FFW Student Blog

Our student committee members share their thoughts, observations, reviews, and other fun facts they've learned about Festival 2014 authors and their work.

It's All Perspective

Saturday April 5, 2014 at 4:03 PM

by Claire Lambert

Tucked among a cluster of trees on the south side of Calvin College’s science building is a stone plaque. Since the stone is not large and is obscured by the trees, it is easy to miss, especially if one is hurrying to class or some other activity. I would not have noticed it if a friend of mine had not shown it to me. But when I saw it, I was touched. The stone bears a simple inscription:

Planting seeds
inevitably
changes my feelings
about rain.

Just a few words, but they bear a beautiful and powerful message. Rain is often considered a negative weather event. How many books and movies use rain in their tragic scenes? When the boy and girl have a fight and/or break up, when everything seems to be going wrong and the main character feels sad and alone, the rain pours and the thunder rolls. Rain implies sadness, depression, despair. Right?

The short poem on the stone offers a different perspective. For gardeners and farmers, rain is life-giving. It is nourishing. It is a thing to be grateful for, since without enough rain, plants wither. All it takes is broadening one’s thinking to something outside oneself to turn the dreary dismalness into a blessing.

How profound.

I was struck by this poem, even though I am one of those people who actually does love rain and storms. What wisdom it gives, and not just for one’s attitude toward precipitation. After reading the poem on the stone, I walked away, and the words faded to the back of my mind.  Until I came across them as I read The Green Earth: Poems of Creation, that is, and discovered that the author of these lines is Luci Shaw, who is a featured author of the 2014 Festival of Faith and Writing!

Many of Luci Shaw’s poems carry simple, profound wisdom like the poem above, Forecast, and she offers a refreshing new perspective on a multitude of subjects in nature, religion, and beyond.

So delve in and open your mind: perhaps you will see beauty that before went unnoticed or unappreciated. And if you are participating in the Festival of Faith and Writing this year, be sure to stop by the stone near the science building to read the words for yourself.

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A Christian's Place in the World

Tuesday April 1, 2014 at 7:14 PM

by Stephanie Bradshaw

James C. Schaap has an impeccable sense of place in his novels. In both Romey’s Place and Home Free, the reader is brought into the small, conservative, Dutch town of Easton, Wisconsin. Through dialect, customs, and physical geography, one can tell that Schaap has a strong connection to this town.

However, his stories are not just about place; they delve deep into the consciousness of Christians adapting to changing worldviews. Schaap’s characters struggle with some large questions about the Christian faith as they try to place God and traditions in the broader view of the world beyond Easton.

Besides illuminating the struggles of growing in the Christian faith in a changing world, Schaap’s work also emphasizes relationships. Romey’s Place is about two friends from very different lifestyles, but also about the boys’ relationships with their fathers. Home Free also focuses on the relationship between father and son. From his novels, it is apparent that Schaap believes that there can be a strong bond of love between fathers and sons, no matter what difficulties may arise.

Schaap’s novels have the power to pull you into the situation and relate to characters as they face normal life problems.

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"Heart Speaks Unto Heart"

Friday March 28, 2014 at 6:34 PM

by Jenna Griffin

Mary Szybist’s most recent book of poems, Incarnadine, is truly a joy; it thrums with currents of beauty and mystery, it thrills the senses, it gladdens and troubles the heart in equal measure.  Her writing exhibits a draw to the fantastic moments of the supernatural crossing paths with the mundane, familiar world.  She explores the enigmatic and the unknown with her captivating words.

The Annunciation, that fateful moment when the angel Gabriel announces the Incarnation to Mary, weaves throughout this collection as a binding theme, drawing each individual poem into one single work; while each one is a joy on its own, something must be said for the book as a whole and singular unit, the richness of things separate lacing into something larger.

One of the delights of this book is the diversity of her poetry.  While certain core themes unify the collection, the creative use of many different forms of poetry adds a certain dynamic, a nuanced texture.  The subjects are approached from myriad angles and levels so that they bloom into something rich and full.

Still now, months after peering into this book for the first time, I find myself drawing its thin spine out from the rows of countless others and opening it to fall back into the lushness of Szybist’s words.  There is a sort of joy in reading and rereading these poems; you are not finished having read them once.  Every time my eye falls on them again I am reawakened to the questions they pose, the beauty they offer.  It is as if I am reading them afresh, digesting the words anew.

In the very beginning of this book, just beneath her dedication, Szybist writes Cor ad cor loquitur: heart speaks unto heart.  While this notation was not necessarily directed towards her readers, I cannot help but see it as a lovely summation of her pieces.  These poems are undeniably spoken from Szybist’s heart, and it is difficult to keep them from resounding within one’s own.

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