Archive for ‘Best of 2015’


“No ceiling bearing down on me, save the starry sky above…”

For family and friends—and for me—2015 was a year of changes, challenges, windfalls, and work. It was also, to my surprise, the year this blog experienced something of a renaissance. How did this happen? I don’t know, but behold: highlights from the year that was, a flurry of medievalism, poetry, books, and other laudable follies.

I questioned whether medievalists really mean it when they say “it is clearly time to lower the drawbridge from the ivory tower and reconnect with the public.” When one scholar struggled with writing for wider audiences, his frustration reminded me of trenchant comments by Norman “Inventing the Middle Ages” Cantor.

In any case, scholars should stop being shocked that the public doesn’t use the word “medieval” precisely.

“What is the future of an art when the majority of its audience must be paid to participate?” So asked Dana Gioia, pondering the academicization of poetry.

This year, I tracked down several excellent poetry books that deserve more readers:

  • Science And by Diane Furtney, who writes in her own weird, compelling idiom inspired by geology, radiation, epigenetics, quantum physics, and other verse-worthy wonders.
  • New Crops from Old Fields, a wide-ranging collection of strong work by eight medievalist poets.
  • Mid Evil, Maryann Corbett’s book-length prayer for inspiration, confidence, purpose, and grace.
  • Poems to Learn by Heart, a Disney anthology that isn’t half-bed despite its assembly by committee.

Can Dante save your life? I reviewed a book that answers si. Cynthia Haven at Stanford weighed in on Dante, too, with a sobering take on his timeless appeal.

“They are gone! Like shadows have these men of might sunk on the earth.” A sucker for ubi sunt outbursts, I dug up Rob of the Bowl, a forgotten novel about colonial Maryland.

I cheered for Marly Youmans’ latest novel, Maze of Blood, literary fiction that honors a pulp author as an artist in his own right.

In Georgia, I visited a building where the strands of Southern medievalism rise and converge.

In Virginia, I outlined a Charlemagne-shaped hole in a 17th-century play.

“They’ll find it when they need it”: in Pennsylvania, I tarried at a wondrous stone folly.

I perpetuated a folly of my own: trying to document medieval America with an antique Polaroid.

In my garden, I spotted a monster from medieval Provence.

To my great delight, classical guitarist and music student Katie Holmes turned one of my gargoyle poems into a surreal new work of art.

When I moved out of my D.C. neighborhood after more than 20 years, I saw what it means to make your home in one small place and come to know it intimately.

In response, I started “The Beallsville Calendar.” Inspired by ancient and medieval calendar poems (and Anglo-Saxon alliterative, metrical verse), it’s a yearlong account of moving from the city to the country. I’m posting it here as I write it, in monthly installments. First read the Prologue, then September, October, and November. (December cometh anon.)

Thanks to all of you who read, linked, commented, or browsed this site in 2015!  I may never be sufficiently prolific to become anyone’s must-read, but I’ll do my best in 2016 to make your eyeballs grateful that they came here.