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You may have heard that the weather in Michigan has been crazy of late. Today, our students enjoyed the 80 (!) degree weather as students do: by congregating on our Commons Lawn. But just a two short weeks ago, we had an epic snow and ice show. In fact, Michigan got more snow in April than it did in March. We now seemed to have passed “go” right into summer.

And of course, two short weeks ago coincided with the biennial Festival of Faith and Writing from which my colleagues Debra and Scott have already given you a few enticing snippets. The weather stranded so many Festival-goers in the Grand Rapids airport that an impromptu poetry reading sprang up on the A concourse!

All this weather and all this literature put me in mind of a poem by one of the longest attending writers at the Festival: Luci Shaw. Indeed, if the FFW has a poet laureate, it just might be Luci. We were delighted to be able to fête her at the 2018 edition of the FFW and celebrate her vibrant (and even at 90, ongoing) writerly achievements. The poem that follows provides testimony of that: though the title suggests it’s a winter poem, its riotous exuberance glories in winter and spring–and the all the tumult and mess and beauty that attends them. The wild cataloguing of “changes” invites us to think about what we might add our own praises to this whimsical list and how we might pay attention to “everything between.”

Psalm for the January Thaw
Blessed be God for thaw, for the clear drops
that fall, one by one, like clocks ticking, from
the icicles along the eaves. For shift and shrinkage,
including the soggy gray mess on the deck
like an abandoned mattress that has
lost its inner spring. For the gurgle
of gutters, for snow melting underfoot when I
step off the porch. For slush. For the glisten
on the sidewalk that only wets the foot sole
and doesn’t send me slithering. Everything
is alert to this melting, the slow flow of it,
the declaration of intent, the liquidation.

Glory be to God for changes. For bulbs
breaking the darkness with their green beaks.
For moles and moths and velvet green moss
waiting to fill the driveway cracks. For the way
the sun pierces the window minutes earlier each day.
For earthquakes and tectonic plates—earth’s bump
and grind—and new mountains pushing up
like teeth in a one-year-old. For melodrama—
lightning on the sky stage, and the burst of applause
that follows. Praise him for day and night, and light
switches by the door. For seasons, for cycles
and bicycles, for whales and waterspouts,
for watersheds and waterfalls and waking
and the letter W, for the waxing and waning
of weather so that we never get complacent. For all
the world, and for the way it twirls on its axis
like an exotic dancer. For the north pole and the
south pole and the equator and everything between.
–Luci Shaw

Jennifer L. Holberg

I’ve taught English at Calvin College since 1998–where I get to read books and talk about them for a living. What could be better? Along with my wonderful colleague, Jane Zwart, I am the co-director of the Calvin Center for Faith and Writing, which is the home of the Festival of Faith and Writing as well as a number of other exciting endeavors. Given my interest in teaching, I’m the founding co-editor of the Duke University Press journal Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition and Culture (and yes, I realize that that is a very long subtitle). I also do various administrative things across campus. As an Army brat, I’ve never lived anywhere as long as I’ve now lived in Grand Rapids. I count myself rich in friends and family. I enjoy kayaking and hiking. I collect cookbooks (and also like to cook), listen to all kinds of music, and watch all manner of movies and tv shows. I love George Eliot, Jane Austen, Marilynne Robinson, Dante, E.M. Delafield, Tennyson, Hopkins, and Charlotte Bronte (among others). And I have a bumper sticker on my car that says: “I’d rather be reading Flannery O’Connor.” Which is true.


  • Marty Wondaal says:

    “bump and grind”
    “twirls on its axis like an exotic dancer”

    -I wonder what this poet would say, if asked, is her secret to a long life.

  • Dave Tanis says:

    What a wonderful poem (psalm) of praise!

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