Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

Great Lines: “She sang beyond the genius of the sea”

From Web Exclusives

You cannot have poetry without form, just as you cannot have prose fiction without narrative structure or drama without dialogue or action. And what creates form in poetry, after the constraint of a central idea, event, or image, is sound. The way that sound shapes poetry has generally become less evident as poets have discarded regular meter and end rhyme … Continue Reading »

Great Lines: “Where are the snows of yesteryear?”

From Web Exclusives

That one of the most striking lines of poetry on beauty’s impermanence was written by a priest-killer and a thief is among literary history’s many seeming incongruencies. “Where are the snows of yesteryear?” (“Mais où sont les neiges d’anten?” in the original medieval French) appears in a ballade in the middle of François Villon’s TestamentContinue Reading »

Great Lines: “April is the cruellest month”

From Web Exclusives

The famous first line of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land was almost certainly not written in April but in January. In a letter on January 23, 1921, Eliot refers to the nascent poem as “the first writing of any kind I have done for six months.” Two weeks later, he showed the completed first section “in 4 parts” to Wyndham Lewis. … Continue Reading »

The Morality of Modern Cycling

From Web Exclusives

Last week, in an interview with Oprah, Lance Armstrong admitted what everybody already knew: that he took performance-enhancing drugs during his cycling career. Last year, the head of USADA (United States Anti-Doping Association) stated that under Armstrong’s direction the U.S. Postal Cycling Team “ran the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.” … Continue Reading »

Confessions of a Protestant Christmas Tree Amateur

From Web Exclusives

Two years ago, my wife and I had the good fortune of acquiring a small place in the Appalachians, just south of the Virginia border. This was a blessing and one of those rare things in life that was almost entirely unexpected. This part of the Appalachians is Christmas tree country, and our 1920s home came with a plot of three hundred Fraser firs and the first fertile land we had had in five years (not counting a flowerbed in Connecticut that we had to leave before the spring, though we were told it did very well). We were chomping at the bit, as it were, to plow, plant, weed, tend, and trim every green thing on our humble two acres… . Continue Reading »

Everyman’s Poet

From the October 2012 Print Edition

Pity the Beautiful by Dana Gioia Graywolf, 80 pages, $15 Dana Gioia is one of those poets known more for his criticism and service than his own poetry. His essay “Can Poetry Matter?,” published in the Atlantic in 1991, turned more than a few heads for arguing that poetry had wrongly . . . . Continue Reading »

Taking a Year Off

From First Thoughts

Paul Miller is  taking a year off from the Internet —no browsing, no email, no Facebook, no Twitter. I don’t know about you, but the idea of completely disconnecting is tempting. I sometimes wonder how much stuff I would get done if I weren’t distracted by email and Twitter. . . . . Continue Reading »

Or Nero and Paterno?

From First Thoughts

As Mark points out , Gary Alan Fine finds the erasure of Paterno’s sporting accomplishments Orwellian, but such a practice is not just the stuff of dystopian fiction. At Reflection and Choice , Steven L. Jones writes: Question:  What do Joe Paterno and the Roman Emperor Nero have in . . . . Continue Reading »

In Defense of Mark Regnerus

From First Thoughts

In  The Chronicle of Higher Education , Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith  defends Mark Regnerus’s research on gay couples and child-rearing  against what Smith calls a progressive “witch hunt”: Whoever said inquisitions and witch hunts were things of the past? . . . . Continue Reading »

Is Criticism Dying?

From First Thoughts

Johann Hari wonders if  professional criticism is coming to an end , pushed out by armchair critics empowered by social media. If so, he suggests, we would lose a great deal. Critics do two things according to Hari. They provide “consumer advice,” and they help audiences grasp the . . . . Continue Reading »