In this episode we conclude our interview with poet and essayist Kathleen Norris. In part one of the interview, Kathleen and Cassidy explored topics such as poetry, creativity, silence (of course) and acedia — a spiritual malady that she wrote about movingly in her memoir Acedia and Me.
This is part two of a two part interview. Click here to listen to part one.
This week the conversation continues with reflection on the value of monastic spirituality, the question of whether religion can be a force for good in today’s world, how even monks can experience an overload of regulation, how toxic silence and self-censorship is a problem particularly for many women, and how a good writer moves beyond simple expression to caring for the reader.
Structuring a life around writing is as crazy as structuring a life around prayer. — Kathleen Norris
By drawing connections between poetry and prayer, or between liturgy and poetry, Kathleen Norris explores how a contemplative heart beats at the center of creativity as well as spirituality. She goes on to discuss the difficulties inherent in recording an audiobook, gives some pointers about reading her work, and offers a few thoughts on the challenge of using poetry while preaching.
At the end of the interview Carl and Kevin join Cassidy and Kathleen (via Skype), to ask a few final questions. She offers a particularly spiritual perspective on who her “silence heroes” are, and reflects on how one of the most important qualities for her as writer has been simple candor.
Liturgy itself is a poem — the daily liturgy of the monastery plus the eucharist, the mass, it really functions like a poem during the day — you know you’re going to be entering this realm again of the mystery and the poetry and all of that, and then you’re going to go and do your chores and do whatever else you’re doing, but there is a certain poetic quality to it, that is really refreshing, and I think that’s one of the big appeals to me — it was the poetry that drew me in. — Kathleen Norris
Some of the resources and authors mentioned in this episode:
- Kathleen Norris, Dakota: A Spiritual Geography
- Kathleen Norris, The Cloister Walk
- Kathleen Norris, Amazing Grace
- Kathleen Norris, Acedia and Me
- Kathleen Norris, Acedia and Me Audiobook
- Kathleen Norris, The Virgin of Bennington
- Kathleen Norris, Falling Off (includes “Prayer to Eve”)
- Tillie Olson, Silences
- Tillie Olson, Tell Me a Riddle and Other Stories
- John Sayles (dir.), Brother From Another Planet
- John Berryman, The Dream Songs
- Thomas Merton, Audio recordings on various topics
- Denise Levertov, The Stream and the Sapphire
- Robert Frost, The Poetry of Robert Frost
- Jane Flanders, Timepiece(includes “Planting Onions”)
- Rumi, The Essential Rumi
- Emily Dickinson, Letters
Episode 36: Silence, Poetry and Acedia: A Conversation with Kathleen Norris (Part Two)
Hosted by: Cassidy Hall
With: Kevin Johnson, Carl McColman
Guest: Kathleen Norris
Date Recorded: September 17, 2018