“Chewing on life, faith, and art”

by jtandon


Issue 35: A Loss For Words

The latest issue of Ruminate Magazine (#35) is out with the theme: “a loss for words.” Here is an excerpt from editor Brianna Van Dyke’s introduction:

In her collection of essays, When I Was a Child I Read Books, Marilyn Robinson writes about how much she loves what she calls “the frontiers of the unsayable”:

. . . as a writer, I continuously attempt to make inroads on the vast terrain of what cannot be said—or said by me, at least. I seem to know by intuition a great deal that I cannot find words for, and to enlarge the field of my intuition every time I fail again to find these words. . . . The frontiers of the unsayable, and the avenues of approach to those frontiers, have been opened for me by every book I have ever read that was in any degree ambitious, earnest, or imaginative; by every good teacher I have had; by music and painting; by conversation that was in any way interesting, even conversation overheard as it passed between strangers. . . . We live on a little island of the articulable, which we tend to mistake for reality itself…

I love the mystery that is implied in the phrase a loss for words. It means we’ve come to the end of ourselves, which is both frightening and good. It means that no matter how much talking, examining, or even deep pondering we give, some things are simply imponderable. This is certainly true in our response to tragedy, as we are often rendered silent before the painful mysteries of our world, to be still, to remember how small, how inadequate we really are. And then sometimes we get the chance to act, to say I’ll join you to those suffering. The poet Christian Wiman writes: “Silence is the language of faith. Action—be it church or charity, politics or poetry—is the translation.”


I am very thankful to the editors for including two of my poems in this issue, “A Dream of Departure” and “At a Loss.” To read a sample of work, click the cover above.