Sacred Rhythms

She was known as “the Little Piano Girl” from East Liberty, Pittsburgh, and grew up to be one of the first ladies of jazz. But the story of Mary Lou Williams, from child prodigy to world-class artist, is not just about jazz.Born in Atlanta in 1910, Mary Lou’s family suffered from . . . . Continue Reading »

Hoops Humility

“What makes this team special?” a reporter asked University of Virginia basketball coach Tony Bennett after his Cavaliers beat Syracuse to sew up the Atlantic Coast Conference championship. It was a typical sports-journalistic question, but Bennett’s answer wasn’t typical. “Humility,” Bennett instantly replied, then looked down and waited for the next question.

Poetry’s True and False Art of Speaking

Before we worried about the effect of the digital word on the printed word, we worried about the effect of writing on speech. This debate, as old as Plato’s Phaedrus, is kept alive by Page Meets Stage, a New York arts event where two poets from the two traditions square off against each other. . . . . Continue Reading »

Why Is Neil DeGrasse Tyson So Lonely?

Recently, Fox and National Geographic aired a follow-up to Carl Sagan’s Cosmos hosted by science popularizer, Neil deGrasse Tyson. With this new series, Tyson hopes to inspire a new generation to wonder at and study the universe. The show is certainly well produced and fascinating, though it is not without its controversies.

Finding Truth in the Top 40

I’ve always been caught by words. Lines of poetry, in particular, have shown up on the doorstep of my memory, been invited in for fellowship, and never left. Take Shakespeare’s “Dirge,” for example, Golden lads and girls all must,As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.Humorous and . . . . Continue Reading »

Pittsburgh Reader’s Group

Attention all First Things readers in greater Pittsburgh: Loyal reader Bill Stickman would like to organize a ROFTERs (Readers of First Things) group to meet each month to discuss articles in the current issue. If you’re interested, please contact Bill by . . . . Continue Reading »

Taking Art Off the Street

“Street art—you mean vandalism? No, thank you.” That was the response of a friend when I invited him to join me at the Museum of the City of New York for their recent exhibit, “City as Canvas.” His scruple was understandable but a little out-of-date.” Continue Reading »

Seeking Moby Dick in Brooklyn

If you happen to be reading Moby Dick right now, and you live in Washington, DC, congratulations! The Kennedy Center is putting on an opera. Go see it (it closes tomorrow). If you don’t live in DC, however, and you live in some benighted cultural desert (like New York City) then nobody is . . . . Continue Reading »

Christina Rossetti’s Lenten Life

The Victorian poet Christina Rossetti (1830–1894) is most celebrated for her popular Christmas carols, but her most prolific liturgical season was Lent. A fervent Anglican, Rossetti expressed in her poems a deeper understanding of suffering than pieces like “Love Came Down At Christmas” might lead you to suspect. In her Lenten poetry, she focuses not only on her own sins, but highlights how her intense brokenness united her to God. Continue Reading »