destiny,” now appears in the poetry anthology, Contemporary Poetry, Vol. 4, edited by Pradeep Chaswal and Deepak Chaswal (2017), 24-26.
like a dry leaf.
Now the rain begins
on my crackling
skin, so that it softens,
and I cling to the loam
dark as night
becoming one with the dirt,
sinking into the earth.
I feel the tender, slender roots
from a nearby patch of grass
reaching into me –
a dandelion seed.
What will we become,
this tiny seed and me,
entwining in the dark
under the earth
where no one else can see?
When the rain stops,
when my former shape
when I am spread out
and taken in,
when I can’t speak
in the usual way, when the vocal-chord veins
in my skin can’t be played
like a harp, by the wind, the wind I love,
the wind I remember so well,
when I grow
through the new life
of a flower
through the soil to the sun,
opening her green self
to become her yellow self,
feeling the light
to transform into her white self,
clean and pure –
who will I be?
Will the wind come back
and blow through me,
scattering me again,
for the sake of someone else’s wish?
My poem, “Uplifted,” now appears in The Muse: An International Journal of Poetry 5 (2017), 50.
Even the silhouette
of a songbird on a wire
singing as the sun goes down
lifts up my heart
My poem, “Ruth and Ruah,” now appears in Time of Singing: A Journal of Christian Poetry 44:2 (Summer 2017), 36.
“RUTH AND RUAH”
The rushing wind blew
and chaff from the threshed barley
swirled in the air
over the field
where I saw you, kinsman-redeemer,
standing in sheaves still up-standing,
dressed in blue and gold.
My biographical essay, “‘The Sainted Ann Hutchinson’: Midwife of Grace (1591-1643)” now appears in Midwifery Today 122 (Summer 2017): 29-31.
” … After the banishment, the Hutchinson family moved to Rhode Island. While there, Anne Hutchinson gave birth for the fifteenth time not long after the trial—which suggests she had been pregnant during the trial itself (Schutte 85ff). Extant descriptions—one written by her doctor, John Clark—suggest that Hutchinson birthed a hydatidiform mole, which looked like a handful of transparent grapes (Battis). Some of Hutchinson’s detractors saw her pregnancy loss as proof of God’s punishment or of the midwife’s league with Lucifer (Schutte). This sort of thinking had already been evident during the controversy over the relationship between grace and works, when it had been discovered that the midwife, years before, had attended a Quaker woman, Mary Dyer, who had given birth to a deformed baby. At the recommendation of the minister, John Cotton, the family had buried the stillborn quietly, for no one wished the birth to be interpreted as a sign of God’s displeasure.
Nevertheless, the story of the birth became known during the controversy, and it was taken as a sign against Anne Hutchinson. To those for whom good works were directly connected with God’s blessing, and all kinds of human suffering was the result of God’s wrath, it was difficult to imagine that God’s grace might work through an accident in nature. But they had forgotten the lessons of Job.”
My essay, “Managing GBS,” now appears in Midwifery Today 122 (Summer 2017): 50-52.
FROM THE INTRODUCTION:
“The goal of managing Group B streptococcus (GBS) is prevention of maternal chorioamnionitis and neonatal infection (such as respiratory disease, general sepsis or meningitis). Careful management helps to protect life and health. There are various ways to manage GBS, which we can consider and apply appropriately in midwifery practice.”
My poem, “Explaining the Placenta,” now appears in the anthology All We Can Hold: Poems of Motherhood, eds. Elise Gregory and Emily Gwinn (Spokane, WA: Sage Hill Press, 10 May 2017).
This is the house your baby lived in
before she was born,
I say –
and I hold up the membranes
of amnion and chorion
(words like notes sung
by cherubim and seraphim)
to show the mother
who now is breastfeeding her newborn babe.
This shiny side was the baby’s side,
and the cord in the center
was connected to the center of her!
I turn the placenta over
in the bowl, and say:
This side was your side, attached
to the inside of the uterus,
and the blood that perfused it
brought life and food to your baby.
The mama knows this was part of her.
Now that she has seen it,
she will remember.
She has understood something about herself
and life when it is first beginning:
unseen, unheard, inside.
She says she will
bury it in the ground.
What will grow from it then?
Also available in …
Transfiguration: A Midwife’s Birth Poems
(Raleigh, NC: Lulu Press, 2016), 43.
My pedagogical essay, “Three Approaches to Teaching ‘Pearl’: Introduction to Literature, British Literature I, and the Mythology of J.R.R. Tolkien” now appears in The Once and Future Classroom (Spring 2016), Art. 6. Ejournal.
“Pearl is an extraordinarily beautiful, fourteenth-century, dream vision poem. It is infinitely rewarding to teach, but notoriously difficult to do so. That is because the poem requires a level of literacy that college students do not always possess. In order to read Pearl, whether in Middle English or in a Modern English translation, students must be brave enough to encounter not only poetry, but medieval poetry; not only medieval poetry, but a specific dream vision poem densely packed with biblical and classical allusion; not only a dream vision with a literal meaning, but one with several layers of meaning: literal, allegorical, moral, and anagogical. Although students may not come to the poem with the skills to understand the poem at first, by reading key precursor texts and studying Pearl in different contexts, students can learn to read Pearl, and in the process, learn how to become better readers overall.”
|•How is the symbol of the pearl transformed throughout the poem?
•What is the nature of the relationship between the Pearl-Maiden and the Dreamer?
•How might we interpret this poem literally, allegorically, morally, and anagogically? What parable, fable, and fairy-tale motifs appear in the poem?
•Is the dreamer consoled at the end of the poem? If not, why not? If so, how?
To learn more about teaching Pearl,
My poem, “Song of the Selkie,” now appears in Aji Magazine 6 (Spring 2017): 66-67.
Song of the Selkie
in honor of Augustine Vegas
I am a singer, and I must sing:
that is what few people understand.
Whether in love or death,
I must sing the enchanting song
that draws listeners closer to me.
You don’t know how many men
I have seen drowned in the deep of the Deep,
the sailors we tried to rescue
as the water filled up their lungs
and they, and their ships, sank to the floor of the sea.
Some wrapped their arms around our necks,
and we swam with them to the surface,
so that they breathed, and lived, and went back to shore
where they told the truth about us and our songs –
the selkies who saved them from storms.
Some told lies. They said that we sang
the enchanting song, a serenade of death,
and filled them with desire to plunge into the flood,
to seek love and death and oblivion in our arms –
like sea-witches, like goddesses or shee-demons.
How little those liars know! What have they seen,
under the waves, of the faces of the pale dead?
The swollen eyes, fully dilated and black,
the mouths open and expressions distorted,
the arms and legs floating, helpless, without strength?
You don’t know why I sing. You don’t know who I have
saved from drowning – or who I couldn’t save.
You never transformed your true self into the image of one
who died, a pregnant woman who flung herself
from the starboard side of an ancient wooden ship
in despair from her pain, to give birth to a dead child,
in the sea, and you don’t know how we carried her
back to the surface, and her baby to an invisible grave
in the heart of the sea, in my heart forever, the stillborn,
and her mother, crying, until she finally stopped.
You never became one of the lost ones
to try to deal with your grief, the incomprehensible
sorrow of watching someone die, before your eyes,
as their pupils open and yours narrow
in the dark beneath the Deep.
You never walked upon the shore, human for the first time,
or wondered about the love of a man in a Lighthouse,
who tries to save the ships by guiding them home
with a beacon to declare the source of safety –
you never thought he might understand.
You never went back from the shore to the sea,
knowing that a man in a Lighthouse
is different from a selkie, from a woman water-creature
who saves men in the sea, who brings the dying
to the surface to breathe.
You never rocked in the cradle of the loving waves
and watched from their embrace as a pirate
held a pistol to the heart of a prince, and pulled the trigger,
so that the prince fell, already dead, blood flowing
from his chest into the sea.
I am a singer, and I must sing –
that is what few people understand.
Song of the Selkie
My essay, “Joana Torrellas and the Spanish Inquisition,” now appears in Midwifery Today 121 (Spring 2017), 42-43.
“Joana Torrellas was not a witch. She was a Catholic midwife from Valencia, Spain, who lived during the fifteenth century. She married and had five children, three sons and two daughters. After being widowed, she moved to Teruel to live with her daughter, who was married to the town jailer, Joan Gil.
As part of her normal practice of midwifery, Joana recited prayers, such as the Prayer of St. Cyprian, which were contained in a small book that had been given to her by her mother-in-law (who was also a midwife). Joana usually placed nómina (literally, “the names”), a necklace with a pendant on it or in which were written the names of Christ, around the necks of laboring mothers, and she asked for the blessing of the Virgin Mary during the birth. When a woman was about to birth the placenta, she would place a book with a crucifix in it under the woman’s feet in order to help facilitate delivery.
This kind of “spiritual midwifery” was apparently welcome in Valencia, where Joana was from, for it occasioned no scandal. But in Teruel, where Joana was an outsider, her normal practice might have been unusual …”