S2 Ep19: Malcolm Guite

Poet-priest Malcolm Guite has become one of the most important Christian poets of our time. In this episode, Jonathan and Malcolm discuss the “salvaging of the mistakenly abased gift of imagination,” the vital distinction between what things are and what they are made of, how Malcolm inherited the gift of poetry from his mother, and the invention of writing as the gateway both to remembering and forgetting.

“You’ve got a Chevrolet as old as her.” On concrete specifics.

The Turnpike Troubadours, a (possibly defunct?) country band, have a song called “Unrung” in which the narrator admonishes an older friend about a relationship with a much younger woman. The song begins,

I could tell you she’s a bad idea,
For all the good it would do.
You’ve got a Chevrolet as old as her–
Hell, you bought it new.

I want to look at those four lines for a minute in order to point out a few things about the use of concrete specifics, both in storytelling and in persuasive writing.

Good persuasive writing typically moves from claims (or opinions) to facts. It is helpful to know the difference, especially in a cultural climate that seems to be post-factual. Some things actually are verifiable facts whether you like them or not–also, whether you wish to believe them or not. Not everything is an opinion. It seems bizarre to be living in a world where one has to point these things out, but there we are.

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In Praise of Limits

At the Rogers house we’ve been working on a big thousand-piece puzzle. If you’ve done a big puzzle, you know how this goes: you round up all the edge pieces, and put them together, and then you have a frame to work in. You go from “This is altogether bewildering” to “Okay–maybe we can do this after all.”

I have heard it said that the most important part of a picture is the frame. The frame says, “Yes, there’s a whole world out there. It’s more than you or I can handle. So let’s handle this right here.” The edges of the canvas allow the artist to focus, to tend to his business. Artists have a reputation for dreaminess, expansiveness. But art starts with limitation. Art (like every other tangible good in the world) starts when you leave limitless potentiality behind and say, “I could do a billion different things. But right now, I’m going to do this one thing.”

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S2 Ep13: Trillia Newbell Endures

Trillia Newbell is the author of several books including United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity, and, most recently, Sacred Endurance: Finding Grace and Strength for a Lasting Faith. She is a former journalist and currently the Director of Community Outreach for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention. Jonathan and Trillia discuss the role of endurance in a writer’s life, the importance of being realistic about what it means to do the work, and writing as bearing witness to reality rather than inventing it.

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