August Meeting: Now for something a little different!

Our August meeting will follow a different format than recent workshops. The location and time will remain the same:

Living Hope Church
330 Schantz Road, Allentown
6:00-10:00pm (ish)

…but the evening’s order of events will be new. Here is the idea:
1) Everybody will bring a work to share! No need to send it to the host for approval ahead of time. It can be good, bad, new, old, polished, rough… Here are the only guidelines:
– It must take 5 minutes or fewer to read/perform/present.
– It must be something that you take seriously (a work that you would like to bring to a professional or highly artistic level)

2) We will share all the works one after another, without discussion breaks in between. Come prepared to take notes during the presentations.

3) Then we will spend the rest of the evening discussing the theological implications of the works–whatever topics that prompt brings up. This might include the following:
– It is okay for a Christian to include explicit sexual content in a work of art? What about the ways those topics are expressed in this particular work of art?
– What about profanity?
– What about violence?
– Is it better to express faith explicitly or implicitly in a work? What about the ways faith is presented in particular works this evening?
– What worldviews or perspectives are presented in these pieces, consciously or unconsciously?
– What responsibilities do we have as Christians in the arts? Do we always have to present good role models? Do we always have to tell the Gospel? Do we have to present the world as it is, or as it should be?

Note: you do NOT have to think about these questions when you choose what to share. In fact, it might make for a better discussion if you did not choose a work that you think raises a particular theological topic. Let the other members, your audience, raise whatever questions your piece evokes in their minds.eliot

Here are some resources you might want to check out to prepare yourself for this discussion:

Theology through the Arts, a video by Jeremy Begbie
Violence, Profanity and Nudity: A Dialogue
Gordon College’s art policy on nude models (.pdf)

Please send me links to any others you recommend. Cheers.


July Meeting Report: Transcending the Form

sonnetLast night we had an excellent, lively, productive meeting. We began with a workshop on Mastering the Form and Transcending the Form. We started out by reading Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130, “My Mistress’ Eyes are Nothing Like the Sun.” We read it through, then made sure we all understood it pretty well. Then we looked at how Shakespeare mastered the sonnet form. This was a really popular kind of poem at the time, and he had all the techniques down pat. He could do all the rhyme schemes, rhythmical patterns, internal structures, types of imagery, and so forth that were expected.

But then we looked at the ending to see how he transcended the form. Take a look at the final couplet:

And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

We noticed that “compare” is used like a noun there, so we would say: “The woman I love is as beautiful and unique as any of those girls who are lied about in false comparisons.” So what are those false comparisons?

Well, they are other sonnets: traditional love sonnets that over-praise the lady by comparing her eyes to stars, her cheeks to roses, etc. We took a look at a couple of Sir Philip Sydney’s “Astrophel and Stella” sonnets to see the kind of thing Shakespeare was bashing. So basically Sonnet 130 is not about a girl at all: it’s about poetry. It’s not saying “My girlfriend is prettier than your girlfriend”; it’s saying “my poem is better than your poem.” It’s an advertising stunt.

So the point is that Shakespeare took the love sonnet to another level. He wasn’t tied to the cliche of the form, but went above and beyond and made something that totally kept the rules, but still surpassed the limitations.

That’s what we want to do! We don’t want to write more of the same cliched praise choruses or Christian romance novels. We want to master and transcend the form.

On that lofty note, we moved into the sharing-and-critique phase of the evening. We had a varied and high-quality selection last night:
– a one-act play by Jeffrey Harvey entitled “Hail Mary”
– a chapter from the Jack Windsword universe by Richard Berrigan
– a landscape pen-and-ink drawing by Sharon Gerdes in memory of Judy Harvey
– an illustration of the Armor of God by Eric Muller
– a short story about the importance of worship–and what happens when you don’t–by Carl Hoffmeyer, entitled “Casting the Stone”
– an acting-for-the-camera monologue from “Spitfire Grill” performed by Marian Barshinger
– the first 4 pages of a short story by me entitled “Dig”

Go you forthwith and transcend the form!!