making manifest: a review

Making Manifest: On Faith, Creativity and the Kingdom at Hand
by Dave Harrity
Seedbed Publishing

i’ve already shared  [ a quote ] and [ some thoughts ] on this workbook, so i thought i would do a full-review now that i’ve completed it.

Making Manifest is a creative writing workbook. you are to read a different reflection each day and complete the writing exercise that goes along with it. the thought behind it is that writing can be a spiritual discipline–and, where i have found the book unique, it blends spiritual exercise with writing.

the exercises are appropriate for beginners  and not-so-beginners, and did help me to become more focused on writing as a spiritual activity. i have been slow working through this book–it has taken me about two months to complete–but i have truly enjoyed coming to it each evening, sitting down in an attitude of worship in my writing.

each week begins with an accessible free-verse poem (by harrity–and the poems are good, but i did find myself wondering why the book did not also include poetry by other christians) and each day begins with an excerpt from scripture followed by a reflection. i would be interested in doing this workbook again in a group or with a few friends, since the back of the book offers extra writing prompts and discussion questions for if the book is being done in a group environment.

the reflections only lightly touch on the scripture that is referenced–i often found myself hungry for more on the theological side, so i would not recommend this as your only scripture reading or devotional practice while you are working through the book. accordingly, harrity does not claim this is a devotional book–in the introduction, he defines the book as “a series of daily engagements oriented toward quiet action.” he urges the reader to make space in their life for writing that they’ll be doing everyday.

the poetic language of the devotionals at times were vague and left things up for interpretation that would make me hesitate to recommend the book to someone who didn’t have someone to guide them through it or who wasn’t grounded in their faith. i think the book could work well for a church group, especially if it was read in conjunction with a more theological text like Francis Schaeffer’s Art and the Bible.

overall, i think that this was a book that needed to be written, and i hope to see more like it in the future. i love that it emphasizes writing (and creativity) as worship and spiritual practice–so often i think that christians have a negative attitude toward the arts, that the arts are inherently of the world and indulgent and devoid of theology. books like this are needed in the christian community–that remind us that we are first introduced to God, in the bible, as the Creator, and in being creative we can imitate, commune with, and worship Him.

Sharon Olds Odes: A book Review


Sharon Olds and me. She is really nice and quirky. I had the amazing opportunity to introduce her and be her opening act reading at a reading she did for Boston University several years ago. And of course I’m going to share this photo again, because SHARON OLDS, y’all!

I’m currently reading Sharon Olds Odes. Got it for my birthday, from my mother in law, and my husband urged her “don’t read it…not even the table of contents”.

Olds is up to her usual shenanigans–Odes to all kinds of things that would bump this blog up to at least a PG13 rating (let’s keep it kid friendly). I’ll admit it isn’t my favorite of her books–Stags Leap was so moving. And there’s a poem of hers I read recently, in the anthology Joy (edited by Christian Wiman):

True Love
by Sharon Olds

In the middle of the night, when we get up
after making love, we look at each other in
complete friendship, we know so fully
what the other has been doing. Bound to each other
like mountaineers coming down from a mountain,
bound with the tie of the delivery-room,
we wander down the hall to the bathroom, I can
hardly walk, I hobble through the granular
shadowless air, I know where you are
with my eyes closed, we are bound to each other
with huge invisible threads, our sexes
muted, exhausted, crushed, the whole
body a sex—surely this
is the most blessed time of my life,
our children asleep in their beds, each fate
like a vein of abiding mineral
not discovered yet. I sit
on the toilet in the night, you are somewhere in the room,
I open the window and snow has fallen in a
steep drift, against the pane, I
look up, into it,
a wall of cold crystals, silent
and glistening, I quietly call to you
and you come and hold my hand and I say
I cannot see beyond it. I cannot see beyond it.




That ending, right? It is so powerful because of how she mixes the everyday things we don’t talk about–using the toilet in this poem–with the transcendent. And then the repetition just nails it down. This is what I love about her poetry–this mix, the bitter and the sweet, the everyday toenail-clipping part of the day with the falling in love part of the day, which is life, this mix, the unnoticed and mundane and sometimes disgusting with the beautiful spiritual and lifegiving.

Here is what I am enjoying about Odes–the humor (she is wonderfully funny) and those moments of transcendence–but I don’t see as much of that in this book as in others (Stag’s Leap). I liked the unifying element of all the poems being Odes, in the style of Neruda.

What I don’t care for is when the openness (and this is one of her strengths, this openness, willingness to SAY anything), becomes frank in an artless way. And there are times of that in the poems too, when the style becomes so frank as to abandon the lyric and poetic altogether. Sometimes the lineation doesn’t make sense to me and sometimes I think she is saying things just to make us squirm (and do we? I do, but I’m a Presbyterian). The topics become redundant (especially if you are familiar with her work), and I seriously question the use of “teeny” “weeny” “teensty” in multiple poems.

My overall review: Not my favorite Olds book; however, I do think it is worth reading and would recommend it to poetry readers who are familiar with Olds work and can appreciate her wry humor.

With a name like Olds, of course it was absolutely necessary that she write a book of Odes at some point.