Thursday, October 30, 2008

Cultures of Devotion

Today in my online course on Adult Learning, my professor posted that in some ways, learning requires dissonance (too comfortable, we aren't motivated to learn; too uncomfortable and it's too overwhelming to learn). Into my head popped a line from a poem by Alejandra Pizarnik, that reminded me of dissonance:

"...the distance between thirst and the hand that reaches for the glass."

Huh? Where did that come from?

Years ago I worked as a typesetter and there was a man named Frank Graziano in town, working on his Ph.D. He published interesting profiles of poets, including Pizarnik, whose works I don't think had previously been translated into English. His profiles typically included the poet's work, as well as letters, images, and scholarly commentary.

Well, I typeset a couple of his books. (The other was a profile of American poet James Wright. The introduction was written -- over and over and over again, I might add, right up until the publication deadline -- by Robert Bly). I guess when you type something it gets tucked into a little drawer in your head, which must have been where that snippet of Pizarnik came from. Frank must have noticed I was really into her poetry, so he gave me a copy of the book.

Thinking of Frank and Alejandra, I Googled and found that he is now a professor, and still writing -- most recently this book called Cultures of Devotion: Folk Saints of Spanish America. Wow! There is an accompanying website chock full of images of popular saints and their devotees (doing what devotees do...devoting?) Check out the website:

I love the colors and the clothing. I can almost hear the sounds and smell the smells in these images. And it's good to know Frank is still in love with his work.


  1. It's funny to me. Catholics have All Soul's Day, Nov. 1st but it receives no attention. Instead it's All Hallow's eve and Day of the Dead (from Mexico) that get all the attention. Somehow Catholics, at least those from the U.S. lost their appreciation of what the day is while others have kept it and we are now re-incorporating these things back in through a different cultures style. Long ago, it was a another different culture that had us making All Soul's Day to begin with.


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