To understand what I am going to tell you, you need to know that my parents were scientists and that my mother’s mind had a decidedly unpoetic bent. Nonetheless, they read me poems from the time I was very young because they paid attention to what gladdened my spirit.
On a recent afternoon, I skimmed from page to page in the newspaper, glancing at headlines about environmental deregulation, an increase in the state murder rate, schools that aren’t educating their students, massacres in Syria and other grim realities. My reaction? I’m embarrassed to confess: “Not my problem, not my problem, not my problem, and not my problem.” Then I turned to the sports section.
At a reception to launch a new collection of Lucille Clifton’s poems (The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010), the editor of the volume, Kevin Young, described coming across a folder in Clifton’s archives at Emory University. The folder had been labeled “Unpublished Poems.” That label had been scratched out and replaced by something like, “Poems that really aren’t that good and should probably just be thrown away someday.” That label too had been scratched out and replaced with “Bad poems.”
It’s been almost 20 years, but I can still recall the uneasy flutter in my gut as the sun went down and my first night as on-call chaplain began. A chaplain who was on her way home, and familiar with the look of panic that identifies a rookie, patted me on the shoulder. “You’ll be fine,” she said.
Matt Yeater was blinded in a meth lab explosion at age 20. Imprisoned numerous times, he was not the typical seminary student when he matriculated at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana. After learning that there are few resources in Braille for studying biblical languages, he contacted a company that produces software for Braille translation. The result: now, with the touch of a button, biblical Hebrew, Greek, ancient Syriac, Latin, and Coptic can be translated into Braille (The Mennonite, July 12).