Why We Read and Write Hard Things

When I was a kid, I had to write a book report in Senior English. Ms. Southern gave us a list of famous novels and works several pages long, and each student was to choose from among these. I was a rather morose teenager, enjoying moody music and—as with many teenagers, I expect—anything that smacked of resistance for resistance’ sake. As to what we were resisting, who could say? This being the case though, I perused the list and selected the suggestively titled Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut.

I didn’t know any Vonnegut. The title felt like a fragment of the cultural landscape, like a roadside hillock I had passed a million times without thinking about it. Plus, it seemed to imply violence of a kind, which fit well into my social lexicon. This was the dawn of the new millennium; Gladiator had come out, along with the acrobatic martial arts of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. My friends and I had recently discovered Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. I enjoyed Michael Crichton novels and bloody Japanese cartoons. In that instance, violence at least felt like a method of enduring schoolwork’s rigors and ennui.

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Invisible Hope

It can be dark,
dark as night.

It can be thick, and damp, and endless.

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Sacred Discontent: Behind the Album The Broken Seasons with Adam Whipple

Adam Whipple plays a house show in East Tennessee.

Loyal readers might remember we ran a review from John Barber of Adam Whipple’s new album The Broken Seasons here a few months ago. I would recommend you read it first, then come back and hear from the artist about the philosophy and planning behind the album and the songs. This isn’t meant to be a review, but a conversation that hopefully will give us a glimpse into his creation process. Then click on over to PledgeMusic and help this album drop into a world that needs its honesty. There are only a few days left.

John Palmer Gregg: First. This is an amazing album, and not just a collection of great songs, but it seems well put together. Awesome job man.

Adam Whipple: Thank you!

JPG: Can you briefly describe your songwriting process? Do you start with the lyrics, the music?

AW: I tend to woolgather a lot. Bits of lyrics will come, sometimes verses or choruses or bridges, and I record it or write down a sketch of the melody and let it percolate. The days of entire songs arriving like lightning are either gone or very rare. Sometimes a whole verse or two will show up. That happens a lot when I’m driving, when it’s inconvenient (or illegal?) to write anything down. Once in a while, music comes first, but I get so enamored with music that it often gets hard to see past it. Those times when music arrives first, it seems to open up lyrics that were already there, usually about things I’m dealing with at the time.

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Gas Stations After Dark

While digging through some of her old poems, Tina Gregg discovered this particularly timely one for today. It was written late at night, still in anger, after returning home from an evening out. It was 17 years ago, but it could have been written almost any night.

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Me and Rich and Jesus

I was in my parents’ kitchen when I heard the news. It was twenty years ago, but I still remember standing in the tight space between the fridge and the stove, surrounded by the warm browns of the tiny floor tiles and cupboards, thinking that a light was gone. Rich Mullins had died.

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Wildflowers

Oh wild wayside pilgrims, whose duty is pleasure—
Your faces all gleaming and grinning, they sing!
Royally fitted with robes and with rings,
      Light-spun along hillsides in draped rivulets,
      your petals sway gem-like in meek coronets.

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