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December 2002
vol. 57 no. 4

This issue begins with our continuing tradition of an annual December showcase of contemporary arts. Featuring writers wrestling with the angels of certainty and uncertainty, heresy and truth, lived fictions and grace, consulting editor Raylene Hinz-Penner introduces a selection of works from participants in the recent Mennonite/s Writing conference at Goshen College, and interviews Ann Hostetler on the subject of a forthcoming anthology of Mennonite poetry. Following this sampler of writings, we offer the first article in a cooperative publication venture with Mennonite Historical Bulletin. The final article on the school in Wadsworth, Ohio, is timely in view of the recent removal of the Wadsworth bell to Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana.

Stretching Us: A Report from the 2002 Mennonite/s Writing Conference
by Raylene Hinz-Penner

At "Mennonite/s Writing: An International Conference" held at Goshen College, October 24-27, 2002, and planned by co-chairs Ervin Beck of Goshen College and Hildi Froese Tiessen of Conrad Grebel University College, those couple of hundred of us in attendance kept telling each other that such a gathering of writers would not soon happen again. Big-name Canadians came–Rudy Wiebe, the grand dean of Mennonite writing, was honored for his contributions to Mennonite literature forty years after Peace Shall Destroy Many–and other Canadian writers we in the U.S. had longed to hear: Di Brandt, Patrick Friesen, Sandra Birdsell, David Waltner-Toews, Sarah Klassen. It felt a bit like one had entered a waterfall of one's own accord by enrolling for the weekend, what with the ongoing showers of some nineteen plenary session readings, including the U.S. "names" too, all gathered at one place, and reading, reading, reading: Julia Kasdorf on stage with her baby reading poems of motherhood; Jeff Gundy, his jocular, heretical self; Dallas Wiebe reading poems of the cross written out of the pain over this year's loss of his wife, Virginia; Keith Ratzlaff, his normal strange, chuckling, lyrical/whimsical self, noticing, always noticing; David Wright, reining in a bit his normal bombastic over-the-edge screaming self; Jean Janzen, still her dignified, hymn-loving, sensual, worshipping poet-self, and thus, chosen for Sunday morning, to finish things off. The Japanese lyricist, Yorifumi Yaguchi, was celebrated and read to us his delicate poems which grow out of a tradition so clearly apart from the western world out of which most readers came.

It was a rich, rich weekend if you care about voices which hover around the "Mennonite" world of writing. The greatest delights, of course, were the surprises. One almost always gets a surprise from the sagacious likes of a Dallas Wiebe or a Jeff Gundy–and we were not disappointed. We are including new work by Dallas and a wonderfully stimulating paper of credos and propositions for Anabaptist writers by the humorous and smart Jeff Gundy, who is never afraid to say what should be said. Jeff's paper, titled "Heresy and the Individual Talent," opens with a Bly quote, "The Christ Child was not obedient to his parents"–his essay is relevant for the season, and these times. For me, the joy of the writers' event was also in the stimulation and excitement of "new" voices, even if only new to me. I listened one evening to 25 new voices reading at an open microphone. I was privileged to read in a plenary session with Maurice Mierau, intense, smart, heart-powered, and I rushed to buy his new book, Ending with Music; we feature some of his poems here. I sat up straight when I heard the crackling fiction style of Rosemary Nixon; included here, samples of her work.

Next year, there will be a Mennonite anthology published by Ann Hostetler, new professor of literature at Goshen. She has worked the past eight years on this collection and achieved publication with the University of Iowa Press. That process has been a kind of pilgrimage for her. Read about it in her thoughtful interview. We've included some of her new poems, too. You can hear her read them on-line. I'm grateful this holiday season for the way in which the "Mennonites writing" are stretching us beyond typical boundaries.

Heresy and the Individual Talent

by Jeff Gundy
Jeff Gundy has been publishing in Mennonite Life since he taught at Hesston College many years ago. Since 1984 he has been teaching English at Bluffton College. Publications include three books of poetry, Rhapsody with Dark Matter: Poems; Flatlands; and Inquiries: Poems; a genealogical narrative in voices, A Community of Memory: My Days with George and Clara, and to be released in March 2003, Scattering Point: The World in a Mennonite Eye, a creative nonfiction described as "part memoir, part family history, part meditation on history and the present"–this last work hovers around the question of what it should mean to "live in the world but not of it."

Three poems

by Dallas Wiebe
Dallas Wiebe, Mennonite pioneer in creative writing in the U. S., published widely in leading journals for many years, edited the Cincinnati Poetry Review, won a Pushcart and an award from the Paris Review. Major publications include a novel, Skyblue the Badass, two collections of short stories, The Transparent Eye-ball and Going to the Mountain, a book of poems, The Kansas Poems. More recently, he published a "Mennonite novel," Our Asian Journey, based on his research into the story of the Russian Mennonite trek to Central Asia.

The Sayings of Abraham Nofziger

edited by Dallas Wiebe

Ending with Music

poems by Maurice Mierau
Maurice Mierau's first book is a collection of poetry, Ending with Music, from which the poems in this issue are reprinted. The book can be ordered directly from Maurice. Maurice lives in Winnipeg, and grew up in Kansas, Africa, the Caribbean, and Canada. He is currently writing a memoir about living in Jamaica where his parents worked for MCC in the early 1970s. He is obsessed with Mennonite history, jazz, old Hollywood movies, science fiction, and basketball. Maurice maintains a web site.

Fiction excerpts

by Rosemary Nixon
Rosemary Nixon has published two short fiction collections. The first, Mostly Country (NeWest Press 1990) was shortlisted for the Howard O'Hagen Book of the Year Award. Her second, The Cock's Egg (NeWest Press 1994), won the Howard O'Hagen Book of the Year Award. She has recently completed a third book of fiction, a novel, Entanglements, which is presently out with an agent. Nixon has published in literary magazines across Canada. She was the 1996-97 Canadian writer-in-residence for the Markin Flanagan Distinguished Writers Programme at the University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.


by Ann Hostetler
Ann Hostetler is a poet and professor at Goshen College.

The Eight-Year Road of a Poet-Scholar: An Interview with Ann Hostetler

by Raylene Hinz-Penner

As part of the on-going process of integrating the historical activities of the former General Conference Mennonite Church and (Old) Mennonite Church into the new Mennonite Church USA, we begin with this issue a cooperative effort in publication with the Mennonite Historical Bulletin. The Bulletin was the periodical of the (Old) Mennonite Historical Committee and continues as a publication of the Mennonite Church USA Historical Committee. Mennonite Life was and is published by Bethel College (not by the General Conference or its historical committees), but has been closely associated with the Mennonite Library and Archives and General Conference historical activities. Starting with the December 2002 issue of Mennonite Life and the January 2003 issue of Mennonite Historical Bulletin, we plan to publish one joint article per issue in an effort to make each of our readerships more aware of historical publications in the current context.

The first joint article is about Rachel Weaver Kreider and her involvement in protests against ROTC at Ohio State University in 1935-36. Theron Schlabach, Goshen historian, found the documents for the article in the Guy F. Hershberger collection at the Mennonite Church USA Archives in Goshen. Jim Juhnke, co-editor of Mennonite Life, wrote the article after several interviews with Kreider, his mother-in-law. This is one of the earliest examples of Mennonite women's activist participation in the wider American peace movement.

Rachel Weaver Kreider and the ROTC Controversy at Ohio State University 1934-1935

by James C. Juhnke
James C. Juhnke is an editor of Mennonite Life and is enjoying his first year of retirement from teaching U. S. history at Bethel College.

Creating the Wadsworth Mennonite Seminary

Maynard Shelly
Maynard Shelly, North Newton, Kansas, former editor of The Mennonite, is writing a history of the West Swamp Mennonite Church, Quakertown, Pennsylvania, whose ministers and members were actively involved in the founding and running of the Wadsworth (Ohio) Institute (1866-1878). This article is extracted from his chapter covering not only the founding of the school but also events in the congregation.

Book Reviews