Susanne Paola Antonetta’s Make Me a Mother, ranked a Top Ten Book of the Year by Image Journal, was published by W.W. Norton. A digital chapbook, Curious Atoms: A History with Physics, was published by Essay Press in May of 2016. She is also author of Body Toxic, A Mind Apart, the novella Stolen Moments, and four books of poetry. She is a frequent blogger with the Huffington Post.Awards for her poetry and prose include a New York Times Notable Book, an American Book Award, a Library Journal Best Science book of the year, a Lenore Marshall Award finalist, an Oprah Bookshelf pick, a Pushcart prize, and others. Her essays and poems have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Orion, The New Republic and many anthologies. She lives in Bellingham, Washington.
Catholic poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote that the Christ "plays in ten thousand places" on the earth. Perhaps this is the highest calling of the Catholic poet: to discover the ten thousand places here where the God incarnate plays, including those places where the play is rough and jostling and even sordid, tough for us to reconcile with what we consider the divine. I expect the poets of Presence to challenge us, surprise us, offer us the daring theology of considering God and the divine inherent in the world we live in, the shining, shook-foil world of the incarnation.
William Baer, a recent Guggenheim fellow, is the author of twenty books including Psalter: A Sequence of Catholic Sonnets; Times Square and Other Stories; The Unfortunates (recipient of the T.S. Eliot Award); Classic American Films: Conversations with the Screenwriters; Luís de Camões: Selected Sonnets; and “Bocage” and Other Sonnets (recipient of the X.J. Kennedy Poetry Prize). A former Fulbright (Portugal) and a past recipient of an N.E.A. Creative Writing Fellowship, his various plays have been performed at more than thirty American theaters.
In his 1999 “Letter to Artists,” Pope John Paul II reminded us that “the Church needs art” – and those four words were italicized in the official Vatican translation. The Church needs art. The Holy Father went on to say that: “Art must make perceptible, and, as far as possible, attractive, the world of the spirit, of the invisible, of God.” If we are to participate in a Catholic Literary Revival in the 21st Century, nothing is more important than artistic outlets (journals, presses, workshops, etc.), and I have every confidence that Presence will play an important role in that revival.
Paul J. Contino received his Ph.D in English from Notre Dame, and is currently Blanche E. Seaver Professor of Humanities at Pepperdine University, where he has been granted the Howard A. White Award for Teaching Excellence and taught for thirteen years. He taught for twelve years in Christ College, the interdisciplinary honors college of Valparaiso University. For eleven years, he co-edited the journal Christianity and Literature with his wife, Maire Mullins. He co-edited and introduced the book Bakhtin and Religion: A Feeling for Faith (Northwestern UP, 2001). His has published essays on classic authors such as Zhuangzi, Dante Alighieri, and Jane Austen, as well as on contemporary Catholic writers such as Czeslaw Milosz, Andre Dubus, Tobias Wolff, and Alice McDermott. His primary scholarly focus is on the Christological dimension of Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov. His essay on “Catholic Christianity and Literature” can be found in the forthcoming Cambridge Companion to Literature and Religion.
Presence serves as a vital venue for poetry born of the Catholic imagination -- graceful words that nurture the soul. Catholic poets such as Dante, Hopkins, Péguy, -- and, more recently, Milosz, Heaney, and Levertov – have nurtured us with tones and words and images attuned to ‘the hidden ground of love’ (Merton). So too will the poems presented in this journal.
Dana Gioia is Poet Laureate of California. An internationally recognized poet and critic, he is the author of five collections of verse, including Interrogations at Noon (2001), which won the American Book Award, and 99 Poems: New & Selected (2016). His critical collections include Can Poetry Matter? (1992), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Award. He has written three opera libretti and edited twenty literary anthologies. Gioia served as Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts from 2003 to 2009. He has been awarded 11 honorary doctorates. He has also received the Laetare Medal from Notre Dame, the Aiken-Taylor Award in Modern Poetry, and the Presidential Citizens Medal. Gioia is the Judge Widney Professor of Poetry and Public Culture at the University of Southern California.
The revival of Catholic literature depends upon the creation of new cultural institutions to foster, refine, and promote new writing.Presence fills an important need. This serious new journal will provide a meeting place and a forum for a group that has few other venues. Its arrival will also strengthen the existing journals since it will add weight and scope to a conspicuously underserved field.The creation of Presence is a hopeful sign for American letters.
Paul Mariani is University Professor of English Emeritus at Boston College. His seventh poetry collection is Epitaphs for the Journey: New, Selected and Revised Poems (2012) in the Poiema Poetry Series. He has written biographies of William Carlos Williams, John Berryman, Robert Lowell, Hart Crane, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and—most recently—Wallace Stevens (The Whole Harmonium with Simon & Schuster). He has also published critical studies of Hopkins and Williams, as well as two collections of essays (A Usable Past and God & the Imagination) and a spiritual memoir, Thirty Days. He is the recipient of multiple NEH and NEA awards, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the John Ciardi Lifetime Award for Poetry. His biography of Hart Crane is the basis for the film The Broken Tower, directed and starring James Franco.
I’m very much looking forward to seeing Presence become a reality, and to working not only with the staff of the journal, but to being introduced to other writers for whom the Catholic intellectual and esthetic temperament—freshly revisited—is realized in the living poem itself. It is a tradition which has given us so many riches in the past, and now opens into new and unexpected vistas.
Angela Alaimo O’Donnell, a writer and professor, teaches English & Creative Writing at Fordham University and serves as Associate Director of Fordham’s Curran Center for American Catholic Studies. She is also a regular columnist for America magazine. O’Donnell has published five collections of poems: Still Pilgrim (2016), Lovers’ Almanac (2015), Waking My Mother (2013), Saint Sinatra (2011), Moving House (2009), and two chapbooks MINE (2007) and Waiting for Ecstasy (2009). Other titles include The Province of Joy (2012), a book of hours based on the prayer life of Flannery O’Connor; Mortal Blessings (2014), a memoir and meditation on everyday sacraments; and Flannery O’Connor: Fiction Fired by Faith (2015), a brief biography and introduction to O’Connor’s work. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, the Best of the Web Award, and the Arlin G. Meyer Prize in Imaginative Writing. In addition to writing poems, O’Donnell writes essays that engage literature and art in the context of the Catholic intellectual tradition. Her essays and reviews have appeared in journals such as America, Commonweal, Mezzo Cammin, Studies in Philology, Spiritus, and Christianity & Literature and have been included in a variety of collections and anthologies, including The Catholic Studies Reader (Fordham UP, 2011) and Teaching the Tradition (Oxford UP, 2012).
The inaugural issue of Presence is good news for readers and poets of every kind. Presence is a forum for the very best work written by poets whose imaginations have been informed by the rich tradition of Catholicism. Catholics are “thing-y,” sensual, incarnational, in love with the material world as sign and symbol of what lies beyond us. To be a Catholic is to think analogically. It is no accident that so many fine poets are Catholics—beginning with Dante on down to the present—and vice versa. Here, at last, is a venue that showcases the variety of forms the Catholic imagination takes and demonstrates the overwhelming Presence of the Catholic imagination in contemporary writing.
Judith Valente is the author of two collections of poetry, "Discovering Moons" and "Inventing An Alphabet," selected by Mary Oliver for the 2005 Aldrich Poetry Prize. She is also the author of the memoir "Atchison Blue: A Search for Silence, a Spiritual Home and a Living Faith," winner of Catholic Press Association and Religion Newswriters Association award for best spirituality book in 2014 and is co-author "The Art of Pausing: Meditation for the Overworked and Overwhelmed." She is Midwest correspondent for America magazine and senior correspondent for WGLT Radio, the NPR affiliate in central Illinois. She lives in Normal and Chicago IL with her husband, retired Circuit Court Judge and poet Charles Reynard.
Poetry is what the ancient Celts called an "anam cara," a soul friend, so it is not only fitting but necessary to explore the connection between poetry and the soul. Some of the best poets of our generation, including Mary Oliver, Marie Howe, Franz Wright, Naomi Shihab Nye and many others have mined this connection, but there are other voices out there waiting to be heard. Now they will have a home in this journal.