Author Archives: Robin Bates

The God of Love My Shepherd Is

George Herbert rewrites the 23rd psalm in subtle ways, turning the Lord in the “God of Love” and filling the cup with the eucharist.

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The Making of a Literary Meal

A new anthology of “foodie lit” has recipes accompanying the poems, essays, and short stories.

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Hillary Will Be Cast as a Witch

Prepare to see Hillary Clinton cast by the GOP in the role of the Wicked Witch of the West

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Earth Day: Please Brake for Woolly Bears

Scott Bates’ Earth Day poem calls for protecting even caterpillars. After all, sometimes they grow up to be Keats’ tiger moths with their “deep damasked wings.”

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A Fatal Diagnosis, an Almost Ghost

A good friend has just been diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer, putting me in mind of a poem by Lucille Clifton when she learned of her husband’s lung cancer diagnosis.

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Why Read Lit? Let Me Count the Reasons

I grapple today about what it is essential to read lit. And what happens to us when we don’t.

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The Quiet Mystery Returns

In “Primary Wonder” Denise Levertov wonders at the quiet mystery” that “there is anything, anything at all.”

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In Praise of the Liberal Arts

NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof recently sang the praises of the liberal arts and talked about the vital importance of literature.

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Saving Princesses from the Marriage Plot

Long the target of feminist critiques, the princess story might have some progressive aspects.

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Mourning the Death of “Captain” Lincoln

“Oh Captain! My Captain,” mourning the death of Lincoln 150 years ago today, was Whitman’s most popular poem.

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How to View Prejudice in the Classics

How to handle instances of prejudice in the classics? Let the values battles fly.

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How Fantasy Saves Our Souls

Great fantasy can always be seen as oppositional, pushing against prevailing modes of thought and opening up portals into new human possibilities.

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Touching the Wounded God

Malcolm Guite’s “Sonnet for St. Thomas the Apostle” celebrates the urge to touch God.

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The River’s Blood Turned to Stone

This Scott Bates fable captures the tragedy of California’s drought.

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Whitman’s Poem a Lesson for War Hawks

In “The Wound-Binder,” Walt Whitman refuses to glorify war and only shows its bloody aftermath–a good thing to remember on the 150th anniversary of the Civil War’s final day.

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America, a Land in Perpetual Search

The hero of Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods” shows America how it can live in perpetual search. Insisting that the country look a certain way leads to violence.

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A Fantasy about U.S. Thirst for War

Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods” understands the thirst of those Americans that want to go to war with Iran.

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“Jane Eyre” Still Challenges Us

“Jane Eyre” was radical when it came out and it continues to challenge us today with its assertive women.

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Out of the Blackness Every Morning

Many of Mary Oliver’s poems, including “The Sun,” function well as Easter poems.

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The Cross Recounts the Crucifixion

“Dream of the Rood” tells the story of the crucifixion from the cross’ point of view.

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The Love Songs We Hear Every Spring

Scott Bates finds song birds more entertaining but ultimately opts for silent swans, who mate for life.

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Social Media, Our Modern Day Pillory

Social media has become the pillory of the 21st century, shaming people the way Hester Prynne is shamed in “The Scarlet Letter.”

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Erdrich Charts a Third Way for Fantasy

L. Frank Baum and Edgar Allen Poe represent the light and the dark strains of American fantasy. But Louise Erdrich introduces a third strain, Native American, to the conversation.

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Ted Cruz’s Starring Role in “The Crucible”

Can you guess what role Ted Cruz played in “The Crucible” when in law school? And what does the play have to do with the color of the dress?

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Replacing the Temple with the Torah

Nicole Krauss’s marvelous novel “Great House” finds hope in the Torah, which takes many forms.

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Robert Durst’s Iago-Like Soliloquy

How to interpret suspected murderer Robert Durst’s enigmatic words on “The Jinx”? Shakespeare’s villains point the way.

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Train Surfing: Thrilling but Chilling

Thrill seekers have begun using cityscapes as an arena. As Ruth Rendell warns in “King Solomon’s Carpet,” sometimes they don’t survive.

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How To Reflect upon the Death Penalty

Our motivations for executing prisoners too often have little to do with justice. Cormac McCarthy understands this well in “All the Pretty Horses.”

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GOP Budget Proposes Gruel Cuts

Mean-spirited legislators who seek to cut food stamps and other programs for the poor bear more than a little resemblance to the workhouse authorities in “Oliver Twist.”

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When American Fantasies Are Dangerous

The denial of reality that has taken over certain segments of the GOP is well described by Neil Gaiman in “American Gods.” America has a long tradition of such fantasizing.

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From the Dark, Cold Grime a Flower Comes

Mary Ann Bernard shows spring coming only with difficulty–but being all the more meaningful because of that.

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  • Literature is as vital to our lives as food and shelter. Stories and poems help us work through the challenges we face, from everyday irritations to loneliness, heartache, and death. Literature is meant to mix it up with life. This website explores how it does so.

    Please feel free to e-mail me [rrbates (at) smcm (dot) edu]. I would be honored to hear your thoughts and questions about literature.

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