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Friday, October 17, 2003

Goshen College is a four-year Christian liberal arts college rooted in the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition

Comprehensive anthology of Mennonite poetry released by Goshen College English professor

 

GOSHEN, Ind. -- Sometimes referred to as the "quiet in the land," Mennonite poets have a stigma to overcome in making their voices heard. With true necessity, the first anthology of Mennonite poetry published in the United States has emerged, possessing the potential to both challenge and correct preconceived notions of this unique religious and cultural group.

 

Goshen College Professor of English Ann E. Hostetler edited A Cappella: Mennonite Voices in Poetry (University of Iowa Press), featuring 24 poets, of which seven are GC alumni, including Julia Kasdorf, David Waltner-Toews, Jeff Gundy, Shari Miller Wagner, Carmen Horst, Jessica Smucker Falcon and Barbara Nickel.

 

In this collection, the Mennonite poets -- men and women of diverse ages -- explore issues of identity, sexuality, religious doctrine, cross-cultural experiences, memory, family and individuality, sometimes with doubt and sorrow but always with candor and urgency. Often, their struggle to break free of rigid patterns, to maintain the integrity of individual experience while honoring the will of the community, speaks to an earnest desire to marry change with a respect for tradition. These poems poignantly grapple with contradiction and compromise, the unavoidable components of a made world.

 

In describing why she edited this book, Hostetler said, "When I first became interested in the poetry of Mennonite writers, there was no one place I could find where it was collected together. I wished for such a book, and finally was led to create it. It's time for Mennonites to take stock of this wonderful new literary productivity and enjoy it. We also have an opportunity to offer to the world a sampling of our voices.

 

"I really believe that while some Mennonites are busy working on the mission front and others are busy working on the bureaucratic front, that Mennonite artists and writers who are truly devoted to the arts -- not as Mennonites first, but as artists first -- are opening up new possibilities in the church," Hostetler said. "Poems demand honesty, poems are about wholeness, poems are about getting at the contradictions of life. One of the gifts of art is that it allows us to cross such boundaries and connect as human beings."

 

Ervin Beck, Goshen College professor emeritus of English, said, "A Cappella invites the outsider to eavesdrop on a new community of American poets -- representing a religious ethnic tradition dating back to 1525 -- which has only since the 1970s been expressed in gutsy poetry rather than hymns and sentimental verse. Although they may invoke ethnically charged images -- quilts, martyrs and shoofly pie -- their poems are less charming local color than vigorous explorations of the individual in the community, of women in a man's world, of personal trauma and ecstasy and of spiritual hope in a dark world."

 

"Skillfully edited with attention to balance and variety, this highly readable book includes work from award-winning writers in the United States and Canada as well as surprising and accomplished new voices," said Publisher's Weekly. "Lyrical, provocative, and sometimes funny, these poems question orthodoxy and find beauty in unexpected places."

 

Hostetler teaches English and creative writing at Goshen College. Her first book of poems, Empty Room with Light, was published in 2002.

 

A Cappella: Mennonite Voices in Poetry is available at bookstores, on-line or directly from the University of Iowa Press (call 800-621-2736). The book's publication date is Nov. 1.

 

In addition, Mennonite Quarterly Review will devote its October 2003 issue to Mennonite creative writing and literary criticism – the second time the long-running scholarly journal has done so. The issue is the fruit of the Mennonite Writers conference held in 2002 at Goshen College, which included international Mennonite writers from across Canada and the United States to Japan.

 

Goshen College, established in 1894, is a four-year residential Christian liberal arts college rooted in the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition. The college's Christ-centered core values -- passionate learning, global citizenship, compassionate peacemaking and servant-leadership -- prepare students as leaders for the church and world. Recognized for its unique Study-Service Term program, Goshen has earned citations of excellence in Barron's Best Buys in Education, Kaplan's "Most Interesting Colleges" guide and U.S.News & World Report's "America's Best Colleges" edition, which named Goshen a "least debt college." Visit http://www.goshen.edu/.

 

Editors: For more information, contact Jodi H. Beyeler at (574) 535-7572 or jodihb@goshen.edu.

 

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