Issue 33Nonfiction prizeadd title

the RUMINATE blog

Works with Soul: Interview with Jessie van Eerden

Works with Soul: Interview with Jessie van Eerden

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of speaking with Jessie van Eerden over the phone from her home in West Virginia. Though our conversation was brief, it came as no surprise that her answers to my questions were charged with insight, humility, and humor. Her essay “Work Ethic,” which won Ruminate’s 2014 VanderMey Nonfiction Prize, was the first piece of hers I’d ever read, and the lyrical, densely vivid blend of poetry and prose sent me searching for more of the same. What I found was similarly fascinating, but the breadth of her range as a poet, essayist, and fiction writer, is vast. Her fictional characters are as real as those in her personal essays, and her prose is as poetic as it is erudite. While many contemporary writers flinch at the thought of directly confronting religious themes, images, or settings, van Eerden often pitches her tent in the thick of that forest. The stark landscape of her work has, naturally, warranted comparisons to Flannery O’Connor, but there is a warmth to her authorial gaze that brings each piece a kind of lightness, too. One Ruminate editor once joked that she was like “Flannery O’Connor if she loved her characters.” Jokes aside, Jesse van Eerden’s work is worthy of such praise.

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Her Kind

Her Kind

I harbor a secret addiction to shows like Hoarders. I admit I watch these shows to help me feel better about my own housekeeping, my own neuroses, my own particular brand of weird. It’s not a pretty admission, but it’s true.

While driving recently, I caught part of an NPR show about the life of Anne Sexton, whose poetry has always moved me. When I heard the words of her poem, “Her kind” ringing through the speakers I stopped to listen, taking in the pace of the words and the scheme of the rhyme.

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Blue Upon Blue: Finding Our Way in a Complex World

Blue Upon Blue: Finding Our Way in a Complex World

The day is brilliant―a wash of purity across the often-muddy sky, an opulent blue so intense it defies the concept of endless space. Surely it is a fascia that cups and covers the earth and floods our dowdy souls with its unnameable azure-cerulean-cobalt. 

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Welcoming Strangers: A Manifestation of Hope

Welcoming Strangers: A Manifestation of Hope

One yes is a thousand renunciations.

It’s been over a decade since I read the book[1] from which I recall this idea: that saying yes to anything, really saying yes, requires saying no to a host of other options and opportunities.

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5 Literary Magazines for 2015

5 Literary Magazines for 2015

If you’ve resolved to read more, be better, or explore something new this year, then you’re in luck. Just like last year, I have another clutch of literary journals to recommend for your reading pleasure (other than Ruminate, of course). If you missed last year’s post, you can check that out here and add those journals to this year’s list.
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A Butterfly: Did You Make a Wish?

A Butterfly: Did You Make a Wish?

Before Mass on the third rose-colored Sunday of Advent, I decided to have a mini heart-to-heart with our laid-back priest who left a computer-programming job at 37 to enter the seminary.

“Father, I have a problem,” I said. “I’m always tired. I feel like I’m not doing enough, but I can’t stop doing. I feel like I’m failing.”

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