Monday, August 8, 2022

Reviews Are So Very Important to Writers, and So Hard to Get

      When my first poetry book was published seven years ago, I dutifully asked readers/friends to review it. That book, Places and Times, eLectio Publishing, has the most Amazon reviews of any that I have written: 30. 

      A few friends highlighted it on their social media, which was wonderful. When I asked some others, here are some of the responses, and in parentheses my comments:

     - I will get around to it. I have a note on my computer screen.  (never happened)

     - Oh, I am not qualified! (All you have to do is to say you like it.)

     -I only read a few poems at a time.  (So, write when you are done).

     - I'm too busy. (So was I when I did something like this for you. But I did it.)

      Recently Amazon said I review I had written went against their community standards. That confused me since I could not figure out what they meant after I read their Guidelines. I submitted a short and in my opinion less-insightful review which hopefully will be acceptable.

      Some of these people remain good friends. I have gotten over being miffed because life is too short. My point here is that if you read something that you like, leave a review. And be honest! If you did not like it, say so. If you have any connection to the author, it is even more important for you to leave a review. 

       Not all authors are supportive, even if they appear to be. Sad, but that is true. That is why it is all the more important for you to step up and review. And once you do, post on social media that you have reviewed. Leave a link or simply say that you liked the book. 

      Thanks for reading this blog! Here are links to my books.


Friday, August 5, 2022

Interesting Article about Mary Magdalene 

    Mary Magdalene is my wife's favorite saint, and the namesake for our Chocolate Lab, Magda. This article is extremely interesting and makes some very good points. It is not incompatible with traditional Christianity.

Saturday, July 30, 2022

UC-Irvine Profiled Me in the Alumni Magazine 

     This is quite the honor, and I am appreciative and touched. UC-Irvine is where I had my first teaching experience, earned an MA in German, and felt the call to seminary. Actually, that was off-campus at the former St. Matthew's Lutheran Church (LCMS). However, that is another story.

     At Irvine one of my professors was Dr. Ruth Kl├╝ger, who at the time used Angress as a surname. I took a Kleist seminar from her and enjoyed the experience. Originally I was to write a dissertation associated with Thomas Mann or Expressionism. When that hit a snag for reasons I will not mention here, she offered me a fantastic topic, knowing I was an active Lutheran: the Pflugschriften (pamphlets) of the 1520s. It was a hot topic, funding was virtually assured to research in Germany, and her name carried weight.

     But she supported my decision to enter seminary. We communicated 30 years later when I saw a documentary on her in Germany.

    She died in October 2020. As a Holocaust survivor, writer, professor, and activist, she had a worldwide reputation. I posted her obituary, which was seen on Twitter by TimesRadio UK. They kindly had me on a broadcast as a former student. I was paired with a scholar. I sent a link to the UCI Magazine, and someone there must have wondered about this alumnus who had done some interesting things. 

     Although I spent only two years in Irvine, and almost a year at UC-Berkeley, that was a transformative time for me in many ways. I tried to return to California, but could not. Later my wife even turned down a job offer, but that turned out well also.

California appears in my poems, and I am glad to have lived there.

Monday, July 11, 2022

Wonderful Day at Bondock Farms!

     I almost sold out of the novel! Other titles (poetry) moved as well. Trying to get back next month, and made some other contacts.

     Yesterday I ordered some more of the novel. You can also:

And for those poetry books... 


Tuesday, July 5, 2022

At Boondock Farms, Jackson SC Saturday July 9, 10a-2p

     I am honored to be with some of my Aiken Writers Block friends this coming Saturday at Boondock Farms. Jackson, SC is near Beech Island. That is not far from Augusta, GA, and near James Brown's birthplace.

     I am looking forward to this. If you cannot come, I will put links to my books below. Feel free to use them or your usual vendors ( where it applies) or contact me directly!

     Take care and be safe!


Tuesday, June 28, 2022

A Very Literary Week This Is

    On Saturday I was at a writer's event of the SCWA (South Carolina Writers Association) in Columbia, SC. Sold two copies of my novel!

     In a moment leaving for my first meeting with the Lexington Chapter of the SCWA. 

     POETRY magazine's new issue arrived today. A book by a friend came on Saturday. And yesterday Thomas Mann's Doktor Faustus in a German paperback.

     Wow! It's only Tuesday!



Monday, June 20, 2022

A Few Days in the Life of This Poet/Writer

     This is a different sort of post. Not that what I do is more fascinating/important than what anyone else does, but it gives me pleasure, and might do the same for you.

     On Sunday I attended a virtual Poetry Salon event where my friend Kelli Russell Agodon gave a reading. There was an Open Mic afterward, and we had an international group: US, Canada, Zimbabwe, and Greece. The Open Mic begins about 40 minutes; I am the second poet. I shared something from Gemini.

     This afternoon I submitted a review of a superb forthcoming book of poetry from Leafolio/Tupelo Press. More on that later.

    I have a Zoom for Fiction Readers for the Northern Appalachia Review in half an hour. This region encompasses all of my native Western Pennsylvania and more. Since place plays a major role in my writing. I am honored to be associated with this publication. Their most recent volume:

And my novel......


Saturday, June 11, 2022

Southern Baptist Strategy to Evangelize US Military 

     FULL DISCLOSURE: I am a Retired Army Reservist with Veteran Status who served nearly 23 years as a chaplain in the National Guard, US Army Reserve, and on Active Duty. My rank at retirement was Chaplain (Lieutenant Colonel). I am a retired but active pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). 

     During my military career, I ensured that my Soldiers' needs (and families when applicable) were met. Chaplains are to perform or provide. That means that if a Soldier wanted something that I could not handle for whatever reason, I found someone who could. For instance, a Latter-Day Saints soldier in the hospital I served in Germany wanted a certain prayer. I asked an LDS chaplain, but since he could not I found an LDS civilian who worked at the hospital to offer the prayer.

   Over the years there were chaplains, usually of a more congregationally-based faith group, often Baptist of some sort, who had problems with chaplains from a liturgical faith group. That meant Lutheran, Episcopalian, some Presbyterians, and Methodists. Roman Catholics and Orthodox certainly, but they were not Protestants and would not be sharing worship services. In fact, some of the chaplains from a looser faith tradition did not think that other chaplains were even Christians. That would include me.

   Now not every Baptist, for lack of a better term, chaplain felt that way. I enjoyed working with many of them. But there was an undercurrent, which sometimes surfaced, that we were not on the same wavelength. To them, Lutherans and other liturgical chaplains seemed suspect. Not really Christians, Catholics in secret, and so on.

   If that were all, well enough. But these chaplains evangelized on steroids. They infused their ministries with conservative politics, tried to convert Soldiers from their existing faith groups, and caused dissension. A number of Soldiers came to me during my deployment to me in the hospital I was at in Germany because their chaplains were judgemental. 

    The sad thing is that many Soldiers would be turned off to religion in general because of chaplains like this. I would have stayed in a while longer to push back against this false evangelism, but I knew that eventually, I would have to retire. Additionally, it was time to be more available for my family. And most of all, I knew that God would take care of it. 


Saturday, June 4, 2022

Verlaine Poem used Prior to D-Day 

     The success of Operation Overlord depended also on the French Resistance sabotaging rail lines and communications in Occupied France. These brave men and women were very effective. Verlaine's poem was used several lines at a time to specific groups as a code. The Germans heard and realized the liens related to the coming invasion, but did not know anything more.

     Verlaine is worth reading. I have some of his poetry on my Kindle. More about him and selected poems:

Thursday, June 2, 2022

"Not Fade Away"- film

      How could a movie with the same title as the Buddy Holly song miss? After all, the Stones, the Grateful Dead, and many others covered it. 

     The movie does not miss. I found the first part a little slow in developing, and the ending is not what I completely expected (no, I will not say more). The performances are effective, and the mood of the 1960s is vividly there. Anyone who lived through those times either had these experiences or was told not to (and likely knew people who had).

     Steven Van Zandt was the executive producer and selected an outstanding soundtrack. While not every band hit the big time, the music of this era impacted lives. I saw it n Amazon Prime Video. Check it out.

Monday, May 30, 2022

A Poem for Memorial Day 

     I enjoyed teaching Yusuf Kommnyakaa's stunning poem. Students' reactions were profound; they grasped the poem's complexity and meaning. Maybe not the one who thought that the Andrew Johnson referenced was the 17th president. Hopefully, he works through that!

     In my college class (I finished my adjunct life in a 16-year stretch at Midlands Technical College in South Carolina) I began ENG 102 with a short unit on war poetry. Maybe I will share some of them here. 

     The reason I developed this unit was to ensure that there was some poetry
in the new rhetoric-based curriculum.


Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Happy 81st birthday, Bob Dylan!

      My wife and I saw him in concert this March at the Township in Columbia, SC. It was a good venue. He only did one old song, opening with "Watching the River Flow." That was a little disappointing, but we did not want to miss an opportunity to see a living legend. "Rough and Rowdy Ways", the most recent album, dominated.

     In high school, some of us tried to convince our teachers that Dylan was a poet. We had no success, but neither did they convince us that Dylan was not a poet. What has come out since is that Dylan has a vast knowledge of music and literature. The Sirius XM show of his, "Theme Time Radio" is the perfect forum for him. 

    He is enigmatic and confuses at times even his friends.  wish he had actually given a speech at his Nobel Laureate award ceremony. 

    This song channels Walt Whitman. It is not that much of a stretch to call Dylan a modern Whitman.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Weaponizing the Eucharist- Shameful- Now it's Speaker Pelosi Who is Banned

       This is going to be a longer piece than a tweet could be. For the benefit of readers not from or familiar with the US political scene, the 1973 decision of Roe v. Wade which legalized abortion will likely be overturned by an increasingly fractious Supreme Court. Several states, including South Carolina, which is where I live, will ban abortion in ALL cases.

       This means that if a woman is raped and impregnated, she will have to give birth. Same for a teenager. 

       And the same politicians tend not to support things like WIC, AFDC, and other programs that help children born into poverty.

        While I do not believe that abortion should be used as birth control, I believe that a woman should be able to make these decisions. Her partner should be involved, ideally her family, friends, and other professionals including clergy. Full disclosure; I am a pastor in good standing (retired) in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. ELCA members can be pro-choice or pro-life. We remain in fellowship, sacramental, and in other ways.

         If you have not read the above link, please do so now.  Candidate Biden encountered the same thing here in South Carolina early in 2020. That a Roman Catholic archbishop elevates one point of doctrine above all others and makes that the one indispensable criterion for faith is to me theologically, pastorally, and completely wrong. 

        As St. John Chrysostom said long ago, the Church is a hospital for sinners. We do not control the Sacraments. I do not quiz people on their theology, politics, interests, or anything when I invite them to receive the Eucharist. Rather, I leave that up to God's mercy. 

        I wish the archbishop in San Francisco did the same.


Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Poetry Inspires Ukrainians! 

     I am so glad to see this get a wider audience. A few weeks ago this was in the Literary Hub, but now CNN shares it as well. Long live Ukraine! Long live freedom and democracy!

Monday, May 9, 2022

Muddy River Poetry Review Published a Poem About my Mother 

     I became a teacher in large part because of my mother (although I had a few other carers). She taught for two 10-year periods, qualifying her for retirement from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania back when teacher salaries were low. The profession was not as embattled as it is today, though.

     Whatever else was going on in her life or the world n general, Mom found comfort and joy in the classroom. The last decade was spent in what became a Middle School in Norristown, PA in an integrated school. It was not unusual for current or former students to greet her at the supermarket or the Mall even when they had gone on to high school or graduated.

     There is a poem about my father, but that is out on submission. I doubt if I can post it on Father's Day this year.

More poetry and my novel:

Reviews Are So Very Important to Writers, and So Hard to Get

      When my first poetry book was published seven years ago, I dutifully asked readers/friends to review it. That book, Places and Times, ...