Caldwell, N.J., September 15, 2016 – English professor Mary Ann B. Miller is the editor of a new professional, national-level Catholic poetry journal that is affiliated with the Department of English at Caldwell.
Presence: A Journal of Catholic Poetry is an independent journal planned for annual print publication each spring. It is a venue for the publication of poetry written by authors whose work is informed by the Catholic faith. “I am starting this journal because currently there are Catholic periodicals that print both fiction and poetry as well as those that publish articles on Catholic culture, but none that are devoted exclusively to poetry. I became aware of the need for this kind of journal when participating on a panel at a conference entitled ‘The Future of the Catholic Literary Imagination,’ sponsored by the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles,” said Miller.
“The journal will publish poems,” said Miller, “informed by the Catholic faith on the basis of their artistic excellence, rather than on the basis of the author’s professed creed or because the subject matter is explicitly Catholic. As the Dominican St. Thomas Aquinas suggests, art is a good in and of itself, so a good poem will reflect God solely on the basis of its being a good work of art.”
“On the other hand,” Miller added, “poems that do contain overt references to Catholic concepts, such as the saints, priests, nuns, the mysteries of the rosary, just to name a few, are welcome. Many poets have told me over the years that they don’t believe their poems that contain these kinds of references have been taken seriously by most journals. My hope is that Presence will provide a venue for these poems because artistic merit and references to Catholic images are not mutually exclusive.”
But regardless of whether a poem is explicitly Catholic, what makes a poem Catholic is that it contains underlying theological assumptions, “the chief of which is the operation of God’s grace in the world.” As Presence’s Mission Statement further explains: “The poems in this journal convey God’s presence in any number of ways—by exploring the intersection of matter and spirit, by depicting the struggle between belief and doubt, by questioning the faith, being surprised by it, taking joy in it, even finding humor in it.”
Miller added that “despite some important differences among the various Christian denominations, there is a great deal of common ground that exists among them, and so the journal will necessarily take on an ecumenical flavor. For example, we welcome poems that contain a kind of dialogue between Jewish and Christian or even atheist and Christian voices.”
The Advisory Board for Presence is comprised of members who are nationally known in the field of Catholic poetry and in academic spheres. They are Susanne Paola Antonetta, William Baer, Paul Contino, Dana Gioia, Paul Mariani, Angela Alaimo O’Donnell, and Judith Valente.
Dr. Miller, who chairs the English Department and teaches poetry, is editor of the anthology, St. Peter’s B-list: Contemporary Poems Inspired by the Saints, published by Ave Maria Press.
She has created a class called Journal Editing, in which she can engage students in reading poems submitted for possible publication and in writing micro-reviews of individual collections of poetry by a variety of contemporary poets. This class is running for the first time this fall, in conjunction with the reading period for the journal.
The first reading period is taking place now through Dec. 1, 2016 with the first annual issue slated for Spring 2017.